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.
If you need a compost product with little to no odor, you’ll want to try Charlie’s compost. It’s great for adding to your seed starting mixture
This contains organic pellets that are specially formulated to compost waste materials and convert them into moist and rich humus in just 60 days. Aside from its capacity to compost a variety of organic materials fast, the Safer 3050-6 Ringer Plus-Compost also guarantees to blend all the microbes to provide the much-needed nutrients for the fruits and vegetables to survive and produce better yields.
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.
Check locally at home improvement stores, stores like Walmart or Target, and greenhouses. If you can’t find it locally, you can get some online.
This vermiculite by Espoma is all-natural and will help improve heavy soil. It promotes root growth and aerates the soil to help seedlings grow.
The ”Good Earth” horticultural vermiculite is an efficient and popular soil conditioner. It loosens soil, provides aeration, and helps retain water. It can be used to start seeds, store bulbs, or propagate cuttings.
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.
Four Winds Trading perlite is all-natural and helps the soil mixture maintain a neutral ph. It is great for aeration and maintaining moisture within the growing environment.
Miracle-Gro Perlite is enriched with Miracle-Gro plant food. It improves drainage and helps aerate the soil in potting mixes. It is a lightweight media to help start root cuttings.
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.
This sphagnum peat moss is 99.8% organic. When it is mixed with soil, it will increase the soil’s capability to hold in nutrients and moisture. The package measures 2” length x 9” wide x 14” height.
Sphagnum peat moss has unique water-holding capabilities meaning you don’t have to water as often. The Miracle-Gro sphagnum peat moss is enriched with Miracle-Gro plant food. It lightens heavy potting soil mixtures and helps retain moisture and nutrients.
Coir – This is a product of the coconut and is made from extracting a specific portion of the husk from the outer shell. It is used similarly to peat moss in a seed starting mix. It is a renewable resource that is much more environmentally friendly than peat moss. You may not be able to find Coir locally, but you can get it online.
These OMRI listed Coir bricks by Coco Bliss are 100% natural and organic. They provide plenty of aeration and drainage. They are a perfect renewable replacement for peat moss, perlite, and rockwool.
This brick of Coir weighs 1.4 pounds and can absorb 1 gallon of water. It is 100% natural and organic. It is a great sustainable alternative to peat moss. Not only can it be used as an amendment to seed starting planting oil, it can also be used as bedding for turtles, worms, reptiles as well as used for composting toilets.
Lime – Often added to balance the PH of the seed starting mix. You may be able to find garden lime locally, but if you can’t, it is available online.
The Encap Fast Acting Lime is a small granule that quickly begins adding more consistent coverage. It helps correct acidic soils and can help repair the affect of animal urine spots in lawns.
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?