Homemade Seed-Starter Soil

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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

More from 101 Organic Gardening Hacks:

For more gardening hacks and ideas, come to the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Fair where Shawna Coronado will be taking questions and presenting on organic gardening hacks and gardening with chronic pain.


Reprinted with permission from 101 Organic Gardening Hacksby Shawna Coronado and published by Cool Springs Press, 2017.

Gardening Techniques

In 101 Organic Gardening Hacks you’ll find the top tips, tricks, and solutions Coronado has dreamed up in her career as one of America’s most creative gardeners. Some are practical time-savers; others offer clever ways to “upcycle” everyday items in your garden. One characteristic every hack shares is that they are completely organic and unfailingly environmentally friendly. Order from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store or by calling 800-234-3368.

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