About a week ago I made my soil cubes to start the first seeds of the season. Below you can see my “soil cube building station”. By the way, I use the Soil Cube by Clayton Jacobs and if you haven’t heard of them they are awesome! It is a little machine that uses hand power to make cubes out of soil. These can then be used as biodegradable pots for starting seeds that are themselves filled with nutrients.
Basically, I took a really big bucket and filled it half way with my soil mixture. Then I poured in some water from my rain barrel and hand mixed it into mud of a consistency such that it sticks together, but isn’t completely dripping wet. Next, I put a board over the top of the bucket. Then I hand scooped my soil into the cube machine and used the board as a table to press the cubes out. This way any extra moisture and soil falls back into the bucket. Then using the tongs that came with the machine (I really used my hands, but this takes practice and I wasn’t moving them far) move them into a tray. I used roasting pans from the local grocery store and loved them. The ones I used were from a company called Eco-foil Roaster/Baker Pans found in the baking aisle at the grocery store. They bow at an angle forming high-sided bowls measured 11 3/4 in. x 9 3/8 in. x 2 5/16in. The measurements make it perfect to fit 12 soil cubes very snugly. This makes watering them easily as it wicks up from the bottom. And they are made from 100% recycled aluminum. Best of all they were made in America by an American company. I don’t remember how much they were, but it was cheap and they came in 3 packs. I have used these for their intended purpose before and they work well as that too. If you want one and they aren’t in your store you can order them at www.eco-foilpans.com Below is a picture of what to look for…
NOTE: Someone mentioned to me the possibility of leaching Aluminum into the soil. This is a very valid concern as it could inhibit root growth. However, it could be somewhat negated by layering the bottom of the pan with newspaper. Hopefully, that would filter out any microscopic Al particles from transferring into the soil during that time. Remember, this is only for starting the seeds, once they reach a certain height they are transferred outside either into a coldframe or directly into the bed.
I set up a seed starting station in my garage last year and have really got it down perfectly I feel. I was fortunate enough to already have a wire shelving unit built along the wall so I didn’t have to start completely from scratch. I will document it fully later (I think I did earlier and if so will link to it), but I can describe it and put a picture below. I bought a cheap fluorescent light fixture from Home Depot that uses the long tubular bulbs. Then I cleared a shelf off the length of the light and hung it from the shelf above so it was facing downward. I took a thin silver mylar blanket and hung it as the roof and backing to reflect light and heat. Next, I hung two desk lamps upside-down from the bottom of the shelving unit so they faced upward. I put very low watt incandescent bulbs in those to provide heat from the bottom. NOTE: Only one of these lamps is on at a time. I alternate to heat up different sides every other day or every two days. I also coated the bottom with aluminum foil to help reflect heat and warmth. I put 5 trays width-wise side by side under the light and it fit perfectly. I made side reflectors with more foil on top of cardboard. One side was left open for easy access. All of the lights were then wired to a surge protector and that was then put on a timer to provide 14 hours of light a day. Below is a picture of the entire setup…
To start off the 2012 season I chose to fill the trays (in order left to right in the pictures) with:
- Georgia Collard Greens, from a local seed and feed store
- Broccoli – Calabrese organic seed, from Peaceful Valley Farms
- Cauliflower – Snowball organic seed, from Peaceful Valley Farms
- Broccoli – Di Ciccio organic seed, from Peaceful Valley Farms
- Green Kale, from a local seed and feed store
sorry for the grainy iPhone pic ( I did 12 cubes per packet)
SO… as stated, I was able to fit 12 soil cubes (3 by4) very snugly. This worked perfectly because I was able to then use a pitcher of water to pour into the pan and let it wick up the cube without destroying it in the process. You do have to pack them in gingerly prior to watering, especially the last few. At 12 cubes a tray with 5 trays, I was able to fit 60 cubes. The soil cube maker also forms an indention for the seeds to simply be placed into. Then a little bit of dirt is just dusted over top. Below is a picture of everything ready to go…
And guess what… It worked! I had seeds germinate in every cube in less than 7 days!
Until next time keep Making a Homestead, one day at a time!