Spring Seed Starting Element Eco-Design Style!


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

Element Eco-Design



We found our thrill on Blueberry Hill!


Last Friday Gord and I decided to duck out early for the long weekend, we had heard rumour of a fantastic farm offering you pick blueberries. We thought, what better way to start our long weekend than with some fresh berries to last us the season.

Blueberry Hill Farm is located on South Grandview Flats in Armstrong, not far past O’Keefe Ranch in Vernon. Upon arrival Gord and I would have both turned back, assuming we were at the wrong location if it wasn’t for the You-Pick/We-Pick Blueberries sign at the end of the drive. At first glance, Blueberry Hill did not have any of the classic farm icons, no big red barn, no livestock roaming the yard.  But after receiving our directions from the friendly farm owner and passing through a gate in the tall cedar fence, relics of a time gone by began to reveal themselves.  We began our decent to the berry patch, past a forgotten chicken yard and an old weathered barn accented with ancient, sun bleached cattle skulls. From there we crested a little knoll which guarded the farm’s best kept secret, rows and rows of 40 year old blueberry bushes laden heavy with their powdery blue burden.

Gord and I began picking and the berries literally rained from their branches.  We thought it best to set a ten pound limit on our harvest because it was very clear that we could easily get carried away.  We duck walked our way down the row, raking our way along the drooping branches all the while exclaiming “can you believe this?” or “look at the berries on this branch”.

As we picked, our basket grew heavier and our teeth got mysteriously bluer? We finally decided to raise the white flag and surrender to the unyielding bushes, there was just no way we could pick them all! So, we made our way back up the berry laden isles, past the ramshackle old barn and through the tall cedar gate to face the scale and weigh our harvest.

We held our breath as the scale needle rose, we were shocked, bewildered and a little proud as the needle sat teetering at the 17 pound marker!  So much for our ten pound limit. Our one hour harvesting session had yielded us enough blueberries to last us well into winter, a very fruitful afternoon, if I do say so myself 🙂

Blueberry Quinoa Salad

Blueberry Love!

Here is a great recipe for Blueberry Quinoa Salad that our host made at the Cob Oven Building Workshop in Vernon last week.

3 C  cooked quinoa
1 C  fresh blueberries
1/3 C  sliced green onions
1/4 C  chopped walnuts
1 can  kidney beans
2 Tbsp  tamari or soy sauce
2 Tbsp  honey
4 Tbsp  fresh lime juice
2 Tsp  grated ginger
1/4 C  chopped mint
2 Tbsp  toasted sesame oil

Combine cooled cooked quinoa, blueberries, green onions, walnuts and kidney beans(drained and rinsed) in a large salad bowl and mix.  In a smaller bowl combine tamari/soy sauce, honey, lime juice, mint and sesame oil and stir until well mixed.  Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 24 hrs.