2017 Potting Soil Challenge
The 2017 Garden Season is in full swing at the Small Scale Life Headquarters! I broke out seed trays and containers, seeds, potting soil and trusty GoPro and got down to business. As I had mentioned in the How to Garden Indoors post, I wanted to test different soils this year. I purchased three potting soil mixes for this test: Master Gardener, Pro-Mix and Burpee Coir.
Master Gardener and Pro-Mix Potting Soils
I wanted to test two commercially available peat moss-based potting soils this year. The two soils I selected were the Master Gardener Premium Potting Mix and the Pro-Mix Organic Mix. Both soils were available at Menards, which is close to my house. I grabbed to seed flats and loaded them up with the soils.
One of my biggest pet peeves with commercially available peat moss-based soil mixes and compost is the garbage mixed in the soil. I have found rocks, sticks, pieces of plastic, toys and mats of peat moss in the soil. Not wanting a bunch of debris in my seed trays, I always remove this material, particularly when finding this junk in my potting mix. For this test, the Pro-Mix had less debris in the potting mix. Advantage: Pro-Mix.
I would also caution gardeners about the cheap bags of “compost” offered at some big box stores. I have seen these bags loaded with clay, which becomes clumps when wet and rock hard clumps when it dries. Nothing is worse! Spend a couple extra dollars for better soil!
As a sneak peak of the Week 2 Indoor Garden Update, both mixes are doing about the same in terms of seedling growth. I have had good germinations from the red peppers and tomatoes and marginal germination from lettuce in both flats (they are about tied). Neither flat is generating many green peppers and jalapeno peppers. Go figure! Peppers! GRRR!
The jury is out on which of these two mixes is better, but on debris alone, Pro-Mix is the leader.
As I discussed in the How to Garden Indoors post, this is the first year I have ever used Coir Potting Mix. Coir is Natural Coconut Fiber that is made from ripe coconuts. It is actually the fibrous material between the hard, internal shell and the outer shell of the coconut. I purchased a block of Burpee Coir this year, and I wanted to test it out compared to the more traditional peat moss-based potting mix.
To use Coir, you place the unwrapped brick into a bucket and simply add two quarts of water. The Coir material soaks in the water and expands to two gallons of useable potting mix. Compared to the other two soils, Coir was uniform material without any sticks, rocks, plastic or matted peat moss. I really liked using this material, and I will be using this material when I teach basic gardening at two elementary schools this month. I won’t have to lug in a tote full of potting mix!
As seen in the video below, I had some excellent results with the Coir potting mix. I had greens germinating and popping through the soil in three days! That was a record for me. Of course, it isn’t quite a fair test since this Coir flat has greens and herbs, not tomatoes and stubborn peppers. Still, I am impressed!
What’s Your Potting Soil?
So far so good in the indoor garden, and I am really impressed with Coir! I am curious: what are you using for potting soil? How is it working out for you? Did you experience any damping off disease with your seedlings? I would love to hear your stories and experiences!