DIY Soil Block Maker

diy soil block maker

I’ve been hearing some buzz lately…

…about these handy-dandy soil block thingies that people are using to start their seeds.

I’ve been pretty loyal to my nifty little newspaper pots for a while now, but being the nosy curious homesteader that I am, I just had to check out these new pots on the block. (Sorry… I couldn’t help myself) :)

My initial detective work led me to this soil block maker on Amazon for $30 (affiliate link). It has good reviews, and a lot of people seem to be having success with it, so it’s definitely an option.

But then the DIY-side of my brain kicked into gear and I started scheming about how I could make one of these oh-so-trendy soil block makers myself.

So that’s what we are doing here today–and there are two different styles you can choose from. The first one (the classy tin can model) was my project on Sunday afternoon. I like that one because it’s super simple and super cheap. But then hubby came along and decided he could make it even better, so I’m including his version as well. I actually like his design better, but don’t tell him I said that…

DIY Soil Block Maker (the classy tin can version)

You will need:

  • An empty tin can (I think the one I used was the 15 oz size–or something like that)
  • A chunk of dowel or a round/square wooden stick of some sort (scrap lumber is great)
  • A screw (or two)
  • Potting soil
  • Water
  • A pan/tray to hold the blocks

diy can soil block maker

Remove both ends from the can. You’ll need to save one end, but you can toss the other one.

Attach the lid of the can to the dowel/stick with the screw. We drilled a guide hole first, and then screwed it together.… [Continue Reading]

DIY Paper Seedling Pots

how to make paper seedling pots

OK, OK… You don’t have to rub it in…

I know many of you started your cute little seedlings weeks ago, and some of you are even harvesting crisp lettuce and greens… But don’t worry, I won’t hold it against you. ;)

Here in the frozen tundra (aka Wyoming) we are still shoveling snow and chopping ice. In fact, we had a lovely snow storm on Monday that closed down all the roads. So it’ll be a while before I get to dig around in my garden patch…

However, it’s just about time to get some seeds growing in our sunny windows. So I’ll take whatever dirt under my fingernails I can get!

There are a million-and-one different ways to start seeds–everything from fancy, seed-starting systems, to random repurposed objects.

However, I’ve returned to these simple newspaper pots year after year. I like that are big enough for larger seedlings to have room to grow, plus it doesn’t get much more frugal than this!

DIY Paper Seedling Pots

You will need:

  • Newspaper (one full “fold-out” sheet will make 2 pots)
  • A drinking glass (or any other cylindrical object that you can wrap the paper around- – it needs to have straight sides)
  • Masking tape (2 pieces per pot)
  • Potting soil


If you are starting with a full sheet of newspaper, tear it in half along the fold.

paper seed pots

Now fold it in half lengthwise, like this—>

homemade paper pots

how to make newspaper pots

Grab your cylindrical object (aka straight-sided drinking glass) and place it halfway on the paper. Unlike what you see in this picture, you’ll want the bottom half of the glass inside the newspaper roll, and the top facing out. (So exactly opposite of what you see here…)

paper seedling pots

Roll the paper all the way up, and secure with a strip of tape. There will be several inches of paper hanging off the end of the glass (on the side where you see my hand.) That’s what you want.… [Continue Reading]

How and Why to Start Your Hydroponic Garden

 how to start hydroponics

Today I am thrilled to have Chris Wimmer of Captain Hydroponics guest posting for me today! Chris is a urban homesteader who uses hydroponics to make the best use out of his small spaces. I think you’ll enjoy learning from his post as much as I have!

Chicago HomesteadThis is my homestead and it provides me exactly 440 square feet of outdoor space. I truly feel blessed to have that much space as I live in downtown Chicago. However, it’s also a major downsizing from my childhood where I worked on a farm and lived on a couple acres of land.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve started using hydroponic growing techniques with some really good results.

Now before I get ahead of myself let me now explain just what is hydroponics. Hydroponics in Latin literally means “working water”. The reason the water is called working is because hydroponics does not use soil to feed the plants but rather a nutrient rich solution which is continuously flowing to the plant roots. Many different types of systems have been developed but the one commonality is growing without soil.

So why use hydroponics and what are the benefits of using hydroponics over a traditional garden?

  • Increased crop yield
  • Faster growing cycles
  • Can be done indoors
  • Surprisingly cheap
  • Reduced labor
  • Environmentally sound

For me, there are 2 main reasons I use hydroponics for my homestead. First, I can raise bigger crops faster which is critical with limited space. Second, I can extend the short growing season in Chicago by setting up a winter garden in my spare bathtub.

So where should you start?

This can be one of the biggest challenges of trying anything new so I’m going to quickly walk you through how to get started with a simple hydroponic system. This system is simple yet effective at growing crops.… [Continue Reading]

Broccoli in December? How to Get Started with a Fall Garden

How to grow a cold weather garden

I’m pleased to have Susan of Itzy Bitzy Farm sharing today! She is a wealth of gardening info, and will give you everything you need to know about planting cold weather crops. (This is something I really need to work on!)

When the heat of Summer is at its highest, that is when I know it is time to think about planting cold weather crops for Fall and early Winter harvest. Many gardeners do not realize that from zones 5-8 one can grow two plantings of cold crops such as broccoli, cabbage, turnips, peas, beets, carrots and many types of greens. Today we will discuss cole crops.

It is very difficult for me to choose a favorite veggie to grow but if I had to choose my top three I would have to say broccoli. No, cabbage. Wait!….brussel sprouts. Well, I love all cole crops.

What does “cole” mean, you ask? Cole means stem. Cole crops are part of a large genus Brassica, of Old World temperate-zone herbs of the mustard family. The mustard family includes broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, turnips and rutabaga.

Cole crops are hardy and grow best in the spring and fall. My preference is Fall growing especially for broccoli and cabbage and my main reason for this is, that as the temperatures drop so do the insect populations. Thus, all natural pest control.

Successful growing of cole crops is related to how each crop grows and which plant part is eaten. For example, edible parts of broccoli and cauliflower are the flower heads which are quite sensitive to cold and nutritional deficiencies. Cabbage and Brussels sprouts produce leafy heads and can withstand greater fluctuations in weather and nutrition.

baby broccoli plants

Choosing a Planting Site:

Cole crops will tolerate some shade but full sun is always preferable.… [Continue Reading]