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Filling the Newspaper Pots. A Soiled Topic!

Category: Garden Gab | Posted: Fri Feb 09, 2007 8:57 pm

Qaulity results come from quality beginnings!

Now that we have our handy dandy newspaper pots for starting our seeds - (you can review that tutorial here), we move on to our next soiled topic. What to fill our pots with!

NOTE: There are other ways to start seeds including using straight vermiculite or planting with peat pellets. As well, there many types of containers, but the purpose of this post is to continue on with filling our newspaper pots and getting ready to plant

Starting seeds indoors can be ridiculously simple, but sometimes it becomes horrendously frustrating. We have all had seeds that refused to germinate and some that germinated just fine, but died off shortly thereafter.

The first ingredient for success is the seed starting mix. There are a plethora of mixes and brands out there and most of them are quite good. You can even mix your own as needed. Its really easy to do.

When selecting or mixing seed starting medium, you want to keep in mind that a seedling is just a baby. It is small and much more fragile than a full-grown plant. It has food reserves for its early growth, but moisture is at a premium and must be constantly provided and yet you don't want to drown it. Our infant plant does indeed need to be babied if it is to reach its full potential. You don't wrap a baby in a big, heavy, scratchy, dirty, old wool blanket. You use a soft, light, clean, wrap to give your baby a pleasant and safe environment. Treat your seeds the same way.

A seed starting medium needs to be completely sterile, anything less and you are likely to encounter soil bourn diseases that will cut down your sweet babies before they get a chance to really live. Especially dampening off fungus. Oh you know what I'm talking about - your sweet little seedlings are all green and new, then suddenly - POOF - they are lying limp and dead. You stare in disbelief and wonder what you did wrong.

Keep things light. Avoid using potting mix for your seedlings, it is far too heavy. The seedling has to struggle up through the soil to reach the light and it needs to be able to extend its delicate new roots through the medium to establish its future feeding mechanism and a firmly anchor itself in position. You also need room for good air circulation and heavy soil has less space for oxygen.

Your mix also needs to be able to hold an adequate amount of moisture to prevent the seedling from drying out. This is a very real danger for a small undeveloped plant. On the other hand you don't want to saturate your plant either, that might promote the growth of unwanted fungus or bacteria.

What you want is a growing medium that is light-weight, allowing the plant to breathe and grow easily, but at the same time will hold the moisture that your plant needs to thrive.

Sound like quite the balancing act, doesn't it? And that is exactly what it is.

Almost any good commercial seed starting medium will do. Most of these are artificial, they contain no garden loam and provide a safe sterile environment for your seedlings.

Seed Starting Mix Recipes:

You can even mix your own seed starting medium. A simple formula for this is:

1 part perlite
1 part peatmoss
1 part ground or milled sphagnum moss

You can get all these ingredients in the garden section of most department stores or your friendly neighborhood garden center.

If you absolutely insist on a making your own soil based mix, the following is a good recipe:

1 part loam
1 part leaf mould or peatmoss
1 part sand

You will need to sterilize this mix. Sterilizing will kill off any pests, including eggs and larvae too small to see. It will also kill any bacteria, weed seeds and fungi.

Place the soil in a shallow baking pan and add one cup of water for each gallon of soil. Bake at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours. Cool and let the soil stand for 24 hours before using.

So now you know why it is not a good idea to try bringing soil in from outside in your garden, toss it in a pot, plant your seeds and hope for the best, right? Excellent - now go forth and reproduce! Plants that is.

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pondlady wrote on Fri Feb 09, 2007 9:18 pm:

Wow, lots of work. I do love the seed starter newspaper plants, but I am so incredibly lazy, I tend to buy plants in 4" pots from the grower.

pondlady wrote on Fri Feb 09, 2007 9:21 pm:

One more thing. You are a terrific writer. Have you thought of publishing? Either in print or online?


Gardenstew wrote on Fri Feb 09, 2007 11:48 pm:

I agree wholeheartedly with Jan, what a fantastic piece of writing Joy, so entertaining. Hats off! And such excellent information too, just think of how many lives (seedling lives that is) by writing this tutorial. I'm coming back for more ;)


glendann wrote on Sat Feb 10, 2007 7:30 am:

Oh such great instructions,You sure know how to guide anyone.Yes I do agree write some instructionial gardening books.They would be great.

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