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Making your own vegetable seed starting soil

Lucero De La Tierra‘s insight:

The time of year is here to start thinking about and planning for your vegetable garden and seed starting soil.  Yes, it may still be February, but even in these northern parts of the Midwest the ground is going to start thawing in six to eight weeks.  This gives you just enough time to give some cool weather seedlings a head start for when the ground is ready to dig into.

Most of the things Mike says in this article about seed starting soil are accurate and valuable.  He leaves some important things out though.  Starting seedlings indoors is a study in trial and error and a preparation to fail unless you have a fool-proof setup.  From experience seed starting medium that is based on peat and perlite or vermiculate is extremely messy, drains too fast and typically runs out the bottom of your containers.  Also, peat based seed starting soil is more prone to mold which leads to damping off.  Damping off is a fungal infection that attacks your seedlings at the soil line destroying their ability to send nutrients up the stem and eventually killing them.  I’ve been there, it sucks.  It’s a little more pricey, but I’m going to try and find a coir, shredded coconut husk, based growing medium.

One thing I do not agree with is adding fertilizer to the seed starter.  Even compost if it is too strong will burn and kill your seedling.  Usually, you have to wait three weeks from adding a full strength compost to your garden before you should plant seed or transplants.  Others have recommended not adding fertilizer to your seed starting soil, but waiting until your seedlings have started to grow their first set of true leaves.  At this point you would add a diluted compost tea or other half strength fertilizer to prevent burning of the seedling.  Why?  Well, seeds have their own store of food under the seed coat so fertilization is unnecessary until the plant has unfurled and needs nutrients to make their own food through photosynthesis.


What are you going to do for your seed starter this year?

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