Friday, January 24, 2014

Mix to Success

Sure, you can buy pre-made seed starting mix.  Its not too expensive, its easy to find, and your little seeds will like it.

But hey, let's try to do this ourselves, shall we?  It's also easy, and if you can buy two things and make another, you're all set.  The trickiest part of this adventure is making a source of the critical element: compost.

Yes, there is all kinds of concern about using compost.  It should be sterile, otherwise your little seedlings can have issues with illness and molds and damping off.  But I've used well-cooked compost from pile successfully, and not had issues, so I say know what you put into it and know whether it is "finished" compost, and you should be all set.  Of course, this year, I'm taking a little bit of a leap.  My compost heap is buried and frozen, so I'm using some homemade worm castings from my worm bin in the bathroom, combined with castings from a local worm casting business (yes, we have one of those here!).

What are the other two ingredients?  Pick up an 8 quart bag each of perilite and spagnum moss.  Combine both of these with roughly 8 quarts of your compost in a large rubbermaid tub and mix well.  Add warm water and mix until thoroughly damp--I can't tell you how much water, because it will depend on how dry everything is, but enough so the mixture feels uniformly damp but not super wet.  Do the mixing with your hands, its fun and dirty and the best way to get a feel for your mixture.

When I use this mix, I fill my containers first, then I put seeds in.  I cover the seed with a layer of garden-quality vermiculite, which is inert, holds moisture, and keeps the seed damp until germination.  Personally, I think it helps prevent damping off as well--since I started using it a couple years ago, I haven't lost a seedling due to the Dreaded Damp.

I use a teaspoon to pour a spoonful of water onto the seed, and then I set the container in a tray (usually a foil baking dish like you can bake lasagna in) and fill the tray with a half inch of water.  The container filled with seedling mixture will wick the water up to the seed and maintain a constant level of moisture, without drowning the tender emerging plantlette.  Watering from the top also tends to wash the seeds out of place, which is incredibly annoying.  I loathe finding plants in bad places.  Its always impossible to rescue them from where they've decided to sprout.

So there you have it.  Pick your seeds, round up containers, figure out your timing, rig your lights and mix your seed starting medium.  No sweat.  You've got this gardening thing down, girlfriend.

1 comment:

  1. Guess I should be ordering my worm castings. Or my worms!

    LOL at how "incredibly annoying" it is when the little plants swim around. Me, too.



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