The first seeds went into soil this week. We have onions and shallots in the germination chamber, and leeks in the greenhouse. So begins the cycle of seasons. We use soil blocks to start our seeds. They are made out of potting mix with a tool that presses the soil into little 1 ½” cubes, and then spits out the cubes as a block of 20, into a flat, which can hold 160 cubes. The advantage of the soil blocker is that there are no pots to buy or store or dispose of, and when done correctly, the soil blocker leaves a little space between each cube, so the plants air prune themselves, keeping their roots to their own cube, which leads to less shock when they are transplanted to the field. But soil blocking is an art. The potting soil must be neither too dry nor too wet, and the blocker must be slammed down just right so that the soil packs the block completely, then pressed out carefully so the blocks are uniform and the cubes are separate and whole.
The soil blocker was invented by Eliot Coleman, and Matt and Aubrey have both worked at his farm, so they are accomplished soil block artists. The seeds go into a divot on top of each cube, and are covered over with a little more sifted potting soil, and then watered in. Jane seeded a whole flat of shallots by herself this year – a fine job for little fingers…” (Continue reading Kristin Kimball’s Essex Farm Note)