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Sunday, January 22, 2012

About Seed Starting Mixes: They Will All Work But...

I have made my own mixes in the past with peat moss, vermiculite and other things. However, I used to work in an unfinished basement. Now that our basement has been finished, I can't have bins of starting mixes and such down there by wife's decree. Fair enough. So to keep the peace, I went to seed starting mixes which are more expensive but in the long run they are much cheaper... if you know what I mean.

Most mixes are measured in dried weight and come in bags ranging from 8 to 12 quarts. I have to say Burpee has changed a lot with their marketing strategy this year. Their seeds are cheaper, like a $1 a pack. They also offer a 10 quart coconut husk starter mix for under $4 at Lowes.  That is pretty good.

Here are the basic brands I found in my area. They are all good for seed starting. They are typically sterile, water absorbent and hold fertilizers.

Three Types of Seed Starting Mix: Gary Pilarchik

The Burpee mix is 10 quarts but not totally dry. It is made mainly from coconut husks with perlite and it has natural fertilizer to keep the seedlings growing. The cost at Lowes was just under $4.00.

The Miracle Grow seed starting mix was also just under $4.00 and it was 8 dry quarts. It is enhanced as they say with Miracle Grow fertilizer. It is made up of sphagnum peat moss and perlite.

The Jiffy mix is made up of vermiculite and sphagnum peat moss. It is 12 quarts of dried mix. It cost $4.75 at Walmart. It doesn't have any fertilizer.

The Jiffy and Burpee mixes give you enough mix, with extra, to fill two trays of 72 cells. The Miracle Grow mix just covers two trays.

Your transplants will need fertilizer. You can use water soluble fertilizer at about 1/2 dose in your waterings when the plants have grown a bit in the cells (4-6 weeks or so). Choosing what mix you start your seeds in depends a bit on what you are growing an how many seeds are going in the cells. I tend to over-plant my cells and divide them, so I prefer using starting mix that has fertilizer in it.

Jiffy Mix in My Hand & Miracle Grow Mix in the Cells: Gary Pilarchik

They both have sphagnum peat moss in the mix. The Jiffy mix has vermiculite and the Miracle Grow mix has perlite. What ever you choose to use, make sure you pre-moisten the starting mixes before you put them in your cells. The Jiffy mix is so dry that I had problems with it last year until I learned to pre-moisten it. It will just float in your seed trays if you use it in dry form directly.

Jiffy (L) and Miracle Grow (R): Gary Pilarchik

At this point I would recommend the Burpee mix because I think the fertilizer helps and you can fill two full trays with it. I also combine mixes. The pictures above have Miracle grow on the bottom half of the cells and they got topped off with the Jiffy mix. I used the strengths of both products. In the end...  it doesn't really matter. Just have fun and give seed starting a try.

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