If you are like me, you care about what you’re eating and where it comes from. You also know that by growing your own vegetables at home, you can avoid many of the harmful sprays used on commercial produce. But how much thought have you given to what your plants are absorbing through the soil?
Commercial seed-starting soil is widely available in nurseries and garden centers, but some brands are laden with chemicals. Did you know it’s easy to make your own seed-starting soil? By using your own mix of seed-starting soil, you’ll know exactly what is feeding your young seedlings, and you can be sure that your starting soil is completely safe and natural.
Keep in mind that the word “soil” here is a bit misleading. This seed-starting soil recipe isn’t really “soil” at all, but a combination of three ingredients that, when mixed in the right proportions, will yield healthy vegetables every time.
The first ingredient is a mineral component of either perlite or vermiculite, or an equal mix of both. These ingredients ensure that your seeds are able to absorb the excess moisture in case you over-water. If seeds are over-watered, fungus can germinate instead of your seeds. By using one or both of these minerals, you can protect your seeds from being drowned or choked out by the wrong kind of growth. Vermiculite is porous, so it ensures that there is enough air in your soil mix.
The next ingredient is sphagnum moss (peat moss) or coco coir. Coir is made from the outer shell of coconuts and is an organic substance. Many organic gardeners prefer coir because, unlike peat moss, it is a renewable resource. Peat moss and coir work to keep your soil mixture loose. Loose soil is important for proper drainage.
The last thing you need to add to your mix is compost. Making your own compost from kitchen waste is easy, and it provides you with nutrient rich fertilizer both for your seed-starting mix and for putting into your garden. Plus, you know exactly what ingredients go into the fertilizer so it won’t be full of unpronounceable chemicals. You’ll be recycling your own food waste and turning it into new, healthy food.
Compost is important because it neutralizes the acid that the sphagnum moss or coir brings to the mix. It’s best to heat your compost to prevent any weeds and unwanted growths from sprouting before you add it to your mix.
Here is a suggested mix. Feel free to experiment with the proportions in order to find the right balance for your garden. In addition, you might find different things work better for different plants.
- One part perlite or vermiculite (or a combination of both)
- One part peat moss or coir (or a combination of both)
- Two parts compost
Home and garden stores sell organic pre-mixed seed-starting soils, so you can check out the labels on the bags. These ingredients and combinations may give you additional ideas to try with your own homemade mix.
Now you may be wondering why you would bother making your own mix if you can just pick up a bag at your local garden store. First, it can be cost effective to buy the separate ingredients and do the mixing yourself. Secondly, you’ll know exactly what’s in your mix. It will contain the ingredients you mix together and nothing else.
Lastly, you can decide how much you want to make. If you’re starting out with a small test garden, you might not need a giant bag of soil, so you can buy small quantities of the ingredients and make just what you need. On the other hand, if you have a large gardening project, it is also less expensive to mix your own soil.
Here is one more tip: Moisten the soil before you begin potting and planting. This step prevents dust from rising up from your mix, causing all of your nutrients disappear. It also means you will not need to water after planting and run the risk of your seeds floating away from where you carefully placed them.
With your own seed-starting soil, you now can get started on growing those delicious homegrown vegetables and feeling good about the food you are feeding yourself and your family.
What are your best seed-starting soil tips? Share them in the section below: