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Seed Starting Mediums That Work

Updated on March 30, 2012

The two most important components to starting seeds is having premium quality seed and having a good quality seed starting medium. Putting good seeds in a bad medium will lead to poor germination and stunted growth. There are three main types of seed starting medium. One is used for replanting into soil, while the other two are used in hydroponic situations.

Regular soil from the garden is not a good medium for seed starting because it may contain pest eggs, bacteria and disease. Because seedlings are easily destroyed by these things it is best to start with a sterile medium.

The first type of seed starting medium is the soilless medium. This can be found at the local indoor gardening shop or hardware store. These mediums will be of varying quality at different price points. They can sometimes be full of sticks, or contain too much peat. If seedlings will be going into a hydroponics system then sand, perlite or rockwool is a better solution. Making a soilless mixture is not labor intensive or hard, and is the best way to get just the right medium for seedlings that will be planted. A basic soilless medium contains only three ingredients in equal parts. They are vermiculite, perlite and peat, or peat substitute. Instead of mining and destroying marshland for peat, coir is made from coconut husks and is an earth friendly substitute. The only downside is that it is hard to find in some areas. The perlite is used for good drainage, while the vermiculite absorbs water, helping the mixture to not dry out between watering.

For seedlings that are going to be transplanted into a hydroponic situation, sand is one alternative. It works well with seedlings that have a finer root system. Seeds started in sand will also transplant more readily. Sand tends to have just the right amount of water absorption while also letting excess water to drain off. It also allows seedlings to absorb nutrition easily.

Another medium option, and perhaps the more popular option in hydroponic systems is to use rockwool for seed starting. Rockwool will come in a slab that easily breaks off into cubes, in order to start seeds individually. Readily available in garden centers and online, it is made out of a light weight basalt that is porous. A divot is drilled into the top so the seed can be set inside. One good thing about this medium is that is the seed does not germinate, it can easily be taken and a new one can be put in.

Starting seeds doesn’t have to be a chore, nor does it need to be a lot of hard work. Using any of the above mediums will help seedlings get a good start on life. It is just important to remember that, when using a hydroponics system, it is important to use clean mediums like sand and rockwool. A soilless mixture using peat or coconut husks may end up dirtying the water and clogging up the system.


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