Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Save some money...make potting soil

Posted by: Paul Gardener
A posse ad esse (From possibility to reality)

Keeping costs down around the garden is one of the ways that we are able to really get our bang for the buck. It's how we put the "frugal" in our simple-green-frugal. Being in the northern hemisphere, I'm just a little while out from the time when I'll start planting a lot of the early season crops like cabbage, spinach, broccoli and the like as well as getting an early start on some of the slow growers like peppers and luffas. That in mind, it's about time for me to whip up this years batch of potting mix.

As I said before, I started gardening using Mel Bartholomews square foot gardening method. Some things I've tossed out and some I've kept in my regimen. One of the biggest holdovers I took from the process was Mel's mix. It's a simple and effective soiless potting mix that I've found to be really good for starting my seeds in.

If you've never made your own potting or starting soil, it's really a pretty basic thing. You're not really looking for a soil for the plants as much as you're looking for something that will allow good moisture retention, easy root growth and some nutritive value.

Of the three basic ingredients, two of them are things that I will only buy once a year and will use throughout the season. Those are peat moss and vermiculite. The reason I only buy these things once a year is because they are not cheap necessarily, and because they will go a long way.
Here you can see the three parts that I add to the soiless potting mix. The top item is the peat moss, it is mainly a conditioning agent that helps the mix to retain water. To the left is vermiculite whos main purpose in the mix is to also hold water. These two ingredients are both very resistent to compaction as well so they will give the mix a good texture and will be very welcoming to the new sprouts roots giving them a good headstart.

The third ingredient is the compost. This is the part of the mix that I make myself. It does well in both the water retention area as well as in allowing root formation, but more important it provides the new sprout with a consistent and slow releasing supply of nutrients.

When I make this mix, I generally get an old 30 gallon plastic tote that I have and add half bucketfuls of each one at a time in even ratios. As I'm adding the ingredients I will occasionally spritz the mix with some water from a spray bottle and mix it together. This helps the mix to combine better and starts to re-hydrate the dry ingredients. After I've added everything I can set it in the shed and bring it out as needed for all my potting or sprouting needs.

Doing this, provides me with plenty of mix for the cost of what a tenth of the quantity might cost if I were to buy it retail. It's just another way that putting a little effort into the things that we want and trying our best to do it ourselves can really add to our bottom line.

All the best to you all till next time!