Have any of you ever heard of a soil cube? I have, and they seem pretty nice... but they are expensive. So this year I decided to make one. I searched the internet for whatever I could find and landed here. I thought it looked like a pretty good design and determined I'd make one for myself.
I started with a 2" piece of pvc pipe and a knockout cap (it was cheaper than the real thing). Then I took some scraps made by my hole saw while working on my Installing a Generator Transfer Switch series (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3), ran a bolt through it and put a nut on the other side. It's a crude handle, but it works.
THE DIRTYou can't (to my knowledge, although I've never tried) just go out and use any old dirt for this... you're probably going to have to spend some money. You'll need to use the following mix:
3 parts peat moss
2 parts sand and perlite mixed
1 part garden soil
2 parts well composeted, compost
sprinkle in some lime and fertilizer
mix with water until it reaches oatmeal consistency... you might have to play with the ratios
THE PROCESSMaking the blocks took some figuring out... I'm sure the real SoilCube would be easier to use, but I digress. I start out with the plunger in place, as shown in the second picture, and stuff the wet dirt mixture into the other end of the pipe. When I have it good and full, I'll put that end of the pipe on a hard surface and press down on the wooden plunger/bolt on the other side. This firms up the soil plug and helps compact it so it won't fall apart. Then, trying to keep the bolt from tipping, I'll push the dirt plug out of the pipe and into the seed starting tray.
Some people use fancy tray from the store, made to starting seeds... others use tupperware or totes. These aluminum cooking trays were about $1.50 each and work just fine. If they get damaged, I can afford to buy a few more without hurting my finances too much... but I'll have to look into something more sustainable in the future. I'll aso have to be a little careful as the plants get bigger, but by that time they may be outside anyway!
Hopefully this information helps somebody out!