Every late Winter and early Spring means it is time to begin sowing seeds indoors to get ready for the upcoming vegetable gardening season.
One item that is really needed during this time of year is seed starting mix. Some people start seeds using coconut coir, peat moss, or other popular mediums available today.
I really like to use a sterile seed starting mix that I pick up at a local garden center.
Well, as stores go, they didn’t carry the brand I normally use and had to go with a new brand this year.
It was Espoma Organic Seed Starting Mix.
It came in an eight quart bag and cost around $10 a bag.
I used Schultz Seed Starter Soil in the past and it was one of the best mixes I ever used for starting seeds.
I have used Espoma products in my vegetable garden before, most notably the Espoma Tomato-tone Tomato Fertilizer. I really enjoyed using it to fertilize my tomatoes and trusted the brand.
Since I needed some seed starting mix in a hurry I bought a couple bags of it.
Using Espoma Organic Seed Starting Mix
I like to fill my seed starting trays with the seed starting mix, fill the tray with an inch or so of water, then sow the seeds in each seed cell. This usually goes without a hitch, but I had some immediate issues with the Espoma Seed Starting Mix.
Basically, this stuff is just glorified potting soil. It has the same consistency of potting soil and what looked like the same basic ingredients of potting soil.
There should be a difference between potting soil and seed starting mix. Generally, a seed starting mix is “soil-less” and contains mostly peat moss, vermiculite and perlite. Most potting soils are a mixture of soil with perlite, perhaps some vermiculite, and organic matter.
When I started using the Espoma mix I found it loaded with small sticks, long stringy pieces of what looked like hay or straw, and all kinds of other debris.
I was not too happy.
While this type of debris is fine when using as a potting soil for planting flowers or vegetables in, it is not the preferred medium for sowing seeds. It’s difficult to sow seeds when you have to keep picking out small sticks and other items out of the medium.
Espoma Seed Starting Mix Germination Rate
Once I got past all of the debris when sowing the seeds, the Espoma Seed Starting Mix did a great job when it came to germination.
Every seed I sowed using it germinated, and germinated pretty quickly. Most of my seeds popped up within four or five days – even the tomatoes.
So it does work well as a seed starting mix, I just wouldn’t classify it as a mix for starting seeds. It is more of a potting soil which can be used to start seeds.
Pros of Espoma Seed Starting Mix
- Espoma Seed Starting Mix has a good germination rate when starting seeds
- It is an organic mix containing no chemicals
- Contains Myco-tone, a blend of mycorrhizae that helps to promote root growth
- Comes in an easy-to-use- zipper bag for resealing
Cons of Espoma Seed Starting Mix
- Is not a true soil-less seed starting mix and is more like a potting soil
- Contains a lot of sticks and other debris, making sowing seeds difficult
- Since seeds need constant moisture for germination, the Espoma Seed Starting looks more like mud when wet
Although the Espoma Seed Starting Mix does have a good germination rate I would not recommend it for starting seeds.
It would work fine as a potting medium, but is a bit difficult to use for starting seeds because of the debris it contains. At about $10 for an eight quart bag, that would be some expensive potting soil.
If Espoma screened out the debris to create a finer mixture, without the debris, it would be a much better product for starting seeds, in my opinion.
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