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DIY Potting Mix?

 
pollinator
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Hi folks,

I hope you can help me out here.

With the lockdown, and more time on our hands, I find myself needing to plant lots of seeds and avoid the shops. So I'm after my own DIY potting mix from what I have to hand:

Compost - well rotted (some)
Woodchips - Fresh (lots)
Woodchips - rooted 1 year (lots)
Sand - some
Garden soil
A few bags of organic fully rotted "chicken manure fertiliser" that were purchased a year or so ago. Looks like well rotted straw bedding, that has been sieved to a fine texture. Loose and dry.

Any suggestions for using the above?

I'm kind of thinking

  • 1/3rd soil
  • 1/3rd compost
  • 1/3rd rotted chips
  • a few generous handfuls of the chicken manure stuff


  • Sound like a reasonable recipe? Plenty of organic material to hold moisture. Some good nutrients from the manure, but not too hot so they burn. This would be mostly for getting seeds started in the green house before planting out.
     
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    peat moss, vermiculite or perlite and loam/top soil works well. its helpful to dig your loam from beneath sod roots to eliminate weed seeds
     
    Michael Cox
    pollinator
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    I don't have peat moss, vermiculite or perlite.

    We are on lockdown, so I need to source materials from on my land.
     
    pollinator
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    Personally, I would cook some of those fresh woodchips into charcoal, then soak the charcoal in a bucket with water and a small amount of chicken manure. If you have an aerator you could use while it's soaking, that would be best. Otherwise just try to stir it every now and again. After that's soaked for a day or two, mix it with roughly equal parts soil and compost.
     
    pollinator
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    I'm not an expert, but when I was doing some research on making my own seed starting mix I read that for vermiculite you can substitute Pine fines, ( fine ground pine and bark)   coconut coir, or cotton waste.  Substitute for perlite is Styrofoam(I don't like this one) sand, pumice, and rice hulls.  
    When you have to go out for grocery's if you have a super walmart they have all the stuff you are looking for.
    My seed starting mix was 2 parts compost, 1 part vermiculite, 1/2 part sand.  It was across the board equal to the seed starting mix I bought in the store.  The only difference I noticed besides being a heavy mix was it needed to be watered more.
    When you plant in the ground you get what you have.  Some times we get caught up on the details and worrying that we are doing everything right, and maybe it's not that big of a deal.  I say use what you have.  Mix it up in small batches.  Unless your brand new at gardening you have a general idea of what it should look like and feel like, so do what seems right to you.  You never know you might end up with something new and improved.  Even if you don't, most plants just aren't that picky.  Good luck
     
    Michael Cox
    pollinator
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    Good plan re biochar - I actually have some in a heap that I had forgotten about!
     
    Michael Cox
    pollinator
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    Had some success. I found, in a neglected corner, a huge pile of old leaf mulch. AT least 5 years old. Well rotted and loose and crumbly. Also, my pile of biochar is bigger that I remembered.

    Both have been screened into buckets, down to a nice loose texture. Feels pretty good so far. I've mixed up a small batch and added an extra scoop of the fertiliser. Fingers crossed the plants like it.

    Plenty more in the heaps, so I should be good for months if this work out.
     
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    I was wondering the same thing while I was pricing potting soil. Thanks for the tips and encouragement Jen Fulkerson! Sometimes I need to remember that experimenting is a good thing and you don't have to do everything the Official Correct way. I'll be running experiments with different ratios of peat moss, top soil and sand and a bit of manure compost as thats what I have on hand. Will let you know how it goes!
     
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    Sounds like some awesome potting soil!

    For various reasons I wasn't planning to grow any veg this year just flowers and some herbs. Plans have changed.

    All I have is topsoil. Not particularly weed free, but really nice tilth. The stuff just under about a season old woodchip mulch. So I've used it, and so far so good. For what it's worth, topsoil grew monarda from seed to flower last season, and pretty decent volunteer tomatoes. And so far watering has been easy, no prolonged puddling.

    I'm relatively limited on nutrition I can give them too. Coffee grinds and compost tea, are what I've got on hand.

    I suspect transplanting will be a little difficult, and I already suck at it. But we shall see.
     
    gardener
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    Michael,

    Sounds like a good mix.  Were it me, I would mix some of the char/biochar into the mix and not on the surface—maybe make the mix 30-30-30-10% char.

    I would consider using some woodchips on the top as a mulch (you don’t need much), but also those wood chips will begin to decompose and can be added back into your garden.

    Just a thought,

    Eric
     
    Michael Cox
    pollinator
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    Re using wood chips.

    I decided not to. Most of our chips are fairly coarse, and it would take a lot of sifting to get nice fine decomposed material for making a fine tilth for a potting mix.
     
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    Hi, similar issue here. I'm on an island 12 miles off the Maine coast and not planning on going in shore any time soon but definitely growing as much food as possible this year.

    We're low on compost but I'll dig under last year's pile. I have access to seaweed, sand, sea shells. Egg shells. I'll go ask a neighbor for some chicken manure. No Coco coir. Crappy top soil. Will scavenge the meadows for better soil.

    Any advice or suggestions welcome.

     
    pollinator
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    I’ve had equal success to expensive potting soil starting tomatoes in the Geoff Lawton mix (1/3 composted chicken bedding:2/3 sharp river sand). You can go to equal parts compost:sand if the plants are heavy feeders or like heavy soil, or you just want to water less often.
     
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