Updated Pic: Cinder Block Garden with hybrid irrigation system

The beds are approximately Fifteen Feet long by Three feet wide.  The area had a small hill which had to be graded and the soil itself was covered with a black plastic mulch which was ripped out.  The soil in each bed is the original soil that was in the ground, amended with compost acquired from a local goat ranch.  The top layer is bagged garden soil (one per bed)

At four foot intervals, pieces of 1 and a quarter inch pvc pipe were cemented into place down the outside of each bed.  This is to allow for putting in  a future shade structure if so desired.

The irrigation system consists of an overhead microsprinkler system/drip tubing hybrid that is connected into an automated irrigation valve.  The inline 1/2 valves allow for the use of one system at a time, and the male and female couplings allow for ease of disassembly during garden bed cultivation.  This system is perfect for polycultural planting practices, as it allows for establishment of a cover crop (buckwheat for example) via overhead and then can be switched to drip for plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants.

Update of Garden:

East of Fresno

I started prepping this field near about the end of March.  Had I been able to to disc and get the bed shaper in a week earlier I would have been able to take advantage of a nice storm system to establish a  turnip cover crop.

I wanted to use in-line drip poly hose, but the other farmer working the land adjacent to mine (and sharing his mainline water access) advised me against it, as he felt the pressure that the pump generated would not be sufficient to give adequate moisture out of the rigid tubing.  A month later, we’ve switched to an entirely new pump and well with tremendous pressure.  Oh well.

Mammoth sunflowers coming in.  The idea was to get some biomass out there and do a little chop and drop, stripping the leaves and cutting down some sunflowers, to cover bare ground.  Experimenting with planting pole beans and cucumbers at the base of some of the sunflowers for trellising.  Many row crop farmers opt for black plastic mulches to prevent weeds and to get their crops going earlier.  Sadly, this practice totally neglects the soil and creates mounds of agricultural waste.

How the sausage is made.  Portrait of a Farmer as a young man driving his very reliable dodge caravan loaded with tools and crops.  Spin farming 101

Ronde De Nice and Cocozelle Squash just picked.  I’ve been making great squash crepes and thai curries.

Soil Block Trays From Cedar Fencing Board and Redwood Rough Board

 I’ve been starting some seeds lately, using whatever containers i could find to fill with some potting mix.  One of the draw-backs of using whatever you find is that you can go through quite a bit of soil mix filling those containers, and end up wasting a lot of it with needless depth.

  I wanted to start using soil blocks again so that i could maximize my seed germinating mix (a 2″x 2″ block of soil is a very efficient way to get plants started) and also i wanted to have more viable transplants (individual blocks of plants transplant better than plants torn from a communal pot).

Normally for soil blocks I would just repurpose plastic trays (bread or soft-drink ones).  I’ve found that the bread trays can be very unwieldy when fully loaded with soil blocks.  And not having anymore soft-drink trays left, I decided to build a couple of trays from off the shelf lumber material and see what came of it.  Of course, these trays could be made with used lumber, but  i didn’t find any free lumber on craigslist and i wanted to get seeds planted as soon as possible.


2- Cedar Fence Boards

2- 2x2x8 Redwood Rough Board

1 box  1″1/4″ wood screws

wood glue

2″ soil blocker

This Ladbrooke Soil Blocker measures 2″ wide and 7.5″ long (the forms are more like 2″x 1.75″, but not quite 2×2).  I cut the fence boards at 23″ long, connecting them together with two pieces of redwood rough board (11″ long, miter cut to 45 degree angles).  These 11″ pieces correspond to the width of the two fence boards put together.  I glued and clamped the pieces in place and then screwed them in.  I then proceeded to mitre cut two more pieces of redwood rough board at 23″.  These two pieces were then glued and screwed into place along the edges of the fence board, creating the framed finish.

Redwood rough board is listed as 2″x 2″, but is actually only about an inch and a half.  This gives us a surface area of 20″x 8″ within the frame to put our soil blocks (subtracting the width of the trim pieces from all sides).

From the material listed above and the dimensions indicated i was able to make 3 trays that hold approximately 40 soil blocks each.  The third tray was a bit patch work as you can see, but there was hardly any material wasted, a couple of very small pieces from the mitre cuts. (I did cut off the dog ears from each of the fence boards at the beginning).

I added some plastic that was lying around to it at the end to give it some extra protection.  Secured with a duct tape batting that is stapled through. We’ll see how they hold up.  Soil blocks are notorious for getting dry fairly quickly.  The tight spacing and plastic may help with that.

close up of soil blocks

Looking ahead, i can see added thin wire hoops to these trays and pulling some repurposed, recycled bags over the top and creating a mini greenhouse; adding wood to the sides so that the trays can be stacked without damaging seedlings.  I used a bagged potting mix as an experiment to see how well they hold up.  There’s soil block recipes out there that can be used, which i may revisit.  Ideally it would be great to come up with a recipe that doesn’t require buying bags of stuff, especially peat moss (can be too acidic for plants)

Header Configuration for Brassica Bed

1/2″ line comes up at the edge of the bed from a “T” fitting 4 or 5 inches below ground.  A 5 inch piece of 1/2″ line comes out from the “T”, going into an elbow fitting.  Out of the elbow fitting is a short piece of poly line that goes into the valve shown.  The barbed valve connects into a “T” that the drip actually connects into.  To make this system more flexible, a female hose coupling should have been added after the valve, that way you can swap out the drip tubing for an overhead micro sprinkler system using male threaded couplings (the kind used to cap off ends)
The advantage of the aforementioned setup with female/male couplings is the less wear and tear on the main line (pulling and moving drip tape causes tears in the poly tubing over time)