Seedybeans Blog

Celebrating the Humble Harvests of High Desert Homesteading

Making your own potting mix

Making your own potting mix is a great way to get intimate with the life cycle of your garden from the very beginning. Acting as a creator yourself, you are inviting in all that makes an ideal situation for those precious baby seeds to succeed.  It helps you save money as well.  Once you gather all the materials you can make any amount whenever you want.   Making potting soil is a great activity to do with kids, it is just like making a cake.  As you mix and pour it is a perfect opportunity to talk about what soil is, how it is made in nature, what kind of particles it has, what soils seeds prefer to germinate in….Etc.. I love it and yes, could go on forever.  As my students know, I often do when we are mixing up a batch.  

So if you are a beginning from scratch you will need a few crucial components.

 Gather these things and read on.

Shovel

Wheel burrow

Cement mixing hoe/ Field hoe( See picture if you have no idea what this is)

Peatmoss or Coco Peat

Sand ( fine)

Compost (sifted)

Garden soil (sifted)

Water

Optional:

vermiculite

Perilite

Blood meal

Kelp Meal

So if you have read this far you probably as wondering what half of these things are, where to get them and what they are for.  Well….Let’s go down the list.  If you want to know more about any of these Wikipedia proved very helpful.  

Peatmoss or Coco Peat– This is the pourous fluffy brown stuff that your seedlings love.  It will create a spongy soil that both drains and hold water.  Both are great, though peatmoss, which I prefer is non-renewable and is harvested out of peatbogs in Europe.  Coco Peat is a by product of the coconut industry. You can buy both at most nurseries in town.  I did get mine at Greenhouse and Garden Supply in Albq.

Sand (fine)– I get mine from the arroyo.  I just sift it as I harvest so I get the really fine stuff. You can also buy fine sand from the hardware store or Santa Fe Classic Rock sold me some once. This help drainage in your mix.

Compost (sifted)– Sources are endless; Paynes, Santa Fe Premium compost…., but your own yard is the best source.  It must be totally broken down and sifted as fine is what is the key to seedling mix. This adds tilth as well as nutrients to your mix.

Garden soil (sifted)– Just go into you garden with your sifter,  put your sifter over your wheel burrow, shovel and shake.  You should get a nice rich fine bunch of soil.  This is the base of your mix and where the microbioal communities of you garden are introduced to you seeds for the first time.

Water– rain water is best and a fine sprinkle watering can is what I prefer

Optional:These are all available at nurseries in town.  

Vermiculite-Basically it is heated mica.  Helpful for water retention and drainage.

Perilite-A volcanic rock. Good for drainage and tilth in your soil

Blood meal- Yes, it is real blood, mostly from the cattle industry.  Though is sounds gross, plants love it and it is high in nitrogen which thos elittle guys need once they start to photosynthesize

Kelp Meal-Another high nitrogen amendment for you little ones made from seaweed.

So now that you know your materials, gather them.  I get every thing together and store them in big tupperware containers. You can use, 5 gallon buckets if you for see yourself making less, or simply don’t have the storage. 

When mixing time comes you can follow the recipes below.  Remember it is not an exact science, it is though all about ratios.

(Good math lessons for all you teachers who are looking for a reason to get those kids outside)

This is a great group activity.  I say 4 people being enough.  If you are with a class– have small group make different variations of the recipes and do trials with them.  

Each person has a job

One person can reads the recipe,

One can shovel (the shovel being the measuring spoon

One can use the hoe to mix back and forth, getting all the corner sof your wheel burrow, leaving no hidden pockets of sand

One can sprinkle water as you mix

The end result is a well mixed soil that is moist as as rung out sponge. Everyone should grab a handful and squeeze.  You want it to ball up in your hand, but quickly fall apart after release.  You don’t want more than a few drops of water to be released as you squeeze.  

And there you have it.  Your soil mix is ready to be put in flats (more on building your own later) and seeds sown.  Happy soil making!! Let me know how it goes.

Below are the recipes I use- and alter at liberty. They are from my alma matar- UCSC center for Agroecology. Thanks CASFS!!

FLAT/SOWING MIX 

3 parts compost (sifted .5 inch screen) 

2 parts soil 

1 part sand 

2 parts coir fiber (premoistened) or 1 part coir fiber ( or peat moss)

GARDEN SPEEDLING MIX 

2-1/2 compost (sifted .5 inch screen) 

1 soil 

2 coir fiber (premoistened) or 1 coir fiber + 1 leaf 

leaf mold (sifted .5 inch screen) 

1/4 gallon kelp meal (*1 tablespoon) 

*Use 1/4 gallon when one part is equal to one 

wheelbarrow. 

FIELD SPEEDLING MIX 

2 compost (sifted .5 inch screen) 

1 coir fiber (premoistened) 

1 vermiculite (medium/fine) 

3 cups blood meal* 

*This amount of blood meal is based on when the 

measure of one part is equal to a wheelbarrow. 

6-PACK MIX 

2 compost 

2 used flat mix 

1 coir fiber 

1 sand

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