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IPFS News Link • Agriculture

How to Make Your Own Seed Starting Mix and Start Seedlings

•, By Amy Allen

New gardeners may be feeling overwhelmed by all of the seed-starting mixes out there, while veteran gardeners may have tried just about everything on the shelf to no avail. So what do we do?

In this article, I'll discuss the various methods used to start your own seedlings, as well as how to make your own mix. 

Why make your own seed starting mix and start your own seedlings?
First of all, why go to the bother when we can just run to the garden center and buy everything we need? Well, if money isn't an issue or if you're a very new gardener, buying stuff isn't a bad option. I've always taught my new gardeners to keep it simple during the first couple of years as they learn the rhythm of the garden. Learning how to think like a gardener is no small thing if you've never done it before, so buying commercial mixes and seedlings can lessen complicating factors.

That's the expensive route, however.

Last year I ended up paying $85 for seedlings because my starts were too runted and diseased to use. It was an excellent investment, however, paying off in food more than 10x my investment. So buying is a viable way to go.

Starting your own seedlings, however, is much cheaper, plus you get to choose your exact desired varieties. Garden centers will have varieties that grow well in your area, but if you want to try anything a bit more exotic, they can't help you. Also, if you're making an emergency run, as I did, you get to pick from what they have left. Starting your own means, you get to pick what you want. 

Popular commercial seed-starting mixes

Most commercial seed starting mixes are a mixture of sphagnum moss, perlite, fertilizer, and a wetting agent. Organic mixes are often fortified with things like worm castings as well as kelp, alfalfa, and feather meals. Some even add mycorrhiza! Bonus, right?

While I've had good results with Miracle-Gro Seed Starting Mix, the Espoma organic mix that I purchased last year was the cause of my emergency run to the garden center. My plants were runted and diseased and wholly unusable. While runts will often grow once in good soil, diseased runts aren't worth my time or yours. Others have had good experiences with Espoma, so it's possible that my problem was a bad batch. That happens with commercial mixes.