Seed growing is the initial step for any plant, unless it is propagated by other means. Seeds need a proper medium to grow in. For a traditional garden, it is better to start seeding in a suitable potting mix. It contains the necessary nutrients needed by the seedlings and also provides better aeration. There are starting potting mixes available in the market, but you need to choose well. The potting mixes must be purchased according to the needs.
What are the basics?
- Aeration: The basic requirement in a potting mix for seeds is to have proper aeration. The air spaces allow free growing of the roots. It also allows the oxygen be available for the growing roots. The air space is also beneficial to maintain the humidity and soil water absorption.
- Drainage: Proper drainage is a must for seed growing. The idea is to keep the soil moist and not soaking wet. To allow this any excess water must be drained out. Only if the soil is well aerated and has proper drainage facility can the seeds grow. The potting mix should also be able to hold enough moisture.
- pH: The pH of the potting mix is not precise but it has to be anywhere between 5.5-7. Always check the pH of the mix and if you need to raise the pH add some ground limestone in it.
- Look for toxins and weeds: Choose the soil that is free of toxic substances and weed seeds. This is the main reason for opting soil free potting mix. You can even make your own potting mix. Mix in one part each of compost and builder’s sand in 1-2 parts of fresh garden soil bought from market. The builder’s sand allows enough aeration and drainage. The freshly bought garden soil allows enough water retention without soaking.
- From the shop: If you are planning to buy a potting mix for seeds look for the seed-starting mix. Potting soil is not what you need for your germination.
The seeds itself has what they need to germinate. The fertilizers are required only after the first leaves sprout. The fertilizers suitable for the seedlings are seaweed, fish fertilizer, organic seedling fertilizer, and compost tea.
Never use the garden soil for fresh seeds. The soil will have the fertilizers and chemicals used to ward of the pests and weeds which are harmful for the baby stage of the plants. Always use fresh soil or seedling mix for germination.
The containers used for seed germination is also important. It must be spacious, must have drainage holes, and must hold at least two inches of the gardening medium. These containers are available for purchase or you may use the yogurt containers, and other disposable plastic cups as well. Make sure that you make drainage holes in them.
The containers may be used for individual plants and if a wide tray or flat container is being used, it allows more number of seeds in them. Make sure to place the seed at a comfortable distance so that there is no crowding. Additionally use some kind of lid to close the growing medium to retain moisture and reduce evaporation.
- Seeding: When planting, place the seed right in the middle of the individual container and give it a tap to ensure it is firm in the mix. The potting mix must be pre-moistened. Keep some dry mix as well. With the help of a sieve, sprinkle the dry mix over the seeds so it is just covered. Covering with dry mix also prevent the evaporation from the surface.
- Watering: Keep the growing medium moist until the seedlings attain a plant like structure and then start watering in small amount. Use the water that is in room temperature. If the water is cold, bring the temperature up before watering.
- Light: Provide normal temperature, placing it closer to the sunlight, near the window would be advisable. The seedlings are not ready for direct sunlight until it reaches certain age so care must be tender. Brush the plants with your palm to strengthen the seedling stem, occasionally. Place the seedlings in direct sunlight for an hour or before, one week prior to its transplantation. An early transplantation may be done for plants that grow into crowding. Place the seedlings in shade than in direct light. It allows them to get used to the new environment as well.
Soilless Grow Potting Mix
The basic reason to implementing soilless medium is to inhibit growth of diseases, weeds or to stop inviting insects and rodents that commonly threaten the plants. Another reason for using soilless mix is to loosen up the soil. Often garden soils are heavy and lack proper drainage which can be hard on young seedlings. When you lighten the soil, it goes easy on the seed for easy germination not to mention moving the pots outside if needed.
Some of the soilless planting medium options are
- Sphagnum peat moss
- Bark and
- Coconut coir
The above soilless medium hold water plus the necessary nutrients so your plants do not go dry and speed up the growth of your plants.
DIY Potting Mix Recipe
For the recipe you will need:
- large bucket for mixing
- measuring container
- watering can/hose for watering
- fork and trowel
- a small container for pre soaking the coir peat and other ingredients
- 1 part pre-soaked coir peat
- 1 part vermiculite
- 2 parts sieved compost (home made preferred)
- 1/2 to 1 cup worm castings or vermicast (humus)
Pre-soak the coir peat in warm water in a big container. Now mix equal quantities of pre-soaked coir peat and vermiculite together in a separate container. Next add the compost and casting and mix thoroughly. You may add nutrients if you want.
You can check the pH with a meter. While some plants need a pH balance of 6.0 to 7.0, vegetables for instance need a pH balance of 6.2 to 6.8. This makes an excellent potting mix for vegetables wanting to grow.
Nutrients are optional such as rock minerals (1 cup of NatraMin), soil conditioners such as Organic Xtra, McLeod’s Organic Soil conditioner/fertilizer, seaweed and fish etc. If you are not a fan of vermiculite, you can also use coarse washed river sand as an alternative for drainage.
Use handles for effective supply of potting mix for growing plants. Read more about DIY potting mix recipe at http://themicrogardener.com/easy-diy-potting-mix-recipe/