Most people know that plants grow when the conditions are favorable. You may have weeds all over the place. However, when it comes to sowing seeds, you need the right tools.
Your seeds need the optimum growing mediums to germinate and grow. Finding the best seed starting mix is ideal here. We take a look at some of the top products and help you choose the right one based on your needs.
Of course, we also answer some common questions. That way, you are prepared to germinate seeds successfully each year.
Table of Contents
What Is Seed Starting Mix?
The seed starting mix is sometimes called seed starting soil. The terms are used interchangeably, and they mean the same thing. However, the word ‘soil’ is misleading because it’s not the same as potting soil.
Seed starting mix doesn’t have a lot of nutrients. In fact, it’s as low as it possibly can be. Generally, it is designed for a specific type of plant and has controlled nutrients intended for them.
Usually, it contains no soil at all and is only there to help the seed germinate. It’s typically lighter and finer than soil, so the tiny seeds can grow into seedlings more easily.
While seeds do need plenty of water, they can rot if they stay wet for too long. Therefore, the seed starting mix holds onto the water, but it doesn’t stay soggy. This is the ideal environment for your seeds.
Seedlings don’t need soil because they get their nutrients from the seed itself for the first few weeks. Compost is often included in the starting mix, which feeds the seeds while they grow.
Soil also contains fungi and can develop mold, neither of which your seed needs. When you choose a mix without soil, you reduce the risk of rot or bacterial infections.
Seed Starting Mix vs. Potting Soil
Beginner gardeners don’t often understand the differences between potting soil, garden soil, and seed starting mixes. However, there are distinctions between them.
This can kill or breathe new life into your plants, so you should be aware of all three options and how to use them correctly.
Gardening soil usually has topsoil, which is mixed with fertilizer, compost, and other things. It’s designed to be used in garden beds only. Some mixes also feature microbes, which can help your plants grow better.
Generally, it’s the base soil for the garden. Each region features a different type of base soil with various minerals, clay, sand, and silt.
You shouldn’t use gardening soil to start your seeds. They need a special mix that can give them the right nutrients without killing them. Garden soil is often heavy and compacts down too much for the seed to sprout.
This essentially smothers the seed’s roots. You’ve also got larger chunks, which makes it hard for the seed to break the surface.
Potting soil is designed for plants that grow in containers and pots. It is lighter than traditional gardening soil because it contains perlite and other substances. Still, there are going to be organic matter chunks, such as bark fines.
They are beneficial for regular plants, but not good for the smaller seed cells. Often, seeds find it hard to get through to the surface, dying before they reach the air.
However, some potting mixes can also be used as a seeding starting mix. It often tells you that on the package label.
Seed Starting Mix
As the name suggests, the seed starting mix is designed to start the seeds off so that they grow. It’s incredibly light and fine-grained. This promotes root growth and doesn’t compact around the seed in the container.
Though you can make your own, it can still be costly for the ingredients. Plus, it is messy, and you might not get the right ratio of ingredients. Instead, it is best to use a commercially made seed starting mix because it has everything you need.
The Best Seed Starting Mixes For Vegetables & Garden Plants
We are going to discuss eight different seed starting mixes that work well for plants and vegetables. See a list of them below in the table.
|Pictures||Seed Starting Mixes||Sizes||Links|
|Miracle-Gro Seed Starting Potting Mix||8 qt|
|Espoma ESPSS16 Improved Moisture Retention Organic Seed Starter||8 qt, 16 qt|
|Black Gold 1311002 Seedling Mix||16 qt|
|Burpee Organic Coir Compressed Seed Starting Mix||8 qt|
|Jiffy Natural & Organic Starter Mix||10 qt|
|Purple Cow Organics Seed Starter Mix||12 qt|
|Gardener’s Supply Company Seed Starting Mix||9 qt|
|Coast of Maine Organic Seed Starter||16 qt|
Seed Starting Mix Reviewed
1. Miracle-Gro Seed Starting Potting Mix
If you’re looking for an excellent product to start your seeds off right, Miracle-Gro is always a top choice. The brand is very well known, so you can expect it to help your seeds grow big and strong.
This product is formulated specifically to help the roots grow and develop quickly. It’s also enriched with plant food designed by Miracle-Gro.
You should use this product when you’re putting the seeds in small containers. It works best for this situation. Plus, it can be used to start your cuttings.
Consider using this product for root cuttings, stem cuttings, and leaf cuttings, as well. This seed starting mix is ready to use out of the bag. That means you just pour it into the containers, put the seeds in, and water it.
When you have a lot of seeds to grow, you may choose to buy the two-pack version of the product. One bag of the Miracle-Gro brand can grow up to 32 seeds.
2. Espoma ESPSS16 Improved Moisture Retention Organic Seed Starter
Everyone seems to want to go organic, and Espoma offers a seed starting mix to help you. Start your seeds off right so that they grow in a natural environment without any chemicals.
This product is designed for all cuttings and seedlings. You get an all-natural product that is enhanced with myco-tone. This is the Espoma’s proprietary mycorrhizae blend.
Myco-tone can improve growth and help with transplant survival rates. You are also going to get bigger roots from the plants, which promotes more water intake. Plus, this blend can help boost tolerance of environmental stresses that your plants may face at times.
You can purchase this product singularly, as a two-pack, three-pack, or four-pack. It’s also available as a 16-quart or 8-quart version.
The bags come sealed, and you must rip off the tops. It isn’t designed to be stored in the bag. You may save it for a short period of time in a separate container with a tightly sealed lid.
3. Black Gold 1311002 Seedling Mix
The Black Gold brand is well-known and offers a seedling mix, as well. It is a full 16 quarts, but it also comes in a two-pack or four-pack. Therefore, if you’ve got many seeds to grow, you can buy in bulk.
This mixture contains Canadian Peat Moss, as well as other ingredients. That allows the seeds to have appropriate moisture and aeration for strong root development.
You are going to find that this product is organic and listed by the review institute. It’s also made in America. Of course, it is suitable for root growth and can help germinated seedlings grow quickly.
The other ingredients include dolomite lime, perlite, and a wetting agent, which is organic. You can use this product to germinate seeds in plug trays, pots, or flats. Most people choose flats or trays because it is easier, but you can utilize the option that meets your needs and is readily available where you live.
4. Burpee Organic Coir Compressed Seed Starting Mix
Do you want to try something a little different? If so, then the seed starting mix from Burpee might be ideal. It’s organic, but it is also compressed into a brick shape.
This mixture is fully biodegradable. Plus, it is made using coconut coir. You are going to find that this renewable resource is produced primarily by recycling the coconut husks once they are harvested.
Of course, you can use it as a growing medium for almost any plant out there. You get one brick.
Put it in a container and water it. The compressed brick is going to expand in mere minutes to 8 quarts of seed starting mix.
Since it is listed as organic, it is on the OMRI list, as well. Therefore, you can be sure that it is safe for organic gardening.
You are going to get your hands dirty because, as the brick expands, you need to break it up. Gloves might be suitable for this step.
5. Jiffy Natural & Organic Starter Mix
Jiffy has come out with an organic and natural seed starting mix. It’s designed to be of greenhouse quality and is completely organic.
Like many other starter mixes, this one contains lime, vermiculite, and peat moss. The peat moss holds about 20 times its weight with water. It can also ensure proper aeration and retains nutrients for the plants.
Vermiculite is there to prevent the soil from compacting. It soaks up about three times its volume with water. Therefore, if there’s too much liquid, this can wick some of it away from the seed so that it doesn’t rot.
Lime is also included, which helps with the pH balance for your soil. Wood bits are also there, which can help reduce soil compaction, as well.
It comes in a 10-quart bag, which is enough to start 32 seeds. You are also going to find that the bag is resealable. Therefore, you can close it up and use it again on a different day.
6. Purple Cow Organics Seed Starter Mix
Purple Cow is not a well-known brand. However, its seed starter mix is fully organic, and OMRI listed. The mixture contains activated compost, mineral complexes, and granular fertilizer, which is also natural.
That way, your seeds get off to the best start possible. This product is designed to be used in small containers, blocks, or trays and should only be used to start the seeds.
There is wicking action involved here, which keeps the roots moist without waterlogging them. The mixture doesn’t get compacted, which means there is enough drainage. Also, this allows the seeds to grow roots and pop up from the surface.
The ingredients include Sphagnum peat moss, Purple Cow compost, Vermiculite, Perlite, fertilizer (OMRI listed), and sea/rock minerals. You are going to see many benefits from this product.
Of course, the seedlings are going to be sturdier for transplanting. Plus, the plants are going to be upright, so they are healthier.
7. Gardener’s Supply Company Seed Starting Mix
The brand Gardener’s Supply Company isn’t well known, but it does have a seed starting mix you might like. It features MycoActive and SuperRoot Booster technology. This creates a living mixture of soil so that the seeds and thrive and plants survive.
It contains mycorrhizae, which are incredible microbes. They form partnerships with the root system to support resilient and vigorous plant growth.
The SuperRoot Booster is designed to provide more nutrients and boost water uptake. The plants are going to be more resistant to stress and tolerate drought better, as well.
This product is a blend of finely-textured ingredients. You can use it in regular seed starting trays. However, it can also be poured into self-watering trays.
Therefore, you can do less work and still have seeds that sprout and become beautiful, healthy plants. Plus, it offers balance for draining and wicking moisture away from the plants, as well.
8. Coast of Maine Organic Seed Starter
The Coast of Maine brand is organic, and it’s designed for starting seeds. You can use it for rooting plant cuttings and seed germination.
This product is ready to use. Plus, you can utilize it in flats, trays, and cell packs. Therefore, it’s possible to use it with whatever you already have around the house or whatever is least expensive in your region.
With worm castings included, you are going to get more aeration and natural moisture retention. The nutrients included here are mycorrhizae, fully cured compost, and kelp.
The company recommends that you use 72-count cell packs or bigger. There are 16 quarts (dry) of the product, so that is plenty. However, you can buy extra if you are worried that it might not be enough.
Called the Sprout Island Blend, it’s ready-to-use and organic. The kelp and worm castings are there to create a slight fertilizer charge. It’s also the best biological environment for your sprouts.
How to Use Seed Starting Mix?
The way you use seed starting mix is always the same. However, you may have to do something to the product first. For example, the brick variety requires enough water to turn the brick into the mixture.
You should follow the directions for using the mixture, which is on the back of the package. However, most of them are similar in structure.
Usually, you wet the mixture using warm or lukewarm water first. It should be moist, but it should not be sopping wet. There shouldn’t be any dry areas, but you don’t want it to look like mud.
Make sure that you’ve got the appropriate planting containers, such as trays or flats. Fill them each up, leaving the last ¼ inch free. Once they’re all filled, tap the whole flat gently to settle everything.
Read the directions on your seed packets to plant them in the starting mix. Water the seeds very lightly. Don’t saturate the full volume of the starting mix.
Recheck the seed packet directions for proper temperature conditions and lighting needs. Then, move the trays to the right location.
When they have germinated, you’re going to leave them in the starting mix and tray, giving them up to 14 hours of sunlight every day. You don’t want leggy growth, so you should keep them near to the light source as much as possible.
Once the seedlings are big enough, you can transplant them to containers or into the garden. Then, you are going to require regular potting soil.
Can You Reuse Seed Starting Mix?
No, it is not ideal to reuse your seed starting mix. This shocks a lot of gardeners.
You’ve used it for the full season and had excellent results. Why, then, shouldn’t you use it again and again?
For one, there could have been changes to the soil since it was first use. Now, it might be less suitable for your plants. Seed starting mix collects a lot of matter, such as leaves, roots, and more.
Plus, the plants are going to remove all of the nutrients from it. There may also be nematodes and insects that live in the mixture. Viruses and bacteria can even thrive here.
Keep in mind that some insects are good for the starting mix and plants. However, many of them are going to deplete the nutrients before the plant does. These pests might also eat the plant as it is trying to grow and thrive, which means you have done all that work for nothing.
Sometimes, parts of the root system are left behind. Though you take the ball of the roots, there could be stragglers. This is unhealthy for new seeds and can confuse them into not sprouting at all.
All of these issues could cause significant problems for you during the next growing season. While you can treat the seed starting mixture first, it’s often easier to dump that out and get new stuff.
When it comes to choosing the best seed starting mix, you had eight choices available. Though they all work well, we did find a clear winner.
The Miracle-Gro brand is so popular for a reason. It’s starting mix is designed for quick root development. Plus, it contains appropriate plant food that is going to help the plants later. Just make sure you’re wetting the mixture before adding the seeds for best results!
Those who want something a little more interesting might like the Burpee brand with its compressed mixture. Just add water, fluff up the mix, and follow the directions for using it!