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Choosing Soil For Starting Seeds



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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

While attending the Utah Green conference in St. George this past week I heard a Presentation on soil amendments. Starting with the right soil is critical and it is especially important if you are growing plants in containers.

One specialized type of soil propagation is starting plants from seeds, There is something miraculous about seeing tiny seeds change to wonderful plants. You can save money by starting some kinds of flowers yourself and you can start some varieties you may have a hard time finding. Part of indoor gardening is the fun of seeing them develop.

Always start plants in the right kind of medium. Many times seeds never grow because you plant them in the wrong material.

Taking soil from your garden is a definite no no. Garden soil is fine for growing plants outside but put it in a pot and it turns into a brick. It will not drain and the seeds cannot break through to emerge. Garden soil also has pest problems. It harbors diseases, insects and weed seeds.

Most garden soil in Utah has high silt or clay content. These components hold the water very well and do not let the oxygen to the root system of the plant. Without oxygen, plant roots never grow and the plants never thrive.

Learn to distinguish between soil amendments, mulches and artificial soils. When you are starting seeds, you need to select an artificial soil or a potting soil. Do not attempt to start seeds in most mulches or amendments because that is not what they are designed for and the seeds will not grow well.

Look for an artificial soil that will not crust or that does not have pests. While you can make your own products from compost and other materials, it is usually not worth it for the small amount of product that most of us use.

Most artificial soils are a mixture of peat moss, perlite and vermiculite. These components are free of pests because they are naturally sterile. They do not stick together and are well aerated so the soil drains freely.

Look for potting soils that commercial growers use. Many low-cost bagged mixes are mostly bark and do not allow the seeds to germinate and grow normally.

Besides the right growing medium, starting transplants requires the right kind of seed. Some seeds are difficult to germinate. Fibrous begonias have more than one million seeds per ounce. They are so small sowing the seed is difficult. Cover them with any soil, and they may not germinate. Other seeds are very slow to germinate or may need specialized conditions.

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