Many gardeners are familiar these days with the tool used for making your own seed starting blocks out of wet potting soil commonly known as soil blockers. They are also known as potting blockers, soil block makers, soil cubers, peat blockers, and seed starting soil-blockers. Soil blockers are a zinc coated steel hand-held potting soil mold maker with an ejection plate pressed down with a handle to discharge compressed soil blocks that stand up on their own without the need for plastic pots. These soil block makers and soil blocks have been a key component to a self-sufficient farming systems in Holland since around 1839. Becoming very popular in the USA, due to the unsightly piles of flimsy agriculture plastic, where they are replacing plastic trays, flats, pots, and bags for the ideal system of seeding, growing, transplanting, and transporting seedlings for market or garden. However, the actual tool has been called by many names since it’s arrival from the English factory in the late 70s.
The manufacturer is called Ladbrooke Ltd 98, out of Bidford-on-Avon, UK. The official name of these soil blockers are Ladbrooke Soil Blockers. They make 7 different soil block making tools, 4 for home gardeners and 3 commercial floor units. Let’s look at all the names and clarify each one for their precise factory name. I think it’s important to streamline the factory names with these tools to avoid confusion. However, some US distributors do not. Case in point, I just received the new 2012 catalog for Johnny’s Seeds. It looks like they have changed the name of the individual tools AGAIN! But, here is the official breakdown of all the tools as the Ladbrooke Company names them:
Mini 4–This soil blocker tool makes 4, 2″ (all blocks cubed unless otherwise noted) soil blocks
Mini 5–Makes 5, 1-1/2″ soil blocks
Micro 20–Makes 20, 3/4″ mini-blocks, or soil blocks
Maxi 1–Makes 1, 4″ soil block
Multi 6–Makes 6, 3″ x 2-1/2″ x 2″ soil blocks. (All Multi Units are floor models or Stand-Up units with a long 31″ handle for floor blocking used by professional commercial growers.)
Multi 12–Makes 12, 2″ soil blocks
Multi 20–Makes 20, 1.5″ soil blocks
These are officially the names and sizes of these soil block makers as set forth by the manufacturing company in England. However, you can also see them around with these pseudo names by reseller misidentification:
Medium 4-Block Maker or Hand-Held 4 Soil Blocker, Hand Held 5 Soil Blocker, Mini 20-Block Maker or Hand-Held 20 Soil Blocker, Single 4″ Block Maker or Hand-Held 1 Soil Blocker, Stand-up 6 Soil Blocker, (or Professional Floor Blockers), Stand-up 12 Soil Blocker, Stand-up 20 Soil Blocker . Or, they can even be
called by their size + soil blocker, i.e. 4″ soil blocker.
The pin inserts to the various machines for creating different sized seed holes or dibbles and the potting on insert cubes for transplanting are also called by different names. Again, the company out of England calls them:
Cubic inserts–3/4″ cubic pins for transplanting the mini-blocks into the 2″ blocks.
Dowel pins–1″ dowel pins for seeding large seeds like corn, beans, squash and peas.
Seed pins–5/8″ seed pins that are sold with each soil block maker unit (except the Multi 6, which the factory loads with the cubic inserts)
Other names for the interchangeable pin inserts seen around the internet are cubic pins, insert set, long dibbles, and 1″ soil blocker long dibbles.
The gaining popularity of soil blockers is due to increased efforts to homogenize the system with their true names to avoid confusion. Soil blockers for starting seeds are an old way renewed for efficiency, performance, self-sufficiency, and just pure genius. For more information on ALL things soil block gardening from professionals who actually use them, see the only USDA recommended site on the subject: www.pottingblocks.com “The world’s resource for soil block agriculture.”