Forum Friday: Soil Blocks Vs Plug Trays, Irrigation, & Spring Q&A Season
It’s March, which means the questions on the no-till community forum are getting into more practical greenhouse/field work as most farmers are getting ready for the first outdoor plantings of the year. Here’s a sample of what’s going on over there.
FarmerJesse writes, “We have used soil blocks almost exclusively for ten years but I would say, beyond tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and slower or longer season stuff like celery, fennel, early broc, late brussles, etc., they are a little too labor intensive for most market gardens. Takes about 90 seconds per tray at my fastest to produce soil blocks not to mention prepping the mix and then seeding. The quality is amazing, and with more soil require less watering than equivalent cell sizes. Also less plastic. And without rootbound issues, the flexibility is great. But they aren't easy (definitely not without the standing blockers). What do you all think?”
Of the many informative responses, from how to maintain efficiency while moving away from plastics to time trials, this one from pureguavajuice was particularly interesting, “I'm really into the idea of cooperative marketing and tool-sharing, and think it's the way forward for the agroecology-oriented small-farm movement of which we're all a part. I think it'd be really cool to join together with other farms to go in on a soil block machine like Angelic Organics…”
Do you, or have you used, soil blocks? Cell trays? Winstrips? We, and everyone else—it seems like—would love your input.
Farmwithkeith asks, “Is there anyone in our community that has a very simple and straightforward deisgn for an overhead irrigation system?” He’s looking to use a wobblers. I bring up this post in particular for two reasons: one, irrigation needs in no-till systems can differ from others, and two, these are the kind of questions we expect to see more of as we approach the main growing season.
Speaking to the first, from my own personal experience, drip doesn’t perform very well in our newly established deep-mulch beds. We used to use it for EVERYthing, because our tilled clay soil would soak it all right up, and still use it for transplanted crops as they mature to keep the leaves dry, but have switched to overhead on transplanted greens and direct seeded crops to be sure the entire bed receives uniform—more or less—coverage.
Spring Q&A Season
To the second, transitioning to no-till is easy in theory, but already I’m running into situations I didn’t account for myself and need to address sooner rather than later. When you hit these walls, take a few seconds to reach out and see what others are doing, if for no other reason than to check yourself. It gets harder and harder to find time to do the research and paperwork when the season gets into gear, but it has been my experience that blocking out a little time every week (i.e. Saturday mornings when my wife is at the farmers market and the kids are with the grandparents) to answer the questions I wrote down, call a few farmer friends, or post it in a forum is well worth it.
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