Spring bursts forth with glorious color and freshness that invigorates the senses. Damp soil heaves and releases urging dormant perennials awake. These are the signs that it’s time to pull out the seeds gathered from last year’s favorite fruits and vegetables and get back to work.
The weeks of sun-drenched days in the garden hold great potential for the one who prepares their plants well in advance. Nothing can be more true of that early preparation than using a worm compost seed starting mix to nurture the very seeds that will bring forth new plants for texture, flavor, and fragrance in your landscape this year.
Setting your seeds into a starting mix that will protect, feed, and offer both ideal moisture and oxygen should be high on your list of priorities this season. This article will teach you just how to combine the very best ingredients so that your seeds have all they need for a strong start.
When it comes to the very best ingredients for making your own seed starting mix there are lots of options to choose from. The key, however, is in the one ingredient that offers triple duty in the mix. Vermicompost is the answer to getting any seed off on the right foot.
Vermicompost is another word for worm compost. Worm compost combines the cast off organic material that red wiggler worms (Eisenia foetida) have digested and transformed into nutrient-rich plant food mixed with partially decomposed elements of their bedding.
The qualities of vermicompost that make it perfect for use as an ingredient are many.
Research out of Cornell University found that seeds treated with worm compost resist a fatal condition known as damping off. Furthermore, worm compost has a great ability to retain water while also allowing for proper drainage and space for oxygen. And that’s not even the best part!
As water is released from the vermicompost, minerals and nutrients come with it and are made immediately available to the seed and those very tender roots. And used in proper proportions, there is no risk at all to young plants being “burned” by the mixture, unlike commercially available fertilizers that some people add to seedlings to get them growing strong.
What Do I Need?
- Coconut Coir
Vermicompost is a nutrient-rich natural fertilizer that can be used in many ways. You could purchase your vermicomposting from a retailer but I highly recommend making it yourself! It is super easy to do and is a great way to reduce, reuse, and recycle a lot of kitchen scraps, yard waste, and even things like junk mail! All it takes to make your own vermicompost is a starter pound of compost worms and a storage bin, or even better, something like a Worm Factory 360 flow through bin.
Vermiculite is that squishy mica looking material you find in commercial soil mixes. It is made of ultra-high heated minerals and is used to improve aeration and drainage.
Coir is the shredded outer husk of a coconut. It is best known for having excellent water retention and drainage capabilities. It is gaining popularity because of breaks down very slowly and is a renewable resource. It is a great alternative to using peat and is readily available online and in garden centers.
How to Make the Mix
Using a ratio of 1:1:1, combine all of your ingredients in a large bucket type container until it is cohesive throughout. If for some reason you do not have enough worm compost to bring these numbers to an equal measure, any amount of worm compost will be beneficial and will add nutrient value to what you have.
Thoroughly moisten the mixture with nonchlorinated water so that it is still loose but also able to be somewhat held together when packed. We avoid using chlorine because it kills the microbes that are hard at work making nutrients available in the soil.
Worm compost that has become completely dehydrated loses it’s ability to retain water and is no longer full of the living microbes that actively work to make your soil into superfood for your plants. Keep it damp by adding water if you find it begins to dry out. You can save this seed starting mix in a covered container as long as necessary, but we make it to use it, right? So let’s get to it!
How to Use Your Mix
Any container meant for starting seeds will work well with this mix. If you don’t already have one, I have found that the plastic tub I buy mushrooms in is a perfect size for starting enough of any one type of seed. Simply punch evenly spaced drainage holes into the bottom and you are ready to use it!
Pack the seed starting mix gently but firmly into whichever starting tray, pots, or cups you are using. Place your seeds to the proper depth and press the soil down to cover. Give your seeds a good soak and set them in a sunny place to germinate.
The seedlings will take up the nutrients in the mix without needing any further fertilizer during this stage. Be sure to transfer the seedlings with as much of the mix as you can to give them a solid chance at a successful transplant.
Now that you have a recipe to make your own worm compost seed starting mix, I hope you’ll try it out and have great success!
HINT: If you are looking to make this process even a little bit easier, you can take a shortcut by purchasing a commercial seed starting mix and adding worm compost right to that. The ideal ratio, in that case, would be closer to 1 part vermicomposting to 2 parts seed starter mix.
Her passion is gardening. Along with her husband and children, each year they grow a garden large enough to provide their family of five with over half of our needed produce. Besides vegetables and a small berry patch, she also focus her attention on beautifying our home with strategically placed flowers, herbs, and flowering plants. Gardening is more than just a hobby; it is a way of life.