seedlings

If you are looking for an easy yet effective way to make your own seed starting mix, no worries you came to the right place.

Three years into gardening I was no longer content with what was offered at the nurseries as transplant choices. I wanted to spread my wings and try new things; I wanted to grow things I used to have back home with my family.

seedlings

The stores tend to offer what the general public wants, but I am not the general public I am “me”. I want the thin-walled sweet peppers and the weird-looking tomato, turnips, cardoons…

Starting from seed is a very satisfying experience. When I am looking through a seed catalog, I feel like a kid in a candy store. The colors and shapes make up an art piece like no other.

Why make your own seed starting mix?

For a successful seed starting experience, you must use soil designed specifically for this matter. Seeds are delicate and need the right medium to be able to sprout, then as week seedlings, this medium has to sustain them to get stronger in order to be able to be transferred to heavier soil.

There is some good quality seed starting mixes out there at a seemingly affordable price. However, when you want to grow thirty tomato plants and thirty-four peppers, I don’t think a 12-quart bag will be enough. And if you are trying to grow organic from the start, adding the label “Organic” to the product increases its price.

I have been working on finding an affordable way to make my own seed starting mix.  After many trials, I came up with a good formula that worked great for me.

I would like to give a shout-out to the most amazing people in the gardening world. They have been my mentors through the last five years, and making my seed starting mix was inspired by their very informative videos.

Luke from Migadener in Michigan, at a young age his enthusiasm for gardening is uncomparable. Now he has his own family and business, best of luck to him.

Gary from the rusted garden in Maryland, his dedication and elaborate videos say it all. He started a new adventure in his new homestead, wish him all the best.

Home-made seed starting mix

  • 3 parts sphagnum moss
  • 1 part vermiculite
  • 1 part fine compost or worm castings (optional, but good to add)
  • ¼ cup of dry organic fertilizer per two gallons of the mix (optional)
soil mix

What is peat moss?

It comes mostly from Canada, where it thrives and yields a consistent harvest. Sphagnum is a genus of moss, of which there are more than a hundred species around the world.

Growers prefer sphagnum peat moss over others because it being free of weeds, diseases, and insects. In addition, it has great water-holding characteristics. https://www.pthorticulture.com/en/training-center/what-is-sphagnum-peat-moss-and-where-does-it-come-from/

sphagnum peat moss has been dried then either kept in its fibrous form or milled into fine material and it has a neutral Ph. On the other hand, peat moss is the accumulative result of layers upon layers of dead mosses, other plants, and maybe insects. For that reason, peat moss is not a pure moss and is not neutral in Ph, it is rather very acidic. It is the one sold in bales in the big-buck stores.

If you want to read more check out this link https://garden.org/ideas/view/drdawg/1972/Sphagnum-Moss-vs-Peat-Moss/

vermiculite and peat

What is vermiculite?

Vermiculite is a mineral in the form of shiny flakes. It undergoes a tremendous expansion process through high heat. Vermiculite does interact with calcium, potassium, and magnesium found in the soil.

It is used in potting soils for its airiness with the ability to hold water much longer. The use of vermiculite is mostly suited for plants that don’t like to goes completely dry in between waterings.

Vermiculite or Perlite?

Perlite is a kind of volcanic glass that is white in color and very lightweight. It has great water absorption ability, and it is used in potting soils as well. Contrary to vermiculite, it is porous, which allows it to dry out.

In conclusion, vermiculite is used for plants that like constantly moist soil, while perlite is used for plants that like to do dry from time to time. Here is another interesting post comparing the two https://www.epicgardening.com/perlite-vs-vermiculite/

You can also read more about perlite on this happy DIY home post.

Helpful tips for using the seed starting mix :

  • I suggest putting on a face mask to prevent breathing in the dust from all the ingredients.
  • If making a big batch, the best way for a well-blended mix is by laying a tarp and pour all the ingredients on it. Lift each corner of the tarp, one at a time, and shake until you reach a good blend.
  • Store the mix in an air-tight container in the garage.
  • To sterilize the mix, either microwave it in small batches or use boiling to moisten it. The heat will kill fungus and bacteria existing in the material.

How to use the seed starting mix

It is very important to moisten the mix before use because peat moss takes time to absorb water.

Fill a container or a bucket with the soil mix and start adding water gradually, a faucet sprayer is great for this, and use your hands to stir. The consistency should feel like a rung-out sponge, with no water dripping when pressed.

Once the mix is moist enough you may start filling your seed pots.

Breaking down the cost of the seed starting mix: 

Peat moss 3cu.ft $11

Vermiculite 2cu.ft $21

Following the recipe, you would use half the vermiculite for the full bag of peat moss. The whole basic mix will cost roughly $22 for 4cu.ft of the mix. This amount will cover your seed starting for the whole year and then some.

If you use the ready-made organic mix, it costs $6 for a 12 Qtrs bag.

1cu.ft= 26 dry quarts

3cu.ft= 78 dry quarts

I need roughly six bags of ready-made mix to make three cubic feet which would cost me $36.

Quick comparison:

Home-made mix Ready-made mix
4 cub.ft 3 cub.ft
$22 $36

Note that the prices may vary from one state to another. The ones mentioned above apply to my area. You may notice that I left out the other ingredients just because they are optional, and the amount used is very small.

Being a gardener is about being resourceful and frugal. You don’t need to break a bank to fulfill your gardening needs. It may take some of your time to prepare things yourself, but in the end, at harvest time, it is all worth it. Eating your own organically grown produce not only satisfies your taste buds it also keeps your dollars in your pocket.

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