Seed starting is one of our favorite things. We always start out so organized and planned out. There is so much hope and anticipation.
You also don’t need a lot to get started – some seeds, some pots, a good seed starting mix recipe, and water. Simple.
We have written several posts in the past about seed starting. We have talked about using grow lights and about testing the seeds for viability. But today we want to talk about what you use to actually grow them in. A good seed starting mix recipe is a key ingredient to growing successful, strong, and healthy plants from seed.
Components of a Good Seed Starting Mix
There are several different recipes that you can use to arrive at a good seed starting mix but most of them contain several of the same components.
Compost – We’re all familiar with this one. Compost is, most simply, organic matter that is decomposed and turned into fertilizer. You may not have tried composting, but it is a great way to take common kitchen and other scraps (fruits and vegetables, egg shells, coffee grounds, cooked, pasta, stale bread, grass clippings, tree leaves, shredded paper towel roles, peanut shells, hair, trimmings from an electric razor, old cotton clothing, shredded paper, dust bunnies, shredded mail, etc.) and make fertilizer for your garden. Of course, it takes a while for these scraps to decompose and create compost, but it’s a great way to get rid of compostable items and nourish your soil.
Usually, you can find compost at local home improvement stores or greenhouses. If you can’t find it locally, you can get it online.
Vermiculite – This is a naturally occurring mineral. The purpose of adding vermiculite to a soil starting mixture is to help the soil retain water and allow for air circulation. Some people choose to use only vermiculite to start seeds, but we recommend an equal combination of compost, vermiculite, and peat moss.
Perlite – Perlite is a volcanic glass and is used in soil and seed starting mixes to prevent soil compaction. Perlite is easy to use by simply adding it a mixture of compost and peat moss to help seedlings start. Even though Perlite looks like Styrofoam, it is actually a volcanic mineral that aids the soil in aeration and water retention.
Perlite may be found in home improvement stores, gardening stores, and department stores in the gardening section. If you cannot find it locally, you can find it online.
Peat Moss – This is the natural by-product of decomposing plants. It is widely used in seed starting mix recipes but rapidly losing popularity due to the fact that it is a VERY SLOWLY renewable resource. Read more about this from Organic Gardening Magazine. It is used for its ability to retain moisture.
You may not be able to easily find peat moss locally, but you can look at home improvement, department stores with a gardening section, and greenhouses. You can also find it online.
Seed Starting Mix Recipes
So now you know the components, but you may be asking why? Why should we go to the trouble of making this? Well, first of all, it can be very cost-effective. There is a huge mark-up on those little bags of seed starting mix that you buy at the store. Personally, we go through a TON of seed starting mix and it is so much more convenient and economically sensible to make it myself in large batches. Additionally, a lot of the stuff you buy at the store has additives that you don’t want or need in a good seed starting mix.
Here are a few recipes we have used and or read about:
4 parts compost
2 parts coir or peat moss
1 part vermiculite
1/2 part perlite
This one is nice because it uses compost for a natural nutrient boost. You do have to be sure that you are using a pretty fine compost, otherwise, you need sift out the large pieces.
3 parts peat moss or coir
1 part vermiculite
1/2 part perlite
1/4 tsp lime/gallon peat moss (don’t add if using coir)
This one is good because it doesn’t make you bother with sifting compost. This is the recipe that we use and find that it works well.
And that’s it! Pretty simple, right? What do you use to start your seeds? Do you make it yourself or do you buy it at the store?