Homemade potting soil is a great alternative to store-bought product and what better time to talk about potting soil then right before Spring.
I'm not completely against store bought potting soil, however, homemade potting soil can be tailored to your needs and confers many more benefits to your plants.
A major drawback of commercial potting mixes is that they've been sterilized. That is, the majority of the soil microbes have been destroyed. When operating from the conventional mindset, sterilization is thought to act as a preventative against damping-off and other seedling problems; however, I have a really hard time swallowing the effectiveness of this practice.
Instead, I suggest we explore and employ the Soil Food Web and work to harness the interconnectedness of all living things in the soil. If your homemade potting soil has a bounty of beneficial microbes, don't kill them off; instead, allow them to serve as your militia against the potential symptoms of damping-off.
If you still insist on purchasing commercial mixes, such as Miracle Grow Potting Soil, do your plants a favor and add some compost to it before using it for transplanting and seeding. The compost will serve as a microbial inoculant and ramp up the life in your soil.
In order to successfully make high quality potting soil, you want to ensure it's high in organic matter and provides excellent drainage.
Where do you find organic matter for your homemade potting soil?
That's right, you guessed it - COMPOST!
Below are two great recipes for making your own potting soil. One is taken directly from Eliot Coleman's The New Organic Grower and the other is an adaptation from John Jeavon's How to Grow More Vegetables.
Potting Soil - Coleman Style
*Unit of measurement is 2.5 gallon bucket
1. Be sure to follow the sequence above and mix where it is labelled "mix".
2. Be sure to screen the peat, compost, and soil before mixing together.
3. Base fertilizer consists of equal parts blood meal, finely ground rock phosphate, and greensand (gluaconite). You may supplement dried seaweed for the greensand.
Potting Soil - Jeavon's Style
As with Coleman's recipe above, be sure to screen all of your materials before mixing together.
Tip - Before you start using the above potting soil for seeding, make sure you moisten it. If not, you'll end up with an entirely different problem on your hands.
There you have it folks, you're now ready to start your Spring seeding. Wait! You have ordered your seeds, haven't you?
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