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Seed starting questions about soil mix and other Qs

Posted by Lesuko 5, Boulder CO (My Page) on
Thu, Mar 22, 12 at 13:02

(I'm reposting this since it was added under a previous thread)

This is my second year starting seeds (first year was herbs and easy stuff). This year I'm using Jiffy organic seed starting mix. Has anyone used this? It doesn't seem to soak up water from the bottom- so in a panic (well after waiting 2 hrs to see if the water did indeed get soaked up)I started using a spray bottle. The water just beads on the top. Maybe it soaks through but the mix doesn't seem very wet. I'm also thinking that I think the mix needs to be wet for the seeds, but I've read here that people are saying moist?

Last year I used an expensive mix from a nursery and had no problems except a bit of green mold stuff. I've heard that chamomile tea helps with this?

Oh- I still don't know whether to use the dome or not? I have the Jiffy plastic set under a grow light.

And- I noticed today that I have extremely small grey bugs in the soil of some herb pots I overwintered. Would anyone know what these are and if I should get rid of the herbs since I will try to start peppers and tomatoes for the first time this week- so excited but nervous too.

I did hear from Dan that I needed to soak the mix with warm water and then add to dome, some say overnight. But, if I didn't do this does that mean this batch of seeds is ruined?

I have bought a new mix- Fox Farm warrior seed starting mix. This too might have been a mistake. Would I soak the mix overnight, wring out and then plant in cells for my pepper and tomato seeds? I've checked the site info and says the same as Jiffy- wet mix before planting.

Or, is there a good mix I should buy for peppers and tomatoes? I bought a lot of great seeds this year and will be sad if nothing starts.

sorry for the mini panic. thanks.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Seed starting questions about soil mix and other Qs

As to the Jiffy Mix. Yes I tried it and wasn't especially impressed. No big problems but it's very difficult to get wet initially. Once it is properly wetted it works fine.

There are mixes on the market that you can fill the cells with dry and then bottom soak and they get wet fine. That is because they have a wetting agent added to them. This is NOT one of them. It has no wetting agent in it. So it has to be pre-soaked. I can't recall for sure but I think that info is on the bag directions. If not the manufacturer recommends 8-12 hours or over night in warm water. Then scoop it out by the handful, squeeze it out until it is just damp and fill the cells.

Since only those with a wetting agent can be used dry and since many don't know if it has one or not, I usually recommend pre-wetting ALL mixes before use. It never hurts and it may be mandatory - as in this case. In the greenhouse we never use any mix dry just to avoid this kind of problem.

There was a recent discussion about just this problem here - something with marigolds in the title - and the only solution I know of since you have already planted is you are going to have to bottom soak that tray for several hours in warm water. Since you have misted it that will help but watch it carefully and when it appears to have finally soaked up the water it is going to be very wet so it will then need to drain for several hours to avoid rotting the seeds.

Domes are optional - not required - also lots of discussions here about using them. I never do, others swear by them. In this case since the soil mix is already going to be overly wet, I wouldn't. Let some of the excess moisture evaporate.

For seed starting the most frequently recommended brand is ProMix BX. Metro Mix 360 is another and both contain wetting agents. But in truth any soil-less mix that is primarily peat moss and vermiculite or perlite is fine for seed starting. And there are 100's of them available. It all depends on what you can find locally. If Fox Farm says wet before using then that is what you need to do and like I said above IMO that is what you should always do. It may be a bit more work for the gardener but it is much better for the seeds.

small grey bugs in the soil of some herb pots I overwintered

Can't really help you there except to say to transplant the plant into fresh mix. The bugs could be many things if over-wintered outside.

Hope this helps.

Dave


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RE: Seed starting questions about soil mix and other Qs

  • Posted by Lesuko 5, Boulder CO (My Page) on
    Fri, Mar 23, 12 at 10:35

Dave- THANK YOU!

I understand the difference now. I did not know about wetting agents. Jiffy and foxfarm actually only say to "wet mix" before using with some other products of theirs. I assumed that it wouldn't make a difference wetting before or after adding seeds- since that's what I did last year based on the local nurseries recommendation, which worked perfectly for their soil.

But, after the overnight soaking and the mix is properly wet, can I water from the bottom then? I imagine it won't be very often since it's supposed to retain water.

BTW, for what little I know about dirt/mixes, as I was filling the cells and pulling out twigs and large clumps of stuff that wasn't breaking up, I thought to myself that this was not a good mix. I will write some reviews about it.

I am possible too excited about starting tomatoes.

Thanks again!


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RE: Seed starting questions about soil mix and other Qs

But, after the overnight soaking and the mix is properly wet, can I water from the bottom then?

Yes, once it is well wetted it works fine.

as I was filling the cells and pulling out twigs and large clumps of stuff that wasn't breaking up, I thought to myself that this was not a good mix.

True it is not great, especially when compared to a couple of the professional mixes like Premier ProMIx or Metro Mix. But it is ok and the price is right on it when compared to many of the others on the market, especially the professional mixes. And for those home gardeners who are starting only a few seeds it works fine and saves them many $$.

Personally I would much prefer to see someone use Jiffy Mix rather than trying to mix their own using compost and other home recipes. First because it is a sterile mix and second because it is pH balanced. Don't get me wrong, compost is great stuff but it belongs in the garden, not in a cell pack and pH and sterility of the mix is very important when it comes to starting seeds.

Dave


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RE: Seed starting questions about soil mix and other Qs

  • Posted by Lesuko 5, Boulder CO (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 24, 12 at 10:06

Thanks again. I've read a few things about making your own seed starting or potting soil mix. I thought I would give it a try next year (after my tomato trial this year). But, I did not consider sterility and PH. This reminds me of the book I read- Giai's Garden. While it's a good book and has some interesting points, she recommends an array of weeds to plant without mentioning how invasive they may become. It took my asking at the garden shop about them to get that odd look and the, "what you want to plant weeds?" Still, I see the benefit in some of them that may be somewhat controlled.


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RE: Seed starting questions about soil mix and other Qs

  • Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 24, 12 at 10:27

after some bug issues, I'm never using outside compost again, and am very careful about taking plants from outside, inside....

This year, I'm using happy frog potting soil and am extremely please and will be using it from now on....

Something that may help with mold issues a bit, is starting seeds using the paper towel method. That way - you don't have to worry so much about keeping the starting soil moist and covered - especially with hot pepper seeds that can take weeks to germinate. For heat lovers, I put all my baggies into a big baggie and onto the dvr. They sprout very quickly, compared to being in the dome. But I did not have a heat mat.


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RE: Seed starting questions about soil mix and other Qs

  • Posted by Lesuko 5, Boulder CO (My Page) on
    Mon, Mar 26, 12 at 14:30

Thanks T-bird. I bought heating mats recently for the peppers and tomato seeds. With mats, I don't think you're supposed to use toilet paper rolls. Since I'm starting so many new things this year, I feel like I should try the more traditional way and then experiment once I have success.


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RE: Seed starting questions about soil mix and other Qs

  • Posted by Lesuko 5, Boulder CO (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 27, 12 at 10:53

Dave- dont know if you'll see this but I have some sort of black sticky crud on the top of the jiffy mix now. No fuzz or green mold but it's sticky. I have also been spraying water on the top since I didn't presoak the mix. The tops of all the cells stay pretty dry- some have absorbed enough water and others didn't. I've pretty much given up on this stuff.

That said, I'm seeding my peppers and tomatoes today. I soaked the fox farm mix overnight and will use heat mats. I've read that once the plants sprout you take them off the heat, but is that immediately or wait until the seed leaves have fully developed, or until they get true leaves?

Ya know- You think you know how to do something until you actually do it.

Thanks.


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RE: Seed starting questions about soil mix and other Qs

The only "black sticky crud" I can think of was once a layer of green algae that has died. If that's it it should just lift off in pieces. Otherwise I've got no idea what it might be. Sorry.

The heat mat issue is OFF the heat as soon as they break the soil surface. No longer. Heat for germination only. Heat can kill seedlings.

Dave


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RE: Seed starting questions about soil mix and other Qs

Noticed the same problem in the past with the Jiffy mix not absorbing water. The overnight soaking and then wringing out the next day seemed like too much work to me. I opted to toss the mix in a big bucket and add water. I used a clean and dry LARGE and long-handled cooking spoon to stir it up. With a decent bit of stirring it absorbs the water and I just kept adding water until I thought the moisture content was ideal. Then I spooned it out into the cells.


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RE: Seed starting questions about soil mix and other Qs

I have taken a crevice attachment from a vacuum cleaner and push it down into the bag of starter mix, then pour water into the tool and as you pull the tool out of the bag keep adding more water . You may need to unplug the the tool using a wire .
Then seal up the bag and let it set for a day or two, I just use enough water to lightly pre-moisten the mix, after that it soaks up water fine, you should probable let any unused mix dry out before long term storage


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RE: Seed starting questions about soil mix and other Qs

Jiffy Seed Starting Mix works fine and easy to hydrate if you do two simple things:

1) microwave distilled water to 130-140 degrees fahrenheit or max hand hot temperature. Using a liquid measuring pitcher place 1 quart of Jiffy SSM in a clean container like a one gallon zip lock bag. Then add 1 cup of hot water to the bag or container. Expel any excess air and zip bag up.

2) Using your hands grip and massage the bag. This step takes 2 minutes max.

You will now have hydrated Jiffy SSM.

Want to do a whole bag? Add 4 cups hand hot water. Wash and dry your hands and one arm up to elbow. Plunge hand and arm into mix and grip and squeeze Jiffy SSM. Be sure to get all of mix fully hydrated. Remove hand and arm and wash.

This step takes 5 minutes max.

You now have Jiffy SSM fully hydrated at the correct hydration. When you add the water to the mix it will seem like it is not enough but after 2-5 minutes of mixing you can squeeze a handful of the mix and just barely get a little water out.

I only use Jiffy SSM. I have had trouble with some of the other seed starting mixes ( Schul.. et al) over the years. I have not tried the other expensive mixes mentioned above. I go cheap. Works great.

I grow plants from seeds under lights most years 50+ flower varieties as well as some bushes and trees etc.

Rick


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RE: Seed starting questions about soil mix and other Qs

My suggestion to you is make you own mix from coco peat or called coir you can by a big block at a hyroponics store for 20$ then some vermiculite which is 20$ with about 5 gallons of compost or one bag of compost added. that alone will give you 2 20 gallon storage totes full of plant starting mix. more than enough for one season then maybe another if you recycle you soil a lot. It may seem like alot more money but per cubic foot of soil its much cheaper than a plant starting mix.

Here is a link that might be useful: TheItalian Garden


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