ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Soil Hoop: Easier To Make Than The Soil Block -- Saves Water, Fertilizer, Soil Too

Updated on August 8, 2015
The "soil hoop" helps plant roots spread out and get a good start in the garden.
The "soil hoop" helps plant roots spread out and get a good start in the garden.

Seedlings are happiest when their roots are free

The soil hoop is like a soil block. Both allow the plant roots to grow strong and free.
The soil hoop is like a soil block. Both allow the plant roots to grow strong and free.

A plant's roots, like all of us, crave freedom



Soil blocks allow roots to wander where they will A plant's roots go looking for water and minerals and other nutrients. Even a thin layer of peat, newspaper,or cardboad is a barrier; the tentril can pierce the paper or peat but it's work for the plant,taking energy away from growth and development. The label on biodegradable pots says they return to the earth, and they do...eventually. with a soil block, there's nothing to wait for to decompose.


The soil block idea is a great innovation

Whether vegetable seedlings go into a traditional garden bed in the ground or are grown in patio pots or grow bags, there's got to be someplace to start the seed. I save paper & foam coffee cups, and I sometimes use peat pellets, but when I learned about soil blocks, I was excited! I liked the idea that I wouldn't have to buy anything & I wouldn't have to origami anything. Soil blocks were a great idea because they'd keep me from having to fold a kajillion newspaper cups & toilet paper rolls into seed cups. No more trips to buy peat or cardboard cups designed to rot away (talk about planned obsolescence!).

Commercial greenhouses have a device that's a cross between a garlic press and a trash compactor. The sides, top and bottom come together and smash the soil mix together.


Pressing the soil tightly

A soil block maker works a bit like a garlic press.
A soil block maker works a bit like a garlic press. | Source

But pressed blocks don't work when I don't have time to do them perfectly every time

Theoretical design is great when I've got time to experiment or make tiny adjustments. But when time is short. . .

In my experience, making small soil blocks large enough to start a seed is easy enough with a little practice. When it comes to a larger block, comparable to a 4-inch plastic pot, things go to pieces -- literally.

Managing the moisture content is a hassle. I quickly found that if the soil was a little too dry, the block crumbled. If the soil was a little wet, the round block jammed in the can and couldn't be extruded from the open end. Just having the soil mix sitting in a plastic dishpan on the garden table in my basement meant the top surface of the mix was drier than the soil at the bottom of the dishpan.

I make my own peat-based soil mix, and while I try to keep the peat and potting soil and water in good proportion, the mix will have wet and dry spots where there is more dry powdery peat moss and where there is less peat in that area of the bin. So not only is my dishpan of soil mix drier at the top and wetter at the bottom, but it also has drier and muddier pockets throughout. Not huge differences; it didn't take much variance to mess up the block-making process.

With time and practice, I'm sure I could have made blocks a bit faster, but there still would have been that pesky failure rate and wasted time as I dumped the soil from the failed block back into the bin and re-pressed it.





Commercial block makers vs. DIY models for home garden use

The trick to ready-made soil block makers are designed for large-scale,long-term use, and they're expense. And the trick to homemade block makers is that they are tricky. The container must be squishy enough to release the block, yet firm enough to ompress the soil particles close enough to one another for integration.

For my needs, it's hard to come up with a block maker which allows for variations in soil mix moisture. I use a peat-based mix which drains well.In a soil block, if the mix is a ltttle dry,the block crumbles when it comes out of the maker.

Homemade block makers

Hobby gardeners make their own soil block makers in square or round form. When the process works as it should, a cube or cylinder of firm soil is formed. Each block has a small hollow on the top where the seed or a seedling is put in. There are no sides or bottom to the soil block so roots encounter no barriers as they grow. (Cue The Mamas & The Papes singing "Go where you wanna go / do what you wanna do") When the root ends reach the sides of the block, it's time to transfer the soil block into the ground or into a larger container.

I made myself a nice block maker using a large can with a pusher made from the can lid and a wooden handle. My pusher even had an indent maker to push in a recessed spot for a small soil block. I made a couple of round soil blocks and felt quite pleased with myself.

Jammed up or crumbling apart

I suppose I could pry the soil cylinder out of the maker, but it would take less time just to press moist soil between my palms into a lump.
I suppose I could pry the soil cylinder out of the maker, but it would take less time just to press moist soil between my palms into a lump.
That heartbreaking moment when the corner feel off my perfect block with its perfect dent.
That heartbreaking moment when the corner feel off my perfect block with its perfect dent.

So I invented the soil hoop!

The soil hoop is a round soil block with a band or collar around the outside. This little bit of reinforcement is enough to keep the shape from crumbling to pieces. I could use a soil mix that was a little on the dry side and it would stay together. Once I had the soil hoop where I wanted it, I could add moisture in situ.

Soil hoops still work even when I do them "wrong"

I don't need uniform hoops.. These seedlings are going into individual grow bags. If someone is a square-foot gardener, they might want more uniform hoops.  I make large hoops for large seeds, smaller hoops to fit into a narrow box.
I don't need uniform hoops.. These seedlings are going into individual grow bags. If someone is a square-foot gardener, they might want more uniform hoops. I make large hoops for large seeds, smaller hoops to fit into a narrow box.

How to make the newspaper collar

We get our newspaper online now so I use the freebie community paper from the front of the pizza shop. Fold it once like this.
We get our newspaper online now so I use the freebie community paper from the front of the pizza shop. Fold it once like this.
Fold again.
Fold again.
Fold a tapered tip at one end, as though you were making the nose of a paper airplane.
Fold a tapered tip at one end, as though you were making the nose of a paper airplane.
Tuck the tapered end into the closed loop at the other end and use a staple or a bit of tape to hold it.
Tuck the tapered end into the closed loop at the other end and use a staple or a bit of tape to hold it.
It's not round because of creases in the paper. But when filled with soil and pressed between other hoops, it becomes roundish.
It's not round because of creases in the paper. But when filled with soil and pressed between other hoops, it becomes roundish.

Update!

The collars went into cardboard boxes lined sith cloth diapers to hold moisture. All seedlings are doing nicely and are almost ready to go into grow bags.
The collars went into cardboard boxes lined sith cloth diapers to hold moisture. All seedlings are doing nicely and are almost ready to go into grow bags.

Update!

I have a square-foot garden space made from an old ladder, and the soil hoops were the perfect size for each open space.
I have a square-foot garden space made from an old ladder, and the soil hoops were the perfect size for each open space.

Update #2: Soil Hoops in A Shallow Garden Bed

I pulled up some garlic and had room for new plants. The bed is about three feet by five feet, and is mostly just lawn turf I turned over with a garden fork. Last fall I punched holes in this upside-down and put in garlic bulbils, with a layer of cardboard over everything as a solid mulch layer.

The semi-composted brown cardboard has been pulled up, and it would take a lot of garden soil to make a solid plantable layer on top of the space. I wanted to get the bed working for me right away, and didn't want to wait for "dirt lasagna" layers of cardboard, compost, and soil to break down.


So, since I plant beans in hills anyway, I replaced the hill shapes with soil hoops, planting four or five beans in each. I think the disk shape will keep water and nutrients from running downhill away from the young plants. In this way, I can direct all waterings and feedings (diluted plant food and high-nitrogen worm compost "tea") right where I want them. I save labor, time, and resources when I don't spread it all out. I did plant a few extra beans, because I had them already soaked, into the bed between the two rows of soil hoops. I then scattered dill seeds into the non-hoop areas of the bed. I do like "dilly" beans and now I have the ingredients all growing together!

Soil hoops right on top of a shallow garden bed

Rather than add layers of garden soil to deepen a bed made from a former scruffy lawn area between driveways, I confined soil, water, and nutrients to the area where bean plants will set down roots.
Rather than add layers of garden soil to deepen a bed made from a former scruffy lawn area between driveways, I confined soil, water, and nutrients to the area where bean plants will set down roots.

Thank you for reading this!

I started out learning to garden from relatives, who taught me to lay out row gardens with walking space in between the carrot and pea plants. Then I read in a book about how to do a raised bed garden, and did lots of shoveling to mound up the earth. I first saw the idea of a no-dig garden on a blog, and then asked a friend about it while she and I were having lunch. And now I have all the great Hub posts here, with how-tos and photos, which let me improve what I'm doing. I just saw something this week about a new way to use comfrey as part of my natural fertilizer plan. Oh, and Tums! Turns out other people are using digestive aids to sweeten acid soil! :)

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)