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rainbowgardener
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Re: new sustainable potting mix

I haven't given it protection. If I would get it together to do that, it would probably over winter every winter. As it is, it's a little borderline. Some winters it makes it and some it doesn't. Spinach is even tougher and usually makes it.

We do always have hard freezes and snow pack in the winter. They withstand it a lot better starting from seed in the ground in early fall. They are automatically adapted/ hardened and have plenty of time to gradually get themselves ready. Trying to bring plants that have been started and growing indoors out in the spring is a lot more difficult. It takes a lot of hardening before they get frost tolerant.

I didn't plant anything but garlic last fall, which is probably just as well. This didn't turn out to be a winter that much would have survived. The garlic did great and is growing again. If I had planted them and they had survived, I would be eating broccoli and spinach from the garden now, which is wonderful!

I looked back at my 2012 seed starting thread and found this:


"Fall planted broccoli and spinach continue to thrive and be amazingly productive in the new front lawn bed and the garlic there is looking very large and healthy. "

dated 3/29/12 https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 9&start=30

At that point, I had been eating broccoli and spinach from the garden at least a couple weeks already. I didn't make a note (or if I did, it is in some other thread and I'm not going to keep looking) about when I started harvesting it.
Last edited by rainbowgardener on Fri Mar 21, 2014 4:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: new sustainable potting mix

Incidentally, I am really liking my sustainable potting mix. I planted the first things grown in it in the garden today (broccoli & spinach). It is really nice textured - very loose and just falls apart. The stuff in Miracle Gro seems to get root bound easier, while the stuff in my soil keeps its roots inside the rootball and not circling. And it is better drained. I had some comparison ones that MG and my mix pots were in the same tray. The MG ones came out kind of soggy and my mix was perfect, damp but not wet.

I got my next batch of rice hulls from Midwest supplies. I ordered three pounds, which cost $12 including shipping. That brings my cost down to $4 a pound. Considering how far a pound goes, I don't feel bad about that.

So ... I was prepared to keep using my mix even if it didn't work as well, just for the eco-friendliness of it. In fact, I turn out to like it better, so a double win. Triple win if you consider that now that I have gotten the price of rice hulls down, it is actually also cheaper than MG.
Last edited by rainbowgardener on Fri Mar 21, 2014 7:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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skiingjeff
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Re: new sustainable potting mix

Thanks for the info on the broccoli RGB :)

Glad your mix is proving to be not just eco-friendly but better for you! Our soil in the garden is still too cold and extremely wet yet. Can't wait to get my plants in the ground though.

Happy Gardening! :)

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rainbowgardener
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Re: new sustainable potting mix

this is a PS. I looked back at this and realized I probably should have specified a little more. When I said I gave the broccoli no protection, I meant I didn't put any plastic over it, no hot caps, hoop house etc. I did mulch it well with fall leaves. Once it is dormant, it doesn't need sunlight, so I basically buried the little plants in leaves.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: new sustainable potting mix

Here's another PS re the fall planted spinach and broccoli. I was looking something else up and bumped in to this:

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... p?p=251976

dated April 15, 2012

it says:

"I have always spring planted spinach. It does ok, but doesn't last very long. By the time it is a decent size for eating, the weather warms up and it bolts. Last fall I planted some in October, too late to get a fall crop. But it overwintered and just took off in early spring. It has thrived more than I have ever seen. I have been eating spinach from the garden since mid-Feb. We've eaten all we could, I froze about a quart of it, and there is still a ton of it out there. It's now about to bolt, so won't last much longer, but it has been great."

As it turned out the fall planted spinach didn't bolt much earlier than the spring planted spinach, all of it bolts when the weather warms up. That means you get months more production out of the fall planted stuff.

2012 was a year when we had a very early warm up in spring, not like this year. So you wouldn't get exactly the same results every time. But still I think this is the best way to plant spinach and broccoli too, if you can protect the broccoli, which is not quite as tough as the spinach at getting through hard winter.
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skiingjeff
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Re: new sustainable potting mix

Thanks for the info on the fall planting and links! :)

I was offline for a few days with a friend who's Dad passed. Now I need to catch up on my seedlings and stuff.

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Re: new sustainable potting mix

I've been using used coffee grounds and soaked alfalfa pellets to jazz up the nitrogen level in my home made potting soil a bit. But I ran out of the alfalfa pellets. Until I get more, I've been using soaked dry cat food instead. :) It is 32% protein (which is always high N) and has soybean meal and corn gluten meal in it, so I figured it would do. So far, so good.

It's that time of year, peak of indoor seed starting, when I am going through potting soil as fast as I can make it. I have about used up my third 40 pound bag of mushroom compost. I used up 5 # of coconut coir and ordered more, which I have started on. I have used 4 # of rice hulls and started on the next bag. I used all the little pots I had on hand (which was I don't know how many hundreds) and ordered 100 more and have about used them up, as well as all the ones from stuff I planted, that I immediately re-use.

When I start on the seed starting in Jan, it is always really exciting and I'm so glad to be working with plants again when it is all snowy out. This time of year, I want to be out and I get tired of the seed starting operation, which is a lot of work when it is this big. But the church plant sale is early this year (4/27), so a whole ton of stuff will be sold off in a month...
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applestar
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Re: new sustainable potting mix

That sounds great! It always amazes me how much you grow in economy of space. And the soil mix sounds like it's really working out.

Cat food "tea" was inspired :D Are you seeing any difference between alfalfa? I'm thinking cat food must be higher in N but alfalfa has natural growth factor and other nutrients, too.

Which is less expensive when all nutrients are considered -- Cheap cat food or alfalfa pellets? What about smell?
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applestar
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Re: new sustainable potting mix

Hey Rainbowgardener. So now that you've had the chance to work with your mixture a bit, can you post the (tentatively) final recipe of ingredient ratios for seed starting, and maybe how you would tweak it for flowering/fruiting plants ...say... container tomatoes and peppers? What about foliage plants like lettuce or spinach?
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rainbowgardener
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Re: new sustainable potting mix

Woah, applestar, you are so much more sophisticated than I am. I really don't know about tweaking it for different kinds of plants. I've always done pretty much one size fits all potting soil for everything from seeds to container trees. I'm sure that isn't what's recommended, but I'm the no-fuss gardener.

And my potting soil is kind of like your cooking. Hard to give a real recipe because I'm mixing it by hand, eyeballing quantities, in buckets, from whatever is on hand. I'm sure it's never exactly the same twice. So I can't do much better than I already have.

Basically it comes out something like 2 parts mushroom compost, 2 parts soaked and fluffed coconut coir, 1 part rice hulls, 1 part or less of some kind of nitrogen additive (coffee grounds, alfalfa meal, soaked dry cat food).

I have to say that it works fine for the little seedlings. By the time we are talking about big plants, (the foot high transplants) it still doesn't quite have the grow power of MG. I was a little disappointed that the plants I brought for the plant sale were just a bit punier than what I used to bring. Looked fine, no deficiencies, but not that really big leafy look - I think probably a little bit smaller and fewer leaves. I guess that just means that for the future, I still have to work harder on the N additives, especially for the bigger plants. I think fish emulsion would help, but I can't use it with all the indoor and outdoor critters around. Maybe I should break down and buy a bag of well aged composted manure? Would that be too nasty to have in the house? As it was I had a few complaints from Jamie about the smells of alfalfa, cat food, compost tea. My seed starting operation is in an L in the finished basement. Just around the corner, with no doors, is the lounge/ TV room/ music studio.

And I have to admit that I did break down and buy one more bag of MG grow for the repotting project, repotting all the indoor house plants for when they come outdoors. That was some combination of being a little bit worried about big plants & trees that live in their pots permanently and just the lazy factor of having to keep all the ingredients on hand and soaked and mixed. I did use up three 40 pound bags of mushroom compost in the course of the seed starting operation! It is more work, buying mushroom compost one place, coconut coir somewhere else, ordering rice hulls on line, trying to make sure I have enough of all the ingredients on hand at the same time. That is why I broke down on the house plant project. I needed a whole bunch more potting soil and it had to be NOW and it was just easier to go to the big box and buy it all ready made.

But maybe next year I will do better and be more prepared for the repotting...Anyway, there were a whole bunch of bags of MG I didn't use! :)

So it is an experiment in progress, and as gardeners always say "next year will be better." But I felt proud of my eco-friendly potting soil and to avoid contributing to all the environmental problems, I'm willing to work at it.
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Re: new sustainable potting mix

Thanks rainbowgardener. :D
That kind of rough idea was what I was looking for, I don't know how people come up with 1 Tbs of this and 3 cups of that. :lol: I agree this is a great idea and I'm really inspired. :()

I have to uppot/repot all my overwintered indoor container plants and trees as they go out for the summer.

I was thinking of basing the mix on yours -- I have coir and rice hulls -- I would have to get some mushroom compost.

...so if it's OK, I'll list up what I've been thinking of adding... 8)

One part really good organic potting mix with mycos and feather meal, etc. mixing it up at least a few days ahead and giving them a chance to meld. I was thinking about your cat kibble idea. I feed our cats natural food plus supplements so I would have to make a special trip but they are out of cost litter so I need to go to the pets hop anyway. And when you think about it. The lesser cost foods are already made with poultry by-products which I've heard IS feather meal, among other things. Some contain soybean meal and corn gluten (oh wait would that be a problem for germinating seeds? -- well you wouldn't add extra N in the starter mix anyway) Cat food is protein dense which means nitrogen.

For basic nutrient addition, I'm thinking of using soaked alfalfa and bran. I would like to add greensand which I'm out of at the moment, but will probably get. I want to get poultry grit for calcium and lime as well as drainage. Pt his will add to the weight, but uckily my biggest trees tend to prefer acid soil. I want to mix in unsulfured molasses into the moistening water.

I'm also wanting to add equal part as rice hulls of sand just because I've always added sand to my mixes, but that would add to the weight so it may depend on size of container, type of plant, etc. For trees and large containers, I'm thinking 1/2 of the coir could be either coir chip mulch which also come in bricks, or composted small chip mulch if I can find any. Last time I tried, the woman at the cash register assured me they were small chips and what I found after picking them up behind the building and taking them home to open were 2-3" nuggets. (Next time, I'll verify at the pickup point).

I might also blend in BumperCrop as part of the "compost" ingredient. ...I'm completely out of my own compost since I have so much cucurbits this year that I had to ground prep for in addition to the tomatoes which get two towels of compost in the planting hole.

...but that's not even happening yet. First I have to somehow come up with enough soil mix for 24 three gallon and 10 five gallon containers to plant overflow micro and dwarf tomatoes.... On second thought, I'll probably use up the rice hulls I have on those.
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