THE DIRT ON SEED STARTING DIRT:
First of all-it's not really dirt. These mixes are soil-less but provide the best growing environment for your seeds. For the best germination rates, you will need a good quality seed starting mix, and you don't really want to compromise on this step. While I can attest that seeds will sprout in just about any kind of dirt (remember that I've learned a lot by doing things the wrong way first), they will not give you the best germination rates, will not be as vigorous or sturdy starting out, and there is a strong potential of introducing disease to your seed by using other 'dirt' as your growing medium. You can buy these seed starting mixes at garden centers everywhere, but they can get pretty expensive.
Seed starting mix is important because it allows for the proper amount of moisture retention. When you use one of these mixes, your seeds don't get water-logged and moldy (reducing seed waste). Also, the proper soil will promote good air circulation to allow for good seed germination. If you use soil from outside, you could be introducing pathogens and/or microorganisms that will likely be harmful to the seed and/or might kill it. Much like everything else I am trying to learn, I want to know how to grow things Fresh From Home so that I can be SURE of what is in my food and to feel good about how it came to be my family's dinner.
Here is a simple seed-starting mixture that I have excerpted from Mel Batholomew's book "All New Square Foot Gardening:"
- 1/3 Peat Moss (purchase from any garden center)
- 1/3 Vermiculite (suggested to buy: coarse grade in 4-cubic foot bags)
- 1/3 Blended Compost (If you need to buy this, make sure to purchase different types from your garden center; it needs to be blended-not all of the same type)
*Peat moss gives it the desired density and air circulation
*Vermiculite increases water retention
*Compost gives nutrients
One of my Farm Chick friends pointed me to the website http://sproutrobot.com. This site plans out your garden based on your zip code. You can keep your gardening journal there, post photos and it will send you email reminders of when things should be started indoors, when they should be sprouting planted outside, harvested, etc. How neat is that?! The only thing that I have not liked thus far is that you cannot add your own plant types to your garden list. However, this site is fairly new and they are taking suggestions for improvements (*wink, wink*).
You can also buy seeds directly from this site. All seeds are from Botanical Interests, which is a FANTASTIC seed company that is not owned by a giant-monopolized company, all seeds are non-GMO (non-Genetically Modified), they have a large selection of Certified Organic seeds, and it is a Colorado based company. Their seed packets are loaded with information on everything that your plant will require and they are just plain gorgeous too! Needless to say, this is now my go-to seed company. http://www.botanicalinterests.com/
For more articles on the basics of seed starting, here are some more great links from some of my Farm Chick friends. Happy seed starting everyone!