MIY (Mix It Yourself) My Seed Starting Mix

Starting your veggie seeds indoors? Here’s my recipe for a cheap-and-easy seed starting mix. Three things you should know. Number One. This mix gives the seedlings enough nutrients so you only have to transplant them once - into the garden. No additional fertilizer is needed. This reduces the chance of damaging tender roots. Number Two. The mix is fluffy and won’t form a surface crust. Seedlings can easily break on through to the other side. Number Three. Perlite and Vermiculite deliver a good balance of water drainage and retention.

I’ve used this recipe for a long time (admittedly with tweaks here and there over the years) and have always had good results.

The Mix
8 Cups Sifted Compost
4 Cups Sifted Peat
2 Cups Earthworm Casings
2 Cups Perlite
2 Cups Vermiculite
2 Tablespoons Azomite (provides trace minerals)

Notes.

  1. This mix is based on a recipe first published by Organic Gardening Magazine, though I can’t remember when.
  2. Always buy the highest quality peat you can.
  3. You can make a your own soil sifter out of hardware cloth (just Google), although I bought mine online here.
  4. If you can’t easily find Azomite or earthworm casings try Amazon.
  5. When you’re ready to plant: fill your containrs; pack down lightly; then soak with water. Drain well. You want the mix to be moist, but not soggy. Plant your seeds and cover lightly with dry mix. Spritz. Sit back and wait for the miracle to happen.

Planning Your Garden with a Storyboard

For me, planning my next-year’s small garden is small agony. No sunshine.  No digging.  No planting.  No picking.  But I know I want to produce as much food as possible in the space I have, so planning (however distasteful) must be endured.  The planning end game is all about maximizing both space AND time. Here’s what I mean…

I live five miles from downtown Dallas, Texas.  I have gardened in this area for over 20 years.  In my backyard I have 422 square feet in raised beds.

From early spring to late fall we have three growing seasons:  1) early spring to early summer; 2) dog days of 95 plus degree days when eggs fry on the concrete; and 3) early fall to early winter.  Furthermore, I know that in the Dog Days only a few crops will produce something edible (okra, black-eyed peas, certain peppers, heat tolerant tomatoes, maybe some egg plant if I’m lucky).  So, if I am going to maximize my space and deal with the fierce Texas summer, I’ll need to know what crops to plant where, and when to plant them through the season.    

Simply making a sketch of my beds and jotting down where my plants will go, won’t do. I need to show how things will look as the weeks pass.  I’ve borrowed/stolen a technique from film production called Storyboarding. The idea is simple enough.  Make a series of sketches showing how a story - in this case my garden - progresses over time (the North Texas growing seasons.

Check out the Storyboard for my upcoming 2016 garden and you’ll see what I mean.

 

Here are the highpoints.

A.  Each sketch shows the layout of my beds for each date shown.
B.  Numbers with each crop are ‘Days to Maturity’.  So on January 3, I will plant onion sets.  These will mature in about 110 days. 
C.  Planting dates are based on the “Vegetable Planting Guide for North Texas”  published by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
D.  The ‘Days to Maturity’ numbers for each planted crop are updated with each subsequent garden bed layout.  On March 19th, my onion sets still have 35 days to go.
E.  Green colored ink is used on the day the crop is planted.  I’ll plant beets, spinach, and a small bed of mesclun on February 6.  On April 16, I’ll replace Sugar Snap Peas with Pole Beans, and Beets with dwarf Okra.
F.  Storyboard planning also helps you determine the best time to start your seeds indoors.

Now for the caveats.  As we all know, Mother Nature rarely follows yearly averages calculated by humans and their computers,  or information written on seed packets.   I recommend you do one Storyboard first that goes through one planting only.  Anything longer just leads to frustration.  Once you see how the vagaries of nature are treating you, you can make updates and Storyboard your next planting cycle.  Happy Planning.