Spring is on it’s way and it is almost time to start your spring seedlings. Gordon and I have been experimenting over the last 4 years and we feel like we finally have a seed starting mix that preforms so well that we just had to share it with you. But first I will share with you a few of our failures and why we felt they didn’t work.
Peat moss and peat pots are a very traditional medium for seed starting. We have chosen not to use peat as the main ingredient in our seed starting mix because it is a less than renewable resource, it is less nutrient rich than other mediums and because I find it dries out too quickly.
Everyone who knows us know how much we love homemade compost, Gord even has a t-shirt that says “Compost: Can you dig it!”. But we have learned over the years that homemade compost is not the best medium for seed staring. The inputs, microbes and moisture holding in homemade compost are too unpredictable for young seedlings and can often lead to poor germination and diseases such as dampening off. Dampening off is when the seedling rots just at the soil level, this can be very disheartening when you have waited patiently up to 21 days for your seeds to germinate, only for them to fall over and die.
Ok, so what’s our super-duper, secret, seed starting mix??
We use a blend of a few store bought mediums to create our seedling mix, the reason that we use store bought ingredients is because we know the products are of a consistent quality and have been heat treated to ensure the mediums do not contain funguses, insects, weed seeds etc. Trust us, when you spend as much money on seeds each year as we do, you want to protect your investment and ensure your seeds get off to the best start possible.
Our recipe is simple, I will outline it below then go into a bit more detail about why we have chosen each ingredient.
Element’s Seed Starting Mix:
45% Indoor Potting Soil, do your best to get Organic or All Natural
45% Seed Starting Mix, again Organic/All Natural is best
10% Worm Castings, a little goes a long way with this expensive ingredient
A pinch of Gaia Green All Purpose Fertilizer
What kind of measurements are those!? Each of us will have different volume requirements, if you are just doing a tray at a time use the ratios:
4.5 cups Potting Soil
4.5 cups Seedling Mix
1 cup Worm Castings
1 tsp Gaia Green
If you are doing a wheel barrow full measure in 5 gallon buckets. Oh, and be sure to add a bit of moisture as you mix your ingredients.
4.5 gal Potting Soil
4.5 gal Seedling Mix
1 gal (an ice cream pail) Worm Castings
1.5 cups Gaia Green
So why did we chose these materials over ones?
Indoor Potting Soil is light and fluffy and has excellent moisture holding capacity, it often contains vermiculite which encourages airflow within the soil. Indoor Potting mix is also less expensive than other mediums which makes it a great filler ingredient.
Seedling mix is a very duffy medium and often contains a blend of Peat and other ingredients. Seedling mix is very light which makes it easy for young roots to to grow deeply in search of moisture and nutrients.
Worm Castings are the living/biological component of our starter mix. We find that when we take the time to add worm castings, even in such a small dose, the plants respond unbelievably well. We have had such great results by adding worm castings that we have chosen to delay our seed starting by a month this year; last year the tomatoes grew so fast that I had to pot them up three times before it was warm enough to start setting them outside!
Gaia Green All Purpose Organic “Fertilizer”, this is not really a fertilizer as much as it is a soil amendment. Gaia Green is made in Grand Forks, BC and contains a balanced mix of alfalfa, potassium, glacial rock dust and other natural ingredients that not only contain your classic N-P-K but also contain important trace minerals such as calcium, which is often missing in our soils.
So there you have it! Our secret to starting happy, healthy, robust seedlings. Happy planting!
Jana and Gord