Re: [CH] The good news and the bad news

Console IIcx (
Wed, 15 Apr 1998 22:31:03 +2709

MidNite RamBler wrote:
> Anyone can explain the difference between potting soil , garden soil,
> soilless mix and whatever else there might be?
> My first batch of seedlings is now resting in peace and I am now trying
> to get lucky with the second batch. If there was a way I could only
> get beyond the "seedling leaves/half true leaves" stage I would be a
> happy man. This time I started them in "potting" soil...


Not really an easy question but I'll give you what I've learned over the
years. (All this made more difficult by a cranky computer).

Potting soil; in the Southern USA is frequently top soil with a few
amendments. It usually compacts to a gluey mass if well wetted and then
compressed. Seeds will start in it but may die due to compacting and/or
too little nutrients.

Garden soil; sounds like top soil to me, in my area 'developers' clear
off native plants, scrape up whatever soil is left and sell it to
landscapers. You may or may not get decent soil this way.

Soil-less planting mix; sounds a bit like dirt-less dirt? Cornell was
the first big US University to promote this. For delicate seedlings,
rare plants and difficult plants this can be a godsend. Made properly a
soil-less mix is sterile. No nematodes, no diseases.

I grow some fairly demanding plants and modify a basic soil-less mix.
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Peat Lite Mix C (from Cornell) for germinating seeds

Shredded German or Canadian sphagnum peat moss 1 bu (8 gal.)
Horticultural Vermiculite No. 4 (Fine) 1 bu (8 gal.)
Ammonium Nitrate 1 1/2 oz (4 level tbsp)
Super phosphate (20% powdered 1 1/2 oz (2 level tbsp)
Ground Limestone, dolomitic 7 1/2 oz (10 level tbsp)

Mix thoroughly, wet the peat as you mix.
      _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I use the following (depending on what is at hand)

Shredded German or Canadian sphagnum peat moss 1 bu (8 gal.)
Horticultural Vermiculite No. 4 (Fine) 1/2 bu (4 gal.) 
Perlite course or medium 1/2 bu (4 gal)
Fertilizer 10-5-5 with micro elements 1 cup +/-
3-6 gal of a good compost (the mix is no longer sterile, but healthy
compost contains, IMHO, more good elements than bad, and I prefer this
to fertilizers in most cases)
Mix well, wet as you mix. Wear a dust mask as dry peat, vermiculite and
Perlite are dusty. (There may be some truth to the rumor that Perlite
may contain a trace of chlorine, if I have time I wet the Perlite a
couple of times and let it drain out a day or so before use. If potting
chlorine sensitive plants I may leave it out)

When mixed I take a sample, wet it thoroughly and compress it in my
hand, it should separate easily. In a pot it should drain well but
remain moist.

Best of growing,

Bob Cannon
Editor Tropical Fruit News Magazine