Thursday, March 04, 2010

making starter soil

Today were going to make soil for starting seeds. Most of the ready-made starter soil available for sale has nasty fertilizers in it. As a certified organic farm we can't use any of that and while there are some certified organic soil mixes on the market, I like mixing my own. It's cheaper too. So here we go.

We start with peat moss. I recommend a high quality peat even if it costs a bit more. The cheap stuff has lots of trash in it. It's purchase in compressed bales so it needs to be sifted. I use a mesh screen to do that.

My recipe uses 4 five gallon buckets of peat moss lightly tamped so each bucket is packed full.

Then we add 1 five gallon bucket of perlite.

Next 1 bucket of vermiculite.

One bucket of worm castings or finely screened compost.

And lastly we add about 2 pounds of pulverize lime so the pH is right.

We add all of our ingredients into the electric cement mixer.

We add water. I've never measured this out. You want it moist but not soaking wet. My guess is about 1 five gallon bucket.

And then we let the mixer do its thing. Putting a cover over the opening allows the mixing bucket to be tipped on its side while spinning without spilling the soil. This greatly helps to get all the ingredients thoroughly mixed. To do this small U hooks were wielded to the mixer and bungee straps are used to hold on the lid (an old trashcan lid)

The results are poured out into a kiddie pool where we can fill up containers ready to be planted.

Extra soil gets stored in a contain that keeps it from drying out completely before we need more soil. Of course you could scale back this recipe and you could mix it by hand. This system really helps get lots of high quality starter soil ready in a short period of time.



Mike Lorenz said...

I like your recipe. I find myself tinkering with different mixes, but haven't found one that I like enough to stick with it. Do the worm castings provide all of the nutrients that you need, or do you have to give the seedlings some sort of fertilizer (fish emulsion, seaweed juice, etc?)
- Mike Lorenz

nulinegvgv said...

Hi Mike,

The casting are sufficient to get things going, especially for stuff I transplant quickly. Other vegetables that take longer, like peppers, get fish emulsion.

I should note that the casting are the highest quality you can buy. I do have several worm bins of my own but I'm not currently generating enough castings for my farming efforts. This is something I need to address for long term sustainability.

Luckily I happen to have local access to the worm castings. They're generated by a friend of mine. The link takes you to his stuff.


Anonymous said...

I love the idea of potting up in the kiddie pool, i'm going to adopt this idea. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Here in the UK all the major organic and horticultural organisations (Royal Horticultural Society, Soil Association etc) have banned the use of peat. This is because peat extraction depletes non-renewable habitats and the project releases lots of CO2 that has been sequestered since the peat bogs evolved millenia ago.

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Soil Block Maker said...

This is great information! All soil block makers take note, as you can use the same technique and materials to make soil blocking mix. And, in a scientific and an economic response to Mr. "Anonymous", I would like to say that yes, Europe has banned peat moss, because they have depleted their source of peat through centuries of wrong-harvesting. However, there is an abundant supply of peat bogs in Canada, that are being MANAGED correctly as to replenish themselves after a period of rest from "brown peat" extraction. And, to be environmentally sure, always buy peat moss from the Ecologically safe organization "Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association", or CSPMA.

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Very helpful, is this the only way of making it??