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Simply Picked: King Cake and Soil Blocking, Naturally Unite

Updated: Apr 30

Spokane, WA

February 9, 2024

Mardi Gras Colored Flowers
Mardi Gras Colored Flowers

Eighteen years ago (WOW!) my dad and I drove south to Louisiana. I was going to graduate school. We left home with an atlas in tow, said goodbye to my boyfriend (now husband...lucky guy) in Spokane, and hit the road.

We drove on toll roads by mistake with my dad politely requesting to not be charged and to be allowed to turn around, signed our life away in Texarkana for ordering a beer in a restaurant (a waiver of sorts?), and stayed in at least one highly questionable hotel. We quickly found ourselves an Irish pub and got our bearings about us or at least had a couple beers to dull the shock of the fact that we had just driven cross country with the intent of one of us staying behind. The one left behind was obviously yours truly, while the other would be taking a flight home after having what may be akin to a panic attack in the airport. My dad despises flying. I was not there to witness this as my absence was requested before he got out of the car at the airport.

When in Louisiana, I was introduced to king cakes! The initial introduction took place in a classroom setting with our Speech-Language Pathology department head discussing program expectations, clinicals or something of the sort. You know, one of those moments where people should be paying attention. Well, I was served up a piece of this glorious green, gold and purple goodness and after being about a thousand miles from home in a room of people I didn't know very well yet--I was here for it. Cut the first bite, delish. Cut the second bite...equally as delish. Cut the third bite...tried to cut the third bite again...what the heck?! As the bits of cake were displaced to see what was interfering with my cutting of the cake, it was revealed. "It" being a small, plastic baby. I'm not sure I had ever been at SUCH a loss for words. Trying to play it off as unphased, yet my face totally revealing that I was not ok...I mean, for the LOVE...there's a baby in my cake. An unsuspecting classmate realized the northerner found the baby and got quite the kick out of this as she announced it to the class. The significance behind this baby is that the individual who receives this cake is "king for a day", it is said to bring luck and prosperity, and the finder is supposed to provide the next cake. I never did that...oops!

Upon returning from the south, I had a Master's degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders, stories and memories to last a lifetime with great people, and a solid collection of beads. Before you jump to conclusions, these beads were not earned how one would typically think when you hear Louisiana and beads! My initial Fridays in Louisiana were so quiet! School was only Monday through Thursday and I quickly realized that a graduate assistantship would only get you so far--something was needed to fill my time and I needed money. My roommate worked at a bar, so I joined her. For certain holidays, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day, etc., the bigger the beads, the more you could sell them for and make some solid cash. What did I do with the first big holiday where I made money? Bought a computer printer so I could print client lesson plans from my dorm room! If you've ever had to go to a computer lab on campus during certain hours to print needed materials--you will understand why this was so important! Dating myself here I'm sure... So, a love of office products (printers included) and sweets. That's me.

Quick and Easy King Cake
My quick and easy King Cake!

Having kids, we have made Fat Tuesday a part of our general celebrations. If you've read my previous blog post linked here, "Love is in the Air" this will not surprise you. For us, it's an opportunity for me to ramble about the past, but also to incorporate a discussion about Lent and Ash Wednesday. We eat king cake and wear beads. Our king cake, is not fancy. We make a simplified version of this delicious treat with cinnamon rolls and appropriately colored frosting. It's not the real deal and some may say this is blasphemy, but it does the trick. If a real king cake shows up on my doorstep, I will do it justice--promise.

Something did show up on my doorstep a couple weeks ago though! A heat mat. Not as exciting as a king cake, but on the seed starting front it's pretty high up there. Heating mats are supposed to help with speeding up germination as they raise soil temperatures. Cleaned up some old trays and then started eucalyptus, lisianthus, petunias and rockcress. Why trays when you boast soil blocking is so amazing you ask? Well, soil blocking IS amazing! I'm a huge fan of space saving, do not find soil blocking significantly more time consuming, the root systems are healthy with substantially less root bound plant babes, and transplant shock is lessened. That being said, I'm not into watering soil blocks ever other day or nearly daily from early February until March, April or even longer. So, trays it is. For trays, less is more. I use potting soil and coconut coir with a dusting of vermiculite on top. Soil blocking is fairly similar, but add in perlite, blood meal and bone meal. I will say that I learned my lesson with potting soil when it comes to soil blocks as unless it's a finer blend it can make soil blocking difficult due to the larger pieces of materials in some of these mixes. For now, if you are looking for a specific soil blocking recipe then check out Bootstrap Farmer where you can find a pretty direct recipe with measurements linked here.

Above Left: Seed Trays; Above Right: Soil blocks. What you see is equivalent to 4 seed trays. See how the math starts mathing and space starts getting saved??

King cake and soil blocking, naturally unite? There really isn't much natural about that, but it's where my brain goes when my fingers start typing. If you haven't started your seeds yet, you're fine. I advise you to just eat your cake and then take some time to think about your plants. Just whatever you do, eat the cake.



For questions or comments, please feel free to leave those below and if you've enjoyed this post just a little bit--feel free to like it as well! Thanks!

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