The Helpful Gardener
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Hey I understand RBG's reluctance, and given AS's poor start with the commercial mix it is not entirely unfounded. It's working for now, and if it ain't broke...

I just wonder how long before eventually it might break; a lack of good mycorrhizae means a crop of seedlings doesn't establish well and gets hit with something, or some fungus gnat or fungus develops the resistant gene... these are the usual ends to prophylactic treatments, which is why I'm not a fan...

It could be we are all way off base and RBG has the ultimate cure, with no real downside. But lacking sufficient scientific testing (I'd say comparative slide counts for flagellates, cilliates, amoeba, and fungal spores ought to do), I would err to the side of natural soil, despite the noted lack of natural surroundings...

And nematodes would allow for all of the above; natural soil with fungi and flagellates and everything... and no gnats...

HG
Last edited by The Helpful Gardener on Tue Mar 16, 2010 10:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Scott Reil

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I tried one year making my own potting mix from garden soil, compost, peat moss, perlite, etc. The first time I tried, I didn't sterilize the dirt and compost. As soon as it warmed up (I start seeds early, so what I brought in from outside was kind of frozen), all kinds of creepy crawlies came pouring out of it. They are fine in my compost pile; NOT in my house. AppleStar is much more highly evolved about this; I am not there yet. I freaked and threw everything back in the compost pile (at least I didn't kill anything!)

After that I sterilized soil/compost by baking it in the oven, but that is not energy efficient and is very stinky. I was spending more buying all the ingredients separately than it costs to buy the potting soil in bulk and it was stinky and messy and I gave up on it. No more compost in the house!

Sorry, but I'm happy with what I'm doing, it works for me. Once everyone catches up to me with how "pure" my whole outdoor garden is (by everyone, I mean the general public; I know AS and some others are ahead of me) we can talk about the fact that my seed starting operation is not run just the way permaculturists would like to see it.
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The Helpful Gardener
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Don't be sorry, RBG. There are a million others out there who wouldn't be good with the creepy crawlies...

The other day, DW finds a millipede on the bedroom floor, tracks it back to her fern I whacked back and repotted last year with lots of compost. She finds a hatch out in the surface soil and freaks, then wants to know why I am beaming about this. I tell her higher level predators are a sign of a healthy ecosystem and all is well in her ferns soil...

Let's just say she was not as happy as I was about that fact... :roll:

But she is learning to live with it just like she is learning to live with me... :lol:

HG
Scott Reil

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I'm not quite ready for the bugs in the house, I already have enough. :lol: Though as you say HG the higher predators would even out the mix. I should have grabbed the fast moving millipede I saw the other weekend.

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I don't keep millipedes in the house! I simply can't support them without constant feeding, given the space I have.

My diversity is not great inside, and my most significant predator is the worm. But I appreciate my soil mites, tiny gnats, nematodes, and others.
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I appreciate all that stuff outdoors, not IN. But my seedlings are doing just fine without them. Posted some pics here:

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=12209&start=90

and here:

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=21904&start=90
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Well I don't think anyone said your seedlings can't do fine that way.

Gotta say though, that likewise, I observed an improvement. Different settings for sure.

But I'm curious to know if you might not be persuaded to say it's probably better to have appropriate biodiversity in general (inside or out) and that it's a hedge against mistakes and invasion.

What say ye?
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emerald7
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Update on gnat/mold situation

I've been working on eradicating the too-wet soil, mold, mushrooms, and fungus gnat problems in my indoor garden for a couple of weeks now.

First I got rid of the seedling peat pots I had.... those had a combination of mold, mushrooms, and possibly gnat eggs in there.

Then I dried out the soil in all the plants. How my original overwatering issue got started was because I didn't realize that the soil in the root ball of the plants was very different from the soil I put the plants in (the soil mixture I used had better drainage than the soil in the root ball), meaning that even if the surrounding soil was dry, the root ball was still wet in a lot of cases. So... lesson learned on that point.

As I dried them out, I noticed that a few small mushrooms that had sprung up just died off by themselves.

Most of the plants were doing OK in terms of drying out properly, but I had to throw out one plastic planter that just wouldn't dry out, and had mold growing on the dirt (it looked like the plants were dying anyway). I think that got rid of a major place for the gnats to nest. The rest of the plants are in terra cotta pots... and I think I'm going to stick with terra cotta, since it creates much less of a retained-wetness problem.

After I got rid of the plastic planter, I haven't had any more mold problems or mushroom problems, and there hasn't been any visible fungus. Which is good.

I've been carefully monitoring the moisture condition of the root balls of the plants before I water now.

As for the gnats:
I did a soap flush (2 c. water, 1/2 tsp. neem oil, 1/2 tsp. Dr. Bronner's organic castile soap with tea tree oil in it) on all the plants. That seemed to dry things out further.

After that I watered all the plants with the cinnamon/chamomile tea mixture once.

During this time I've been putting fresh floral-scented soapy water traps for the gnats out about every other day. Right now I'm only catching 1 or 2 gnats in 2 days...which is good because it means there aren't many to catch. There are still a few flying around, but it's much reduced.

Also, I got some new light bulbs (10 x 30 watts of 5500K light) and new lamps for them where I can adjust the bulbs to be close to the plants, and the plants have really responded to the new light... they seem to all be improving. There's only one plant left right now that I am not sure if it will live or not... the rest of them are all showing marked improvement.
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emerald7
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New soil

rainbowgardener wrote: I have no idea if I still "need" the chamomile/ cinnamon, i.e would the fungus gnats show up now if I quit using it. But I'm about to start on my 3rd 55 qt bag of potting soil. That's not a good time to test it out. The soil is packed moist in the bag and for all I know comes with fungus gnat eggs in it.
Rainbow gardener has a point...
I will probably continue the cinnamon chamomile until I've been totally gnat-free for a couple of months. But even if I switch to plain water at one point, any time that I add new soil would probably be a good time to do the cinnamon/chamomile for a while, to try to pre-empt problems with that. Or maybe a soap flush. What do you think the procedure should be when new soil is added? (Because yes, there is probably some kind of bug eggs in the soil that can't be avoided)
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