Homemade Seed-Starter Soil

Mix up a batch of your own nutrient-rich seed-starter soil.

| January 2019


Loose soil helps the baby seeds jump into the world

Starting your own seeds at home is easier when you hack a starter mix that helps the seeds grow to their full potential. Healthy seedlings need a loose, well-drained medium made of fine particles of organic material. Potting soil can be sued, but it usually doesn’t drain as well as a finer seed starting mix.

Ken Druse, author of Making More Plants: The Science, Art and Joy of Propagation and garden podcaster from “Ken Druse Real Dirt,” has a marvelous recipe for making a homemade seed starting mix. It works very well as a light, airy, and sound starting mix for your seedlings. Here is his special recipe.

Ken’s Homemade Seed-Starting Soil Mix

  1. Start with homemade leaf mold that has been sieved through a 1/2–inch hardware cloth screen so only the smallest bits of the leaf mold remain.
  2. Mix 4 parts screened leaf mold with 1 part perlite and 1 part chicken grit.
  3. Moisten the mix and place in a large roasting bag, shake up, close the top loosely with the non-metal tie that comes with the bag or a string.
  4. Sterilize the leaf mold by microwaving for 10 minutes on full power.
  5. Take the temperature of the leaf mold mixture by opening the bag – be careful as the steam is hot – it should be at 180 degrees F or 82.22 degrees C. Let your starting mix cool.
  6. Place this sowing medium in containers, then sow the seeds.

Following the directions on the seed packet, tiny seeds are barely covered; larger ones are buried to a depth equal to their thickness. Until the seedlings develop, do not let the seed-starting mix dry completely. Add water to a tray beneath the pots to let them soak up moisture, or gently spray pots with water from a sprayer. Most seeds need light to germinate. Some seedlings will appear in only a week, while others take several weeks or longer. The seed packets should have this specific information.

Cover courtesy of Cool Springs Press

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