The BEST seed starting mix

vegangirl(z6 VA)February 13, 2008

I've been using Jiffy Mix with poor results. IF the seeds germinate, they just sit there and don't grow past the seedling leaf stage. The ones I transplanted out at the seedling leaf stage grew well (in garden soil).

What can I use that is readily available everywhere? I just read a thread about making a soil-less mix that sounds the same as Jiffy Mix. Why would it work better than Jiffy Mix? There was a long thread about this last year. Did anyone find out what was wrong with the Jiffy Mix?



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ccroulet(z9 CA Sunset 18)

I'm using EB Stone "Seed Starter Mix" only because I couldn't find Jiffy Mix when I wanted it. Both of these are "peat-lite" mixes as originally developed by Cornell University, with Jiffy Mix apparently the closest exact equivalent of Cornell's specification (EB Stone contains a wetting agent). My EB Stone mix has worked perfectly for the germination of the California native sages that I'm growing. What are you trying to grow?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 3:12PM
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vegangirl(z6 VA)

Last spring, I planted tomatoes, peppers, and many perennials and annuals in Jiffy Mix. They just didn't do anything! It's not that I'm a novice grower. I've grown many things from seed. I think the best luck I had was with Scott's seed starting mix but can't find it anywhere now. And I've had some success with Jiffy Mix in the past but not the last two years. Several posters mentioned bad luck with Jiffy Mix on a thread last year. I hesitate to use it again for that reason but don't know what else to try.

I've not seen EB Stone anywhere. Maybe it's a regional mix?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 4:02PM
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ccroulet(z9 CA Sunset 18)

EB Stone is sold in my area by Armstrong Garden Centers, which may be a regional chain. EB Stone has a website, though, and I don't think Armstrong is the only retail vendor that sells their products. I'm only using EB Stone because that's what Armstrong had, and I didn't see anything at Home Depot that appealed to me. I found Sunshine Mix, which is what I'm using for potted seedlings, at a place that sells stuff for commercial nurseries and landscapers. There are a lot of commercial growers in my area.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 4:55PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Honestly, I have used Jiffy mix for germination for years with no problems at all. I have some 17 trays of it germinating things in the green house right now. I also use ProMix when I can get it as well as Metro Mix 360. For germinating - there is little if any difference in my results.

Sure one can get a bad bag of Jiffy or one that has been stored improperly but that is true of any mix. But its basic components are the same as many of the other so-called "seed starting" soil-less mixes out there.

But it's important to remember that many things besides the soil-less mix contribute to the success or failure rate of germination - seed quality and age, soil temps, air temps, depth of planting, too little or too much water (studies show that far more seeds fail to germinate due to excess water than all other factors combined), etc. Using warm water and restricting its use alone can increase germination.

And, neither Jiffy Mix nor any other seed starting mix is intended for 'growing on'. The seed's self-contained nutrients are depleted by the germination process and the development of the cotyledons. Beyond that, growth nutrients must be supplied along with sufficient light, very careful use of water, and proper growing temps.

But the best way to find out what works best for you is to try 2 or 3 different mixes side-by-side with the seeds from the same pack and with the same conditions and determine which one works best for you.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 5:32PM
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vegangirl(z6 VA)

ccroulet, I'll google EB Stone and see what I find out. thanks!

Dave, thanks for the ideas on mixes, and other tips. I'm pretty discouraged. I've grown all kinds of goodies from seed in the past but the past two years have been enough to make me want to give it up altogether!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 7:10PM
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ccroulet(z9 CA Sunset 18)

vegangirl: I'm not touting EB Stone "Seed Starter Mix" as the "best" product (or is it "Starting Mix?"...I forget). I'm just saying that it's another example of a peat-lite mix, and it works perfectly for me for my plants. I would have expected identical results from Jiffy Mix. Anything that consists mainly of sphagnum peat moss, perlite and dolomite lime in reasonable proportions should work. Jiffy Mix is a formula that is very simple and well-tested, going back several decades. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with Jiffy Mix, maybe just something wrong with a particular batch (e.g. a factory error in mixing the components). Certainly, if I were you, and Jiffy Mix isn't working, then I'd try something else.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2008 at 9:29PM
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vegangirl(z6 VA)

LOL that's just it....what else??? I googled Pro Mix and there isn't a dealer within 3 hours of me. Walmart sells Jiffy Mix,and some cheap brand that is awful. I guess it will have to be Jiffy Mix again.

Anyway thanks for the advice:)

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 2:52PM
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ccroulet(z9 CA Sunset 18)

I moved my salvia seedlings into 4" pots (with Sunshine Mix) when they were at the 2 and 3 true leaf-pair stage. The seedlings were germinated in late October and I started the transplanting process in late December and dragged it out over a couple of weeks (98 seedlings). There was no noticeable downside to the extra time some of them experienced in the seed-starting mix, which has no fertilizer. Of course, with chilly nights in the 30s and days in the high 50s-low 60s (below normal), growth was slow. Things have really picked up in the last couple of weeks. Alas, the size gap between the prodigies and underachievers has widened. My goal is 72 really good plants by the end of summer, but I'm not sure I'm going to get that many :-(

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 3:28PM
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I know you have checked, but for growing sake put new bulbs into your light fixtures and check the expiration on your seeds. Plants will grow in water so other than smothering the seeds dust will work. You might also put some seeds in a wet paper towel and see if you can prestart them.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 3:28PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

vegangirl - No garden nurseries in your neck of the woods? No Lowe's, no Home Depot, no Ace Hardware? Menard's? Walmart sells 4 different brands of soil-less mix and all of them work fine for me and I have tried them all at one time or another including Jiffy as detailed above. ProMix and umpteen other seedling mixes are available to order on line. If all else fails buy a bag of peat, a bag of vermiculite or perlite and a bag of compost and mix your own. ;)

I know you want to blame it all on Jiffy Mix but you really needs to be looking for either other sources of mix or other sources of your problems. ;)


    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 5:03PM
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vegangirl(z6 VA)

vikingcraftsman, I don't use lights; I have a small greenhouse. Last year, when I had all the trouble, my seeds were new. I'm not clear what you mean by this sentence.."Plants will grow in water so other than smothering the seeds dust will work."

ccroulet, good luck with your salvias! I noticed that on my Totally Tomato invoice they say "PLEASE NOTE: We do not recommend using potting mixes with fertilizer for starting seeds". I always looked for mixes that specifically say on the label that they are for seed starting.

Dave, LOL! No, I'm really not wanting to blame Jiffy Mix. I'm just wanting success this year. In the past, I've had great success with all kinds of seeds including asters, columbine, delphinium, lupine, aclepias, dianthus, kniphofia, erigeron, hemerocallis, many, many other perennials, celery, parsley, tomatoes, peppers, all kinds of annuals and herbs. Yes Walmart has several potting mixes but only the two seed starting mixes. We have Lowes (50 mile round trip) but none of the other stores you mentioned. I haven't checked but it seems like mail order shipping would be outrageous. I wish I could find the old thread about problems with Jiffy Mix. And no, I didn't start it:) someone else had problems too, in fact several posters did. I just hate to waste my time and seeds again if it's going to be like last year. we grow about 11,000 sq ft of vegetables including lots of peppers and tomatoes. Can't afford to mess up again.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 5:30PM
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ccroulet(z9 CA Sunset 18)

vegangirl: Gardenweb recently purged a lot of old threads. I wanted to revive an old thread about Salvia apiana so I could post a promised update, but I had to start a new thread. I remember the one about Jiffy Mix.

I think vikingcraftsman is saying that the seeds should sprout no matter what you put them in -- even "dust" should work. But your experience, which actually corresponds to mine, is that germinating seeds is easy. Spit on them and they'll germinate. The problem is keeping them alive and growing vigorously after they've sprouted.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 6:00PM
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naturemitch(3/4 WI)

Hi Vegangirl,

Guess I would be looking at the variable(s) that have changed since you were getting great germination rates compared to now.

Have you changed seed sources?, has the weather been or timing of your sowing been dramatically different? has your watering technique been different?

I guess my gut tells me the seed mix is not the problem, but what is happening after and during germination. If you have them outside...are the seeds sitting in cold, wet, soil...maybe just rotting off on you? Even after germination if they are sitting in cold, wet soil this will certainly affect their growth process.

Your seedlings WILL need more than just the germinating mix if that mix is a sterile seed starting mix. Otherwise they will go slowly to nowhere. A fish fertilizer applied to them is what I personally is weak enough to use with regular waterings.

And no, seeds don't just sprout in whatever you might put them in...there is plenty of thought that goes into what medium to use, how you sow, when you sow, etc. etc. Veggies ARE easy, but there is a whole lot of tough stuff out me...

good luck

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 9:56PM
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Since you are vegan does that mean no mix with animal products such as bat guano? If not, and you have access to Fox Farm Ocean Forest it is the best soilless mix I have ever used. It is great for all stages including starting seeds. I don't sell it I just swear by it. My first few years I used pro-mix and would supplement with various organic materials such as kelp meal, green sand, bat guano and lime and my plants did great. Then I used FFOF straight from bag start to finish and plants were 30% taller, thicker and more productive. Good luck.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 10:04PM
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vegangirl(z6 VA)

ccroulet, thanks!! I get it now:)

naturemitch, Thanks for the info! I agree. I've grown some alpines from seed and the starting mix definitely needs to be different!

The seeds didn't rot or damp-off. They just sat in a state of suspended animation after emerging from the ground. Sometimes the cotyledons didn't even unfold. Here's the set up I had. In the greenhouse,I had a long box on the ground filled with rotted sawdust (several years old) with a soil heating cable buried in it. I had seed flats sitting on top of the covered cable and surrounded by the sawdust. The seeds were planted in Jiffy Mix carefully moistened, in 4 packs or 6 packs and some perennials and herbs in 2 or 3 inch pots. I also planted some seeds outside the Jiffy Mix in the rotted sawdust just as an experiment. Those seeds germinated, and within a couple of weeks were 6 TIMES (Yes I measured them!) larger than the seedlings in the flats and had many leaves. They got the same watering, temps and light. I had thought that one was supposed to begin feeding seedlings when they got their first or second set of true leaves. The seedlings in most of the flats never got true leaves. They just sat there. Those that did (outside the flats and some tomatoes and peppers), I began feeding with Miracle Gro. Should I feed them from the time they emerge?

Woodygutheriefan, I'm vegan for health reasons and do not mind bat guano or fish fertilizer. I prefer not to use anything with bonemeal as there was a documented case of mad cow disease in Great Britain in a vegan lady. She used bone meal on her roses or something. But not to start a discussion about mad cow!!

I will google the mix you mentioned. Thanks for the info.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2008 at 8:10AM
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naturemitch(3/4 WI)


thanx for the really gets me to thinking and 'investigating'. So, what I am understanding is, that the seeds you planted directly into the sawdust compost performed exceptionally? And if so, I guess I still stand by the mix(jiffy) just not having enough/any nutrients in it(i take it you didn't water these with miracle gro). By planting the seeds into the sawdust you were giving them some great compost:), and they responded accordingly.

As for fertilizing...I don't wait for that 2nd or 3rd set of leaves...I transplant and fertilize as soon as I can handle the seedling and/or have the time.

p.s. i like sungros' redi-earth seedling and plug can find it at Steins, or for my alpines and other toughies I use a mix of fafards and grit.

good luck and hope this helps

    Bookmark   February 15, 2008 at 4:42PM
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Vegangirl writes..."I googled Pro Mix and there isn't a dealer within 3 hours of me."

I had the same experience last year about this time(well almost the same, no dealers within a reasonable distance). But then I found half a dozen stores close by in the coming months which had it. They are not listed as dealers Trouble is that is too late for many of us.

Many small and large nurseries use it and may add a bale or a bag on their shipment for you.

I got three 3.8 cu ft bales of Pro-Mix BX with Mycorise last week from a very small Grain Store within walking distance by asking then to tack it on an order. Price is as good as anywhere else and no shipping charge (which would have been prohibitve).

Asking the big boxes might work too but I wouldn't bet on it.

Agway is always a good bet. Most of them in this area stock it...albeit it some not until May (why they do that, I don't know...suspect they buy it for the self-watering container and not seed starting market).

Ace is another one to ask.

It is good stuff. Used it in two earthboxes and starting 150 tomato, 48 pepper plants and assorted other stuff. No damping off. Near 100% germinination on everything.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 11:25AM
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vegangirl(z6 VA)

naturemitch. thanks for the tips! I think I'll try transplanting earlier too.

David, thanks for that idea! I'm going to see if I can find someone as you suggested. If not, I guess I'll try Jiffy Mix again.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 4:18PM
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loretta5_gw(Z6 PA)

Just a reminder, there is no one "Pro Mix" mixture. There are different mixes of Pro Mix. Some even has fertilizer already in it. The bags are well labeled so check to be sure you are ordering the mixture you want.
I use Pro Mix and I like it. My only complaint is that I like a peaty seed starting mix and can't seem to get that in Pro Mix in my area. I can get one labeled "seed starting mix" but it is loamy.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2008 at 9:49AM
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sandy0225(z5 Indiana)

for seed starting you want promix pgx (plug mix)
with biofungicide is the best.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2008 at 3:50PM
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sandy...I agree. Trouble is finding it. Many of the ProMix formulations are close enough for those not in commerical production. I use Pro-Mix BX for seed starting and for Earthboxes--neither of which it is really designed for (Earthbox recommends a lower % of peat).

    Bookmark   February 21, 2008 at 12:48AM
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vegangirl(z6 VA)

Thanks for the tips everyone.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 5:49AM
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vegangirl(z6 VA)

I started seeds of tomatoes, peppers, basil, sage, thyme, and several types of flowers. I used new Jiffy Mix and recycled potting mix from pots of annuals and hanging baskets. I sterilized it in the microwave according to Unv of New Mexico directions--15 minutes. By far, my best seedlings are growing in the recycled potting mix. The ones in the new Jiffy Mix are way behind and were planted the same day. I don't know the ingredients in the potting mix but it seems to have less peat than JM.

I was not able to find a local source for the recommended potting mixes and shipping cost was over my budget.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 5:15AM
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Here we are in 2010 and some of these same seed starting potting soil issues are still surfacing. I had terrible trouble this year with Redi-earth. Seeds sprouted but did not grow on. When they were pulled up root developement was non-existant or distorted. I am not a novice at this. Have been starting seeds using Redi-earth for over 30 years. After much testing on our water, soil , plants, the only consistant problem that has come up is pH not adjusting when soil is wet down. Low ph really does a number on seeds sending out that first root. Sound familiar to anyone else??

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 12:17AM
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bugbite(z9a FL)

Somewhere in a forum I saw some pictures taken by an average Joe of his experiment with different seed starter mixes. His pictures showed such great results with Miracle Grow seed starter that the impressive burned into my soul. Next seed starter I buy will be that brand. Bob

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 12:16PM
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I cannot over recommend Ferti-lome Ultimate potting mix. Available at nurseries, feed stores and sometime a hardware store. A tad more expensive than MG, cheaper than Fafard's or Fox Farm.

It doesn't contain any nuits or ferts - thankfully. Seeds don't need them. Holds moisture quite well but still dries out in the expected time.


    Bookmark   September 18, 2010 at 8:17PM
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I use one of two methods either the paper towel method which is a damp paper towel in some sort of plastic container. Then plant into soil once the root is about half an inch long or fill a cell about 3/4 of the way up with regular potting soil then the top layer seed starting mix (I use Eco earth which can be found in most pet stores in the reprile section I also use this for my snakes vivarium which has aroids plants in it that do very well) both methods work very well the first gets a higher percentage of germination but the second make transplanting easier

    Bookmark   October 20, 2014 at 7:33PM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

Not sure if you realize this thread is over 4 years old.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2014 at 12:16PM
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