Ink & Penstemon

Observations on plants, gardening, & nature from the Great Basin steppe in the American West.

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    The tools you'll need Use the washer to mark the centers Tape the lids securely in place Drill through both lids at your mark The Cut 1 File away rough and jagged edges Place the plunger into the Use the pin to hold up the plunger And violà! A cylindrical soil block

    How To Make Your Own Soil Blocker

    At the Seedchat discussion on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I made soil blocks to start seed. @Copedog asked if I had made my own. I bought my Ladbrooke blocker, but, after thinking about it, I figured it can’t be that hard to make a basic one, so I put together a blocker that anyone could make with a few tools and things lying around the house. If you had to go out and buy all the parts, it would probably cost you about $2.00. It isn’t as pretty or as sturdy as the brass blockers you can buy for $30, and it only makes one round block at a time. But, I find most people are just looking to make a few blocks for seed starting at home, and don’t need a lot of blocks fast like a commercial grower would. Also, many people who are interested in soil blocking don’t want to pay $30 or more for a method that they aren’t familiar with and that may not work well for them. This way, you can try out the method before making a huge investment.

    I do apologize for the blurry photos. I never seem to get my act together with the point-and-shoot when I’m making these tutorials.

    You will need:

    1. An empty, clean, 6 oz. tin can with one of the lids removed. I used a tomato paste can. My can opener warped the edges of the lid a bit, so I hammered them out with a rubber mallet on my countertop.
    2. A fully-threaded 3/8” bolt long enough for you to get a good grip on it. The bolt featured is a 10-1.25 metric as it was handy, and free.
    3. A nut for the bolt.
    4. A 1.25” washer with a hole big enough for the bolt.
    5. A 3/8” pin to hold the bolt in place.
    6. A file.
    7. A drill with a bit slightly larger than your bolt diameter that can cut through metal.
    8. A hacksaw.
    9. A sharpie.
    10. Some tape.
    11. Hand and eye protection. You are working with power tools and sharp edges.

    Again, making this blocker requires you to use power tools to make some very sharp and jagged metal edges. Use extreme caution and wear protective gear while making it or, if you’re nervous, seek out someone who can help you who has experience with this sort of thing.

    First, put the washer on top of the lids of the can and black out the exposed lid center with a sharpie. I found the washer is a perfect fit to the ridge on the inside of the can’s lid.

    Place the loose lid on top of the other intact lid and secure it down with tape. Then, drill where you made your mark. This way, the two holes will be in the same spot on the loose lid and the can. Take a round file and file away jagged or torn metal edges. 

    Thread the loose lid onto your bolt, followed by the washer, followed by the nut, and tighten the nut down firmly against the washer. The washer will reinforce the lid so it will hold up to packing dirt and pushing it out. 

    Then, take your hacksaw and while holding the can firmly in one hand, cut 1” of the bottom of the can. This will leave you with a mold about 2.25” long. Again, file off the rough edges.

    Place the plunger inside the can. The nut on top of the washer will prevent it from going all the way to the top. Put the pin around the base of the bolt against the can to hold it in place while you charge the blocker with the wet soil mix.

    The blocker will make a 2 x 2” cylinder shaped block; the bolt protruding from the lid makes a divot for your seeds. If I were buying a bolt instead of using what’s around the house, I’d buy one with a rounded head.

    Happy blocking!


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