Monthly Archives: April 2010

That’s how I roll: slowly

This post was penned by our correspondent somewhere in the airspace between Bozeman, Montana, and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

It's amazing how much gardening can get done when you're under the gun.

Several weeks back James Alexander-Sinclair (Blogging at Blackpitts Garden) wrote about how everything was suddenly catching up with him at the end of winter, and how it was all his fault. (Ever a slave to logic, he titled that post "Sand On The Toes Of A Wallaby." Go figure.)

I know exactly how he feels, except the part about its being my fault. I don't know whose fault it is, but surely not mine. (Maybe his?)

Take the last post (mine), and the missing final post on soil blocks. The latter was supposed to go before the former, but since it didn't, the latter will have to go after the former. Or, to put it differently, the final potting block post was supposed to go up before the Nature Conservancy post, which was supposed to go up before Earth Day, but, well, not so much. Once I'd fallen behind with the soil blocks posts, the ED post was doomed. Sort of a “for loss of a nail the shoe, the horse, the battle, the kingdom was lost” situation.

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Easy Earth Day Action

Day is almost over. Almost, but not quite. There's still time to
register with the Nature Conservancy, thus joining thousands
of others who want to preserve the wildness in which Henry David
Thoreau saw the “preservation of the world.”

You don't have to join the organization (though it's a good one to join); you don't have to give them any money (though I doubt they'd return it if you offered.) Nor is this one of those awful on-line bait and switch operations, one of those “just-a-few-minutes-of-your-time” buttons that whisks you to a form where you scroll endlessly on and on, divulging more personal information than you generally share with your spouse and more sixteen-digit numbers than you realized could be attached to one person, most of which, of course, you have to dig out of the back of some envelope at the bottom of the last desk drawer you try, and all of which must be typed in without dashes or spaces, a dyslexic's nightmare and a bad dream for the rest of us.

No, these folks ask for two things: your name, and your e-mail address. Then the form goes away. You're done. The form pops up when you go to the Nature Conservancy's home page.

They've also put together a Top 5 Earth Day Action List, which I'll reprint here. The links take you to pages on their special Earth Day site, where you'll find expanded discussions of each of these topics. (Check out #3, on gardening!)

1. Use Reusable Bags
— Hundreds of thousands of marine animals die every year from ingesting plastic bags #EarthDay

2. Eat Sustainably
–You eat fish even when you don’t: 36% of world's fisheries catch is used to feed farm animals #EarthDay

3. Green Your Gardening
–Plant native species – they require less fertilizer, which can seep into oceans! #EarthDay

4. Adopt A Coral Reef
–70% of all Earth’s coral reefs will be destroyed by 2050, act now! #EarthDay

5. See Oceans, Save Oceans
–See OCEANS (4/22-4/28) & a portion of ticket sales benefits Conservancy’s work on coral reefs #EarthDay

*Bonus – General Earth Day messaging
–It's time to celebrate Earth Day's 40th anniversary. We're asking you to help protect oceans. #EarthDay

We gardeners spend a lot of time with earth. Take a moment out for the big one, Earth.

Soil Blocks #3: Rocky Horror Picture Soup

Soil blocks, compressed soil for seedlings, come recommended by almost everyone who tries them, as long as they can get the things to hang together. The web is full of grumbling from people whose blocks disintegrated when moved, planted, or breathed on, and accolades from those who changed their soil mix and found success. The word is out: don't skimp here, and for once I decided to take that advice. Sort of.

So a couple of Fridays back I headed for Planet Natural* for my soil block ingredients: coconut coir, perlite, and greensand. We had barely time to unload the car and wash up before joining husband Steve for a soup dinner benefiting a local artist's studio group and then a local production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Abdoulaye came along for all of it, so he got to meet Eric at PN, have a tomato soup that couldn't be beat, and then see a show that really has no equivalent in Mali.**

Over the weekend a friend and I hauled everything outside and prepared the mix. Here's the recipe I got on-line at Jason Beam's site, where I ordered my molds:

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Soil blocks #2: How to, Q & A

Well, this isn't quite the “tomorrow” so casually mentioned in my last post; I must learn not to make such promises. Life's been even more than usually busy, for the past week has included both Abdoulaye's departure and a visit from one of Steve's most excellent brothers. The former event leaves us bereft, but I suspect Abdoulaye feels rather differently, as he's returning to his wife of a just a year and a half. He certainly sounded cheerful when he called this afternoon, as did she. More about Jeff's visit tomorrow soon, but for now, on to soil blocks.

Soil blocks from top

The Mini 4 (left; 2" blocks) and Micro 20 (right; 3/4" bocks)

Q: So what the heck are soil blocks,
and how do you make them?

As mentioned in my last rambling post, soil blocks are free-standing (pot-less) compressed chunks of soil used for starting seedlings. They're made using special molds which consist of cubes or sets of cubes with open bottoms and moveable tops attached to a spring. Two are pictured above. Apparently those tools are sometimes referred to as "blocks," while what they produce is called a "soil block," but to avoid confusion, I'll refer to the tools themselves as "molds."

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It’s found sculpture—it’s a 3-D Rorschach test—no, it’s soil blocks!

I had to look up (i.e., Google) how to spell Rorschach, of course, and amongst the results saw one claiming that most people have never actually seen a Rorschach inkblot. Well, I have. Not that I've taken the test myself; no, that might be dangerous. (Who know what might be revealed?) Instead, I bethought me of Dave Barry's caution regarding a potentially explosive procedure, which I will summarize** thusly: “Do not do this yourself. Instead, send one of your children.”* Yes, when our older son was just six years old, we let a young psych student who lived next door give him a complete Rorschach test. And that has made all the difference.

But truly, this is a post about soil blocks, and these (or those, by now) are indeed soil blocks being protected from cats.

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