Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Here Ye, Here Ye--Feedback Wanted!

Greetings Anew!  Customers and Friends.

Jason's Great Grandfather's Company
advertising for eggs back in the 1930's.
Jacob Kramer is where the
Old Farm Boy trademark gets
it's name!
Now is the time to participate in the expansion of the Potting Blocks Company.  We are a gardening product store with research facilities in the ever expanding Organiculture Industry.  We are forging new relationships to bring gardeners, farmers, and nurseries to meet with advanced, efficient, and practical gardening products and information.  But, we need your help.  We need to know what you'd like to see on PottingBlocks.com, the world's resource for soil block agriculture.
We'd like to know what products we should carry, not just soil block makers and seed starting supplies.  And, finally, we'd like to know what would make our site or your experience better.  Please go ahead and leave us your comments here, and we'll register you for our big release party drawing of a brand new soil blocker invention coming in 2012.  That's right, another soil blocker to the family!  So go ahead, tell us what you think, what you'd buy, and what would make us better, because the home-grown gardening phenomena is FOR REAL and expanding.
Thank you kindly,
Jason Beam, creator PottingBlocks.com and just another USA Distributor of the Authentic Ladbrooke Soil Block Maker made in England.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Soil Block Supply--Premier Edition PottingBlocks.com Catalog

Greetings and Salutations,


I'd like to formally announce the coming of new era in PottingBlocks.com: The Creation of the first Soil Block Supply Catalog. It will be released on January 5, 2012, marking the 4th year anniversary of PottingBlocks.com. It will be released on PDF file format in response to customers demand to eliminate the use of paper, thus saving countless forests from clear cutting. It will contain the vital information, products and customer service needed to completely support the Soil Blocker, or one who uses soil blocks to farm and garden. SBS, Soil Block Supply, will contain only items that support, accelerate and expand the phenomenal growth rate of transplants in soil blocks. It's like Hydroponics, but say "Soilponics". It's Certified Authentic Beyond Organic, or customer testifying all products and the processes of achieving biological products are produced with the highest welfare of our planet earth in mind, excluding absolutely no creature on our Mother globe. This means most products are Vegan, and the remainder products are strict by-products of ethical, biological, natural, and humanical, or "good for all People". And, our commitment to eliminating the use and need for plastics, continues, with choosing only recyclable plastic containers to send products, or selling only local or regional United States plastic manufacturing companies adhering to strict environmental controls and laws. It's the "one-stop-shop" for the most authentic seed starting supply catalog in the world.

Our Motto: "To help you grow the most abundant, nutritionally dense fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers using the organic soil block system of growing. Vitamin and Mineral Complex Complete. Food is Medicine, and People Eat."

Our Vision: "We Will Return to the Garden, and Feast Abundantly in our backyard, city block, farm, community, or Country by using simple timeless gardening tools and leaving the soil a trillion times better than when we found it. We will all be fed Nutrient Dense Plant Food, and We Will All Be Fed."

Our Goal: "Support each customer with First Class Help in gardening, farming, or the art of soil blocking. Provide each customer with First Class Organic Gardening Products that will assist you from seed to start, soil block to garden patch. Whether you are a beginning gardener or a commercial grower, we answer your questions and we will seek the right help, partnerships, research, and live consultations needed to master the art of starting seeds in potting blocks, and transplanting them efficiently, correctly, and without any transplant shock, nor stunting."


What's New?

We've added dozens of new products to the original soil block makers. This is now a complete seed starting source for soil blockers. So, we'll sell the finest seeds in the world, sell you the finest soil block makers in the world, sell you the finest potting soil in the word, and sell you the finest garden products in the world that will last generations to come.
We've added numerous more products to the famous Old Farm Boy brand of potting soil. Old Farm Boy will stand for Original, Organic, Vegan and Ecological soils, fertilizers, and amendments. Safe for all people and planet. Old Farm Boy Potting Blocks, the "pre-made soil block", or soil cubes, are available for those who want the results and benefits of soil block super growth, but don't want to make them. You can buy the pre-made soil block, or call it the "pot-less" pot. It's plant and play time for these customers, as they get the same lifetime gardening support and answers to their questions as the soil blocker tool customer.
The OFB Potting Block is the only seed starting container that sources the ingredients regionally, and leaves a minimum carbon footprint.
We've also added high quality plastic items that will last decades without breaking, and be completely recyclable after its use is up, often many decades of rugged farm abuse. We are committed to using minimal plastic on our own research farm, but unpredictable climate changes across the globe has made the use of agricultural plastics indispensable in regards to raising good food. However, there is no excuse for us, as the world's resource in soil block agriculture, to not completely phase out the use of any plastic products, minus the one's we already have, by 2012.
And, finally, we've added soil blocking organization products. We must all keep better track of our soil blocks. We must learn this system thoroughly if we are to teach others, grow select strains of rich vegetables, and save our own seeds, for prosperity, security, and "thrival-ness". We now stock soil block labels, waterproof soil block charts, trays, flats, and include planting by the moon schedules and information.
WOW! This is really complete. Customers have supported this mission from the start. To them, we are eternally grateful, for they have provided the means so that PottingBlocks.com is the end; the end of your searching for the perfect organic seed starting system. Now, this day, let's start anew, on the journey to the most authentic way to start seeds, with live help for life, and a dedication to grow for yourself, for the benefit of all.

Happy, Healthy, Honestly Good Gardening,

Jason Beam, creator http://www.pottingblocks.com/

Monday, April 5, 2010

Trays, Trays, and more Trays!

Wood trays with 2" blocks awaiting Micros

A common question asked in soil block agriculture is, "What kind of trays do you recommend?" Let's hammer this one out.
Soil Blocks are a recently developed seed starting medium used in the United States(earliest records indicate late 50's). Plastic was already well in control of agriculture at that time, and was convenient for starting seeds for most people and businesses. So, most of us continue to use plastic, as it's really a remarkable product. And, soil blocks fit quite nicely into the plastic regime of plant trays. But, you will notice that PottingBlocks.com does not sell any plastic trays. Why? Plastic fosters dependence on foreign oil and costly processing and transporting, not to mention the entire environment becomes severely polluted with plastic byproducts in the solids, liquids, and gasses of our planet. We must forge new options and new ways to deal with agriculture, but let's not go too fast! Plastic is a very reliable soil block tray, and here's plenty of examples of styles and equipment from people who use them.
My favorite company, Seeds of Change, uses the amazing web-bottomed 17"x17" tray with a 2" lip. If you can find these cheaper, they're great, I love them and will use them in long greenhouses for micro salad production. The open bottoms air prune the roots and hold a maximum of 64 2" blocks. This is first choice among the salvageable greenhouse freebies. Then, you've got the most popular flat tray in the U.S., the 1020. It comes with holes or no holes, and we like the no holes so that water can sit in the bottom of the grooves for reserves and help keep blocks moist, but we LOVE the bottom mesh trays for air pruning.  1020's are cheap and easy and you shouldn't have to buy them, if you can find them free, almost everywhere! The major downfalls of these two favorites is that they will eventually break, and end up in the garbage, or hopefully, in the recycled bin. So besides "gardening with garbage", as the Research Farm puts it, what's next, Guru?
Next, this style comes from the Undeniable Ambassador of Soil Blocking, Eliot Coleman who brought soil block makers to the US agriculture scene, and his market farming techniques for masters. They're the old-fashioned style wood trays, made from 1/2" stock plywood bottoms and three sides of 1"x3" wood in any length and size you can dream up for your operation. This will create a custom system for all those handy enough, and willing to make them. The 3" side height is perfect for allowing the seeds to sprout while they can be stacked up as high as you like. See first photo. We still use these trays, because, frankly, we trained ourselves under the Eliot Coleman system, and the trays are lasting 8 years now. We did paint them with a white latex paint for light reflection and water resistance. Make them out of cedar or redwood if you've got it. Since, this is a research farm, new options and methods are being trialed, and we have hit on some real winners. Let's track them down in the order of least expensive with the most work, to the most expensive with the least amount of work involved. (Why is it always like that?)  (And, it goes for all of our commercial stand-up soil block makers we sell!)

Let's start with the stackable dairy crates with mostly three sides that stack up on one another. They're great! IF YOU CAN FIND THEM!
Next, again, an Eliot Coleman tip, the bread trays and carts found behind grocery stores and bakery outlets. They're top notched, first rate, professional systems, IF YOU CAN GET THE OWNER TO PART WITH THEM. Hunt them down all over town if you need to as they are well worth the wait, the hunt, the patience and the few bucks to bribe the owner to "depart from this one with the little rust". See photo.
Next comes the hybrid system for innovating farmers and gardeners: The wood sided expanded galvanized metal lathe bottomed tray. See photo. This is a fantastic system for the 'art of soil blocking", which is to air prune all sides for the final elimination of transplant shock. This way is found no where in the plastic pot culture system no matter what they tell you! You can replace the spendy lathe with quail fencing, poly covered fencing, quality gauge hardware cloth, or the new 2'x4' plastic bench tops or lapping animal cage bottoms, found at http://www.farmtek.com/, cut in thirds and either rimmed with wood or not.
Down the line we now have stackable fiberglass trays used in the food industry or hydroponic systems. Of course, they are the best, but they will cost you a year's worth of home-grown vegetables at your farmer's market. This is a great system for long term investments in soil block equipment used for serious systematic gourmet market growers. They simply last forever and can withstand repeated abuse and harsh climactic conditions.
Fiberglass trays
Now, when it comes to the Micro 20--3/4" (mini-blocker), we use narrow, long wood flats. But, honestly, the home scaled gardener can do so well with reused food containers that would hold a little water, or even complete plastic food boxes with lids and covers, as the Micro 20's must not be allowed to dry out. Micro 20's work better in smooth, flat bottomed trays with a little raised lip for the placement of black plastic strips that seal in heat and moisture, and weight down the seed until it pierces the block dibble and grows the tap root down. See You Tube Video.
The point is, don't get hung up on "where do I put them?", get caught up in good block making and attention to watering needs, and the system will present itself to you according to your environment and conditions. Don't forget to drop us a line if you've found something of interest to all. My promise to the world is to develop a low cost, efficient, excellent expandable system to be used by kitchen gardeners to commerical operations. You'll know it when we find it!  We are the world's resource in soil blockers used for farming.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Question: What makes soil blocks better?


Answer: Faster plant growth due to small compressed seedling spaces given just enough room for accelerated growth rate as opposed to loose-filled soil in plastic pots, or larger than necessary seed pots. Stronger, healthier, vigorous seedlings due to the competition factor in small spaces, given just enough room at transplanting to keep the seedling's edge on survival. Air pruning makes soil blocks the only seed starting method in the world where 5-6 sides of the "pot-less" pot are air pruned and completely eliminate transplant shock by keeping the roots safely growing inside the cube, and not anywhere outside of itself. With the miles of linear space for roots to grow in, the compressed cube will not become root bound. When it finally reaches the garden, it will explode into the ground with such tremendous growth rate, you can literally see it grow before your eyes. There's plenty of oxygen for the roots to uptake, because of the exposed sides. Note the pictures showing air flow in a soil block (right) compared to a waterlogged and less oxygenated plastic pot on the left. There's even air trapped inside the compressed block, too. If you were to dry out a block, and then immerse it water, it will spend several minutes releasing air bubbles underneath the water proving air was present in the wet, compacted block. No worries for the seedling in compacted soil; a great seed will penetrate a lot harder conditions than the soil block. And, if it can't, you really shouldn't be growing such weak seedlings anyways.
Also, space is saved because of square shapes fitting together tighter, and time is saved in the end because each compressed block of soil can hold your seedling 3-10 times longer than pots of the same size in other seed germinating systems using loose-filled soil. Plastic pots require constant transplanting to avoid transplant shock, but even then, most seedlings found at a nursery or greenhouse are root bound and stressed anyways.
Finally, soil blocks need only three components for a lifetime of hassle-free seed starting: the soil blocker, the soil, and the seed. What could be easier, if it really works this well?
These facts are verified by independent scientific studies based in Europe, where soil blocks are the preferred method for most vegetable growers, and even large scaled flower growers. If you are researching which option to start your vegetable, herb, and flower seeds, train yourself with soil blocks and you'll learn about gardening without the downfalls of status quo plastic gardening, or as we call it, "gardening with garbage". And, since you found someone willing to teach you online or on the phone, why not have faith and trust that it'll work for you, too?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

PottingBlocks.com Turns 2 Years Old.


It truly is a happy anniversary here at Potting Blocks Research Farm in Alpine, Oregon. It was here, 2 years ago today, that I launched the most popular website on soil blocking. Why did I do it? What was the story behind the web site? It all started as a need to compile more information and specific instructions about soil blocking in one convenient place--the Internet. Many of us know Elliot Coleman of Maine "broke ground" on soil blocking in his famous book "The New Organic Grower". I, too, read that book 9 years ago, and started right from the beginning with soil blockers after I completed my organic farm apprenticing in New Mexico. We had to use Jiffy peat pots back then, and I really hated them. They were not the way to start seeds, but lesson learned and I started training myself with soil blockers. It was an immediate success in the little town of Hot Springs, Montana, the sight of my very first greenhouse business. People would come day and night to see the demonstrations, bring me seeds to plant, and buy soil block vegetable starts. They would load them up in recycled containers. It began to occur to me that not all the information was out there for advanced soil blocking. I had collected books, and magazines, and obscure information from libraries that helped improve on earlier techniques. I even innovated many techniques and systems of transport and transplant. I began to sell seedling starts in soil blocks just like they're sold in Europe, on wooden flats, where the customer is responsible for their own container. I did, however, provide recycled food containers in many shapes and sizes for them to use. Complete transplanting instructions included with every order, I had them hooked on "European Style Transplants".
After we sold the farm in Montana to move to warmer pastures in Oregon, we pretty much dumped every last cent into our current little "farmette". After my last stint at carpentry to pay down some bills, I had to get growing transplants again. What happened instead was the creation of this soil block website. In all of December of 2007, I formulated a huge informative website and published it in January 1. 2008. To my surprise it was an immediate success. People all over the world were reading it and learning more about their own soil blockers. Then came the first timers, who asked if they could buy them from me! I never turned anybody away, I just asked if they would wait a week or two and I'd deliver. I had to find my sources here in the states first, but now I buy in bulk shipments from the manufacturer in England. From that point on, I have been importing soil blockers and selling them online. All thanks to each and every reader of my website! Because, every hit helps me get higher in the Google rankings. Thus far, this has been a success due to readers and customers. Very little advertising in Google Adwords account for the only exposure I get. But now, magazines, newspapers, and garden centers are seeking me out for interviews and workshops. I still love doing a soil block demonstration just like it was my first time. I still love them as the solution to landfill-bound plastics, and incredible growth potential. I am building a retail center for seed starting equipment and vegetable and herb transplants by 2011. The customers have proven the demand for this equipment, as transplant sales are up 40% across the country and home gardeners are looking to do it themselves. They want a seed starting tool that will last a lifetime with no more aggravating plastic to throw around. What the world is seeking is a simple tool that will make transplant pots without the need to buy plastic, and knowledge on how to grow the best food plants possible. What they have noticed on the Internet is a place that delivers service, quality, knowledge, free consultations, and friendly sincere help. Just as I had longed for many years ago. Yet, my prices are way cheaper than when I had to buy the whole set! I have sold myself on the value of PottingBlocks.com. I hope you find it just as useful and that you, too, will support the good work we're doing here by purchasing a soil blocker from "me".
May peace be with you in the New Year and forever. Remember, the Potting Block Guru is always here to help.