Depending on where you live it is getting close to time to start your plants for your garden, so let’s talk about the soil for starting your garden seeds. The mix that I use is one that I have experimented with over the years. The base for it came from a book titled “The New Organic Grower”.
The base mix
The “recipe” includes rotted hardwood mulch, perlite, compost, garden soil, blood meal, colloidal phosphate and greensand. The use of each ingredient is as follows:
Rotted hardwood mulch is just as it sounds, it is mulch that has sit for at least a year and allowed to rot, just like a tree fallen in the woods. If this is your first year and you do not have time to sit around waiting for your mulch to rot you can use peat moss. But, if you choose peat be sure to get the best you can find. The cheap peat you find in most big box stores is usually of poor quality.
Also, if using peat, you may want to put a little lime in the mix to balance the acidity of the peat. The premium peat and garden lime can be found at a garden center. You want to use the best ingredients you can find, as you are starting new plants from seed and they need the best start in life you can give them. The better plants you start with the better harvest you will have.
Perlite is small starfoam pellets made for potting soil. If you do not want to use plastic to raise your plants you can substitute sand.
Compost is the next part of our formula. This should be your best compost. It should be fine in texture. If you do not have compost yet, or do not have good quality compost, you can purchase compost by the bag. However, be wary of commercial compost. My experience with bagged compost has not been good. Use commercial compost only if necessary. But, you can still make a better starting mix than what will be used on commercial plants.
Garden soil is just what it says. Use soil from your garden. No garden, no problem. Soil from around a wooded corner of your property or even from around the landscaping will work. I keep the best soil saved from projects around the property for things like this starting mix and soil from the garden.
Now, screen the mix through a wire mesh screen with around ½ inch squares. This is to remove the larger sticks and stones from the mix. It will be a lot easier to work with if you will screen it.
Let’s kick this mix up a notch
You will need blood meal, colloidal phosphate and greensand. If you don not know what each of those are just run to your local garden center. They should have each of these. Just get a small quantity of each one of the ingredients, as it does not take much for our mixture.
How to mix the mix
I have an old bucket that is about a gallon and a half in size. I mix 3 buckets of rotted mulch, or peat, with 2 buckets of perlite, or sand, 2 buckets of compost and 1 bucket of the garden soil. Mix all of these to gather in a wheel barrow, or if you do not have a wheel barrow you could just pour everything out on a sheet of plastic and mix it there.
After you have the large stuff well mixed add the kicker. I use an old plastic drinking glass with a cup line marked on the side for a measurer. Mix equal parts of each of the blood meal, colloidal phosphate and greensand. Remember, if you are using peat put in an equal part of lime to this mix.
The blood meal is very high in nitrogen. The colloidal phosphate is a more available form of this mineral and the greensand will give you a variety of minerals.
When you have your “fertilizer” mixed add about 2 cups to your pile of other ingredients. Mix your pile very well to get as even of a mix as your can. Be sure to store any left over for the next planting year.
There you have it. You are now ready to start your seeds. Next time we will talk about how to plant your seeds in the starting mix.
Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century. He started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family, too.