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seed starting experiment

 
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I decided to do a little experiment.  An equal half of the seeds I plant will go into Jiffy organic seed starting mix and the other half will go into a mix I made up.  The mix I made is 1 part organic compost, 1 part mushroom compost, 1 part coco coir, 1 part vermiculite, and 1/2 part sand.  I got this mix off the internet with three exceptions.  I substituted coco coir for peat moss.  I understand removing peat from the bogs is bad for the environment in the long run, so better to use sustainable coco coir.  In my mind I remember Dr. Redhawk posting something about perlite, but I can't remember what, only I made a mental note not to buy perlite anymore.  If this is wrong I apologize.  For what ever reason I didn't want to use perlite, but although vermiculite has most of the same uses as perlite, it isn't considered a substitute to perlite, but sand is (according to the research I did)  Sand is so heavy, I went with both sand and vermiculite. Last is it called for compost, and I had both the mushroom and organic compost, and I thought half of each would give different beneficial microbes ect. The only thing I didn't like about my mix is it isn't as lite as most seed starting mixes are.  I don't think this will matter to things like squash, but it may to delicate seeds like herbs and such.  Also I try to only use organic things in my veggie garden, and the mushroom compost, sand and vermiculite don't say organic, so I'm making an exception at this time.  I didn't figure out the difference in cost,  the 8qt bag of seed starting mix cost me 5.00$  I had everything I needed for my mix except the sand which cost me 3.85 for a 60 lb bag.  The seed starting mix is almost gone and I have more then 3/4 of everything I used to make my own mix.  I suspect my own mix is more cost effective.  
I planted 24 different veggie and herb seeds in cell tray, peat pots, and pot I had left over from things I have bought in the past. (I already had the peat pots, so I used them, but don't plan to buy more in the future) The seeds are side by side in a little plastic greenhouse.  I will try to give equal care and water to all plants and look forward to the results.  I can't wait.
I remember Mr. Wheaton saying you should not transplant, but direct sow into the garden.  Most of my garden beds are full of peas, lettuce, onions and garlic.  One of my beds I plan to redo.  (hopefully next weekend)  I don't have any cloche or alternative at this time, so I guess a gardener has to do what a gardener has to do, sorry Mr. Wheaton, maybe next year.
 
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I don't do a lot of direct seeding because there's too much slug pressure here.  I can get the earliest stuff in direct this month--early peas and broad beans mainly--as the slugs aren't active yet.  In a few weeks time, I won't get much success.  I agree that direct seeded plants are much hardier than transplants (and slugs will eat transplants too).

Are they sprouting yet?  I think I made my own seed mix once with equal parts compost and sand and it seemed to work fine, but I don't really do a traditional compost these days, as my chickens now get all our food and garden waste.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Most things are sprouting just as they should.  The only thing I may have to replant at the moment are the tomato and basil.  I haven't tried to grow them by seed before, but according to the package they should have sprouted a week ago.  
So far there is no difference between my mix and the store bought.  They sprout at the same time, look just as healthy.  The only difference is my mix needs to be watered more often.  Next time I may leave out the sand, or at least reduce it even more.  
I'm in California, we have slugs and snails, but they don't pose too much trouble.  The gophers, mice, rats, and the squirrels are what I have trouble with.  One of my chickens who gets out of the coop everyday has discovered she can fly over the garden fence.  I may have to clip her wings, because you haven't seen destruction until you have seen what a chicken can do to a garden.
 
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Nice little experiment!

I am very interested in what the outcomes are like.  It is a possibility that in the seedling stage, the Jiffy mix will perform better, but that may change after the plants start growing in the garden.

Maybe I missed it, but do you have any plans to get fungi started before seeding?  The reason I ask is that recently I watched a video by Gabe Brown (who I think would fit right in here at Permies) who stated that one of the most important components in getting the seeds started is having a good fungi to bacteria ratio.

Just a thought and Please keep us updated!

Eric
 
Jen Fulkerson
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I will have to look into it Eric, I am not sure how to introduce fungi to the mix, but I would like to.
 
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Hi everyone!

Thought I post another questions here. This is my first year seed starting. I am planning on using 1 part mushroom compost, 1 part perlite, 1 part coco coir, and a cup of vermi compost (worm casting). Ive been reading that I need to sterilize the mix after i mix it all together, otherwise my seedlings will prone to disease. Can someone please explain how this works? Wont heating the mix to certain degree kill all the good bacterias that might help the seedling? Im confused and need instructions since I am planning to start my seedlings this weekend.

Additionally, im also thinking of using pro-mix with vermi compost, add some more perlite, azomite and mykos. (This was another one I saw on youtube)

Please advice!
 
Jen Fulkerson
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I hope someone answers your question because I have never sterilized my mix.  I'm no expert, but I think you are right.  I think it would kill most everything good and bad.  I don't think seeds need much to start.  So you can always add compost and worm castings once they get bigger if you are worried about.   In the past I always just bought seed starting mix.  So far my mix and the bought mix have preformed equally.  It's kind of amazing to see the exact same things pop up the same day.  So far the only thing that was different was one of the squash variety's I planted came up 1 day earlier in the bought mix.  But a few days later you would never know because they look the same.  Only 1 tomato came up in the bought mix and 0 in my mix.  
I hope I get to continue my experiment, being new to greenhouse growing is giving me trouble.  I think my seedlings are getting to hot.  I'm going to start opening the door every morning and close it at night.  I may even take some out of the greenhouse and see if they do better.  Good luck to you what ever you try.  I look forward to someone with some knowledge answering your question.
 
Sahil Budhawani
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Thanks for replying Jen!

Yeah I really hope someone answers.

Also, I am no expert at greenhouse but I am scheduled to get one tomorrow myself. Its a 6x8 Palram. I got a really good deal and I am really excited.

Yeah, I would try leaving the door open. Do you know what the temperature is reaching up to in the GH?
 
G Freden
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If your ingredients are likely to be infested with seedling-eating creatures (like slugs!) then yes, sterilise.  Or if they are full of weed seeds.  Otherwise, I wouldn't bother--too much effort and kills the good stuff, particularly from the worm castings.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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What a lot of work.  I think direct sowing seeds is so much easier.  The experiment seemed to be equal.  I did notice when I re-potted the seedlings the ones in my mix had a much larger root system.  The top part of the seedling looked the same.  I'm thinking it may have had something to do with the fact my mix had compost in it, and even though the seed didn't need the benefits of the compost, the seedling did.  What I learned, mostly by error is it doesn't seem to matter what I start the seeds in, as long as I make sure I transplant the seedlings as soon as they get 2 true leaves into a richer growing medium, such as compost+.
My little veggies were not doing well, they weren't growing very fast, and the green color was on the pale side.  I did some research and discovered a host of mistakes I was making. Since then  I have re-potted everything into compost.  Everything has been hardened off and is out of the greenhouse.  I put 1/2 recommended amount of organic fish/kelp fertilizer in the water every second or third watering.  Everything looks much better.  the growth was slow, except on the squash, it is growing fast and very green.  Then this week it has started to get warm, high 80's in the day and 50's at night.  (with a prediction of 100 by the weekend HELP!)  I swear my tomato's are growing an inch a day, well not really, but you get the idea.  It kind of reminded my why I started everything in pots in the first place.  I actually have nice sized plants now that the weather is where it needs to be to grow the veggies.

On a side note the first round of planting tomato seeds only 1 germinated.  Round two I planted lots of seeds, and most germinated.  At last count I have 40 tomato plant 3 different verities.   My husband loves tomato's and said I should plant them all.  I said no way, I'm hoping friends and family will take a bunch off my hands.  All in all it has been fun, even though I am tired of re-potting tomato plants, I will do it again.

 
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My ‘experiment’ with diy potting mix was forced on me by corona. My mix is 5:5:1 biochar:well rotted leaf mulch: rotted chicken manure.

I repotted my first batch of seeds a couple of days ago and was really impressed with the roots they had put on. The biochar is a nice replacement for perlite I think - it holds moisture well, is light in the pot, and makes a nice structure. I sieved it down to about 8mm before mixing it up.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Do you make your own biochar?  I have been wanting to make some and give it a try.  How do you use it besides the seed mix?  Thanks for sharing
 
Michael Cox
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We get lots of woody waste and it all goes to biochar. Recently I have been adding lots to our new chicken run deep litter. I also spread it on veggie beds when mulching

A few weeks ago I think I posted photos of my new method on here somewhere.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Thanks I will check it out.
 
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I have tried a few different seed starting mixes and have not noticed much difference in the actual sprouting times.  How the seedlings do after that is a different story, but for sprouting I think temperature plays a huge part in it.  I start my seeds in a protected but not climate controlled spot.  Even with a heat mat for those that need it, I find that some seeds are slower to start than on the package or when direct sown at the appropriate time.  And then there is seed age, too. I am always trying to start older seeds.  Frustrating, usually, but surprising results sometimes...
 
Jen Fulkerson
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I agree temperature has a lot to do with germination.  I tried to start basil, and had  crummy results, which surprised me because I have grown it in the garden with out any problems in the past.
I think a lot of my problems besides not knowing what I was doing, was first time greenhouse use.  I got one that is 4x4x5 feet tall.  A very basic metal frame covered in plastic.  We had a little heat wave in early March and it was so hot in the greenhouse I could not stand to be in there.  I would leave the door open all day, to try to cool it down.  Then in it got cold, so the weather didn't help the process any.  I probably learn more from my mistakes then my success any way.  Thanks for your input.
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