Soil Blocker Review

We've been usng the Ladbrooke soil blocker for several years to jump start our seedling transplants, and have found the soil blocker has both advantages and disadvatages for seed starting. It's a great tool, but we're not quite ready to throw away our plastic cell packs just yet.

The soil blocker used in this review is the Ladbrooke 2" soil blocker.

What we like about the Ladbrooke soil blocker:

  • Eco-friendly: The soil blocker is reusable, sustainable, and eco-friendly. Although it's more expensive up front, the long term cost savings make it an affordable alternative to buying cell packs every year.
  • Good for seedlings: The soil blocks are easy to make, uniform in size, and can be watered from below, keeping the water off the plant's leaves.
  • Durable: There are only a few moving parts so the soil blocker should last for many years.

What we don't like about the Ladbrooke soil blocker:

  • No labeling: We don't have enough garden space to sow an entire flat of any one crop so the various flats are filled with a variety of plants, and there's not really any way to label the individual soil blocks so it becomes difficult to know which seedling is which.
  • Moving the blocks: The soil blocks don't hold up well if they need to be moved more than a couple of times. Once the roots start growing and have a chance to hold the soil block together they hold up better, but they still don't appreciate being moved more than a couple of times.
  • Sensor probe: It's a minor inconvenience, but the thermostat has a one-inch probe that needs to be inserted in the soil mix in order to get an accurate reading for the heat mat, and the soil blocks don't hold the sensor in place very well. The probe only makes good contact when the soil blocks are freshly made.

Neutral: This is neither an advantage nor disadvantage, but it's often mentioned that the roots are automatically air-pruned once they reach the end of the soil block. No way. The roots just keep on going and will turn into as much of a tangle as the cell packs you buy at the garden center. Lettuce seedling roots were okay because they aren't in the soil blocks for long, but most other roots outgrew the soil block's boundaries well before it was time to transplant them outside. The soil blocks need at least 1/2" of space between the blocks to keep the roots at bay, but that made the soil blocks dry out much quicker so they needed watering every few days.

air pruned soil block roots

Final Opinion:

Would we buy it again? Absolutely! It probably sounds as though we're not happy with the soil blocker, but that's not the case. It just can't entirely replace the plastic cell packs just yet. The soil blocker is used mostly for the later succession plantings when it's warmer and the seedlings don't stay in the soil blocks as long. The plastic cell packs are used for the first main planting where the seedlings are in the cell packs for 8-12 weeks. Your seed starting setup is probably different than ours and the soil blocker may be all you need.

How to make soil blocks video:

Here's a video showing how easy it is to use the Ladbrooke soil blocker to make soil blocks: