Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How to Make Free Soil Blocks--Intermission

Before we wrap up the conclusion to "How to Make Free Soil Blocks Part 4", I need to address a serious problem among users of soil blocks. The problem is stinky, rotting blocking mix. This happens due to a few reasons. 1.) Using unfinished compost in your recipe. 2.) Choosing a potting soil with steer manure. 3.) Making up a slur, and then leaving it in your tub for days without using it. Remember, finished compost smells great and is dark and crumbly and is aged for several months after it has broken down, or collapsed from thermophilic activity. Check your potting soil for steer manure, it will always stink no matter how broken down it is. And, finally, you must use your blocking mix immediately after it "knits" together, like 1-2 hours after wetting it down. If you let it sit, it becomes anaerobic, or without air, and begins to putrefy. All soils need air to breathe and keep the microbes alive and well. To this extent, I have coined the term "Actively Aerated Potting Soil". A.A.P.S., for short, is the process of churning, mixing, and aerating your wet potting soil. Since blocking mix is whetted down into a slur, or muffin batter, it is going to react a lot different than filling up plastic pots of soil and watering them down, only to drain out at the bottom. The mix will just start rotting if air is not incorporated frequently into the mix by stirring vigorously every hour until it is used. Churn and mix and turn and stir, over and over until you smell good clean "soil smell" again. Let your nose be your guide to a good actively aerated slur.

You may be wondering how the block gets aerated after it gets made and is all compressed in a block. How does that get aerated? Well, it gets its air from the water that drains through it, and the drainage material used, perlite or great compost, as these ingredients allow air to penetrate the block. That is why I stress the use of misters. Misters have more water particles blasting the block than a watering can, and that means that more oxygen particles are being delivered to the roots than just dumping water over the block. If that's all you've got, fine, just make sure to aerate the water first by a.) shaking it up in the can, or b.) filling it up violently with your spray attachment. This will create more air molecules in your water. Your blocks are exposed on five sides to air, so they should get plenty of it. If you pack your blocks side by side, touching each other, than it is important to aerate your water, or brew compost tea and apply. But, AAPS goes a lot further than that, stay tuned for future articles at the Soil Block Blog for the first hydroponic system in the world that uses soil blocks as the medium. These techniques will simplify and demystify the science of hydroponics as it is applied to soil block gardening and organic fertilization. This trademark by the guru is known as OSBH, Organic Soil Block Hydroponics. Stay tuned for information found no where else in the world. Thanks for supporting. I greatly appreciate you all, even though you are few, but growing!


  1. This is a great series of posts, Jason. I appreciate the info in this series of posts.

    A question: what is the problem with using steer manure? I see none unless it comes from, perhaps, a feed lot steer. Otherwise, it is the same as cow manure.

    Keep up the great work and, if you can, set your comments to allow name/website as well as google/blogger and openid. It makes commenting much easier.

  2. Steer manure refers to the mass produced feed lot cow manure sold without proper decomposition, unbalanced nutrient levels, toxic sludge, mistreatment of animals, but most importantly, improper consistency which I have found to make poor blocks and stink.
    If you have, or your neighbor has good ol' cow manure, broken down and aged for two years, that is fine. It is the commercial products that are sold without concern for anything but profits that I address here. You are using your hands to make the slur, so I want the readers to have a safe, non toxic compost to use.
    Thank you for your feedback!

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