redneck647
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Trying to avoid last years problem.

I know I still have over a month yet but before I start planting this year I want to ask about something that happened last year.
I don't use much store bought dirt because I'm cheap. I keep a bag around to use for seed starting before the ground thaws but as soon as I'm able to I start seeds in dirt I bring in from outside.
Last year my big of dirt ran out and with the dirt here still frozen I ran to the store and got a bag of miracle grow potting soil which was the only think they had on hand.
The seeds started in the old dirt sprouted. The seeds started in the new soil mostly didn't sprout. When the ground thawed the last seeds started in dirt from out side sprouted.
The dirt was the only change so I'm assuming the problem was with the miracle grow potting soil. Has anyone else had such a problem and is there anything I can do to start seeds in this stuff? Since I have a whole bag of it still I hate to have to buy a new bag of soil.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

Depends. I used to use Miracle-Gro potting soil for starting seeds all the time, no problem. But then they came out with a newer version called "Moisture Control." That version holds way to much moisture, keeps things too wet. If that is what you were using, the seeds probably rotted out.

But I wouldn't use garden dirt for seed starting, unless you live in a place where your native soil is pretty sandy. Mine is heavy clay and would also be too dense and hold too much moisture.
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applestar
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

You could try adding 1/2 as much to equal parts sand -- "all purpose" should be fine.
Try a small test with a portion rather than mixing them all together.
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redneck647
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

Hmm. I just looked and don't see moister control on it anywhere.
My soil is more on the clay side. But I’ve been getting mine from a pile of dirt outside that’s a little looser. I usually start them in cells kept in water tight trays and I fill the tray with a layer or water. The dirt seems to suck up as much soil as it needs and the seedlings seem to do fine in it.
Its possible it could have been something else last year but it was with 2 types of tomatoes, peppers ans watermelon so I don't think it was the seeds.
How do you usually water the potting soil?

imafan26
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

Potting soil usually drains better than clay soil and as long as it wasn't sopping wet it usually works better than soil. When you got the bag was it kept out in the rain and did it have mold growing in the bag? Sometimes I get that with bagged soil and it can be a problem with seeds that dampen off. I try to avoid buying bags that have been left out in the rain. The potting soil in those bags when it has a lot of mold or fungi growing in it will also smell funky. It is usually ok once it is spread out and allowed to dry but I would only use that on transplants not seedlings.

Usually the regular, not moisture control miracle grow works very well. The bags look almost alike. There is also miracle grow garden soil, also in a bag that looks very similar. Garden soil definitely does not work in pots, it is too heavy and really more like compost to be mixed with your soil. You need to read the labels very carefully. I got garden soil once thinking it was potting soil and nothing grew in it. It needs to be mixed with soil.

For some plants that like it drier like the succulents and gray leafed plants, I will add more perlite to the potting soil to make it drain and dry faster.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

I do bottom watering in trays also. I wouldn't "fill" the trays with water, just add a shallow layer in the bottom, just enough so it touches the bottom of the pots/cells, then the potting mix wicks the water up.

The potting mix on the heat mats dries out a lot faster. Especially when the seeds are waiting to germinate and don't have roots yet, I may add water twice a day. The ones that are not on heat mats, may not even get water every day, just when the previously added water is gone.
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redneck647
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

Sorry for the delay in getting back.
I don't think it was out at all. And didn't see anything growing in it. Also the bag says potting mix and doesn’t say anything about the moisture control so I think its the right stuff.
I try to check the planted seeds/seedlings at least twice a day and ad water to the trays what are empty. I'm not sure how much water I really put in them. Most of my trays are left over trays that came with round pellets for planting. The cells sit on the higher parts so they don't get all the water in them.

imafan26
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

Is the soil kept evenly moist, not soggy. The tops will dry out before the bottom and seeds are fussy, they do not like to be either soggy or dry out.

Try some seeds in a couple of 3 inch pots using the potting mix. Make sure the potting mix is thoroughly moistened but not dripping wet before you fill the pots. Water the pots thoroughly after the seeds are planted to get the air spaces out. You don't want dry spots in the pot. Put the pots inside a mini greenhouse. (a.k.a. large Grape container from Costco. They have holes in the top and sides, or make a humidity tent.) Fast germinating seeds like tomatoes, beans, lettuce should be up in a week. You may not have to water the pots inside the tray since it will dry slower, but check every couple of days to be sure the soil is still moist by feeling it or lifting it up to gauge its' wt. If you have to water, bottom water by putting the pots in a shallow tray with about 1/4-1/2 inch of water for about 15 minutes. Then put it back in the mini greenhouse.

If this works, then it is not the soil but the way you are watering that may be the problem.

I water everyday, but my seeds are started outside on a bench master so air circulates and the mix dries out daily. Indoors on a bench with no air circulation, pots will dry out slower. Bottom watering can be tricky. You need to make sure all the water is soaked up and the trays emptied and how to test when they need to be watered again.

Even outdoors, I prefer to plant seeds in shallow pots and trays rather than individual cells. I have way more problems since the cells seem to stay much too wet for me even though I am using the same mix. I think it is because cells don't have as many drain holes. I plant my seeds in community pots and transplant out to individual containers when they have true leaves. I even do this with the harder to transplant dill and beets. I will lose a few in the process but less than I will if I used individual cells. For plants that don't like too much water like dill and lavender I use tofu containers since they are wide and flat and the plastic is strong. I make holes in them with a soldering iron. I do have to use a mask burning plastic is toxic.
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Rairdog
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

I tried using garden soil mixed with peat last year to save some dough. Had the worst problems with dampening off ever. It's sterile media for me now.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

Oh yeah... I don't put any gardening soil even in regular containers, much less for seed starting. Seed starting needs really light well draining mix that will stay fluffy. Garden soil and peat are both very moisture holding, and garden soil is dense and compacts.

The traditional potting mix formula is something like compost/ peat moss or coconut coir / perlite or rice hulls or sand, crushed granite, etc, in equal parts. You used garden soil instead of compost, which is less nutrient rich and more dense AND you left out the third component which helps keep it loose and fluffy with good air and water circulation.


Imafan swears by a peat-lite mix, 50-50 peat and perlite with no soil equivalent at all.
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imafan26
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

At the garden when they mix their soil mix they do like to throw in a shovel full of soil into the mixer. They use a cement mixer to mix the soil. A shovel full, probably seeds the sterile mix with soil microbes but does not change the qualities of the soil much.

I know some people do still put dirt in their pots. Plants do o.k. for little while but then the soil compacts and water starts draining poorly. When the soil dries it shrinks and then water just passes around the root ball instead of through it.
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redneck647
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

Imafan the seed starting trays I have are those little jiffy greenhouse things. I don't thing my 3” cups will fit in them but I’ll see what I can find.

redneck647
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

Well I guess at least somethings growing. Lol.
I started my cayenne seeds last week. Half my supplies are frozen in a box at the moment so I started them in plastic cells with the miracle grow pottering soil. I have them under a clear plastic dome.
Now 5 days later I have mold growing in on the dirt. Its a brownish/yellow color and has little round bumps on the soil and a film growing up the sticks I'm using to mark them.
Is it something I should be worried about? Did I do something wrong?

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

Too much moisture. That's why I don't use the domes. They aren't necessary and with them it's very easy for it to stay too wet. Sorry, but I think you will have to start over. If you are going to use the dome again, at least prop one side of it open a bit for ventilation and be very careful not to over water.
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redneck647
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

I did have it propped open some. I guess it still didn't work.
I sprinkled some cinnamon on the cells and I'm hoping to save them. I have 5 seeds per cell so I could suffer a 80% lose and still be ok. But without a heat mat it can take up to 3 weeks for them to sprout. Next week I start the cauliflower and will probably start a new batch then to be safe.
But I’ll leave the dome off.

imafan26
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

I have never had luck with those jiffy pot seed starters. They just hold way too much water. You need to be very careful watering those things. I had problems with them on an open bench without the bottom tray or the top. The pots stayed too wet even though they are outdoors and the media was soggy and got molding and sometimes an off white webbing on the top. The top of the pots grew algae and they smelled bad. Seeds either dampened off or rotted soon after and the seedling were often a sickly yellow.
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redneck647
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

This wasn't the Jiffy pots. I think the dome originally covered a cake. It was open some around the bottom so some air could get in and move around and I had them by the space heater to help with the temp. Seeds are planted in soil in plastic cells.
I've used their pots before and was able to get them to work surprisingly. I just can't remember the details.

redneck647
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Re: Trying to avoid last years problem.

Well might have found the problem. The cauliflower plants I started in more of the miracle grow soil have the same mold growing in the cells. These ones didn't use a dome and are in another room. The extra cayennes I started are in older soil that was left in trays from last year. They have no mold so far.
I'm guessing the molds in the soil and starts growing when it gets wet?
Also one of the first match of cayenne peppers sprouted in the mold but the seed leaves were yellow and shriveled. The stem looked fine but now its starting the bend and I expect it to soon die.

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