Running low on seed compost. Suggestions?

If you've found the information on the seed packet to be sadly lacking, this is the place to find out more, or add your comments!

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Primrose
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Running low on seed compost. Suggestions?

Postby Primrose » Sun Apr 05, 2020 3:59 pm

Find I'm running out of compost for my veggie seed sowing at this vital time and as we're self isolating and garden centres are closed, can't get out for a new supply. Wish I'd anticipated this but assume a 50/50 mix of compost and finely crushed garden soil will work?

Any hints on how I should adjust my technique to ensure success? After all, I'm sure my parents didn,t have today's selections of compost when they sowed their seeds for growing veg in the last war. How would they have started their seeds off?
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Re: Running low on seed compost. Suggestions?

Postby Monika » Sun Apr 05, 2020 4:32 pm

Your mixture sounds ok to me, perhaps add a bit of sand if you have any? To sterilise it, line a roasting tin with tin foil and 'bake' the soil in a lowish oven for one hour or microwave it for 10 minutes in a baking bowl. Presumably, you do not want masses of it for sowing in pots?
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Re: Running low on seed compost. Suggestions?

Postby tigerburnie » Sun Apr 05, 2020 6:08 pm

My dad used to make his own with leaf mould and soil from mole hills, he didn't sterilise it though and looking at some of the odd weeds that come up in my pots nor do Westmoreland either lol
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Re: Running low on seed compost. Suggestions?

Postby Westi » Sun Apr 05, 2020 6:36 pm

I don't know if they are taking on new clients but the milkman (Milk & More) delivers compost & top soil. It is not the best with some lumps but easy to sieve or pick out the stuff not fully broken down.
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Re: Running low on seed compost. Suggestions?

Postby sally wright » Sun Apr 05, 2020 7:32 pm

Dear Primrose,
soil sterilisation is reasonably straight forward to do. The idea is kill off weed seeds, fungal and bacterial spores. To do this usually involves heat. Here is how I would do it.

Obtain the permission of the Cook before attempting this process or wait until they are otherwise occupied.....

Sieve the components of your desired soil mix using a 1cm mesh sieve. There is no point in trying to disinfect stones and twigs etc as space is at a premium in your oven.

Fill a METAL biscuit tin about 3/4 full of your mixture, making sure that it is fairly moist. Put the lid on and wrap the tin in aluminium foil to create a tight seal. Do as many tins as you can fit into your oven - with gaps in between to allow the heat to circulate.

Set the oven for the lowest it can go, ideally around 75C. Put in the tins. Turn the extractor fan on if you have one as this process does not smell like your Sunday roast is in there.

After 1/2 an hour take the tins out, give them a shake to mix the soil inside and replace in a different order in the oven. Do this twice more at 1/2 hour intervals; then turn the oven off and leave the tins to cool.

When the soil comes out it will smell rather acrid and strange - this is normal. Bag up in a clean sack and store for a couple of days before use. I would not use this soil for anything too expensive or fine like Begonia, peppers or Lobelia seeds but it will do for most veg that you will be sowing from now on.

To check whether this has worked put a little of the mixture into a seed tray and sow something that you can spare such as some cress seeds thickly on half of the tray. Leave the other half unseeded. If your cress seeds go mouldy and or you get lots of weeds growing then you need to re-do the process.

Have fun, Sally Wright.
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Re: Running low on seed compost. Suggestions?

Postby Primrose » Sun Apr 05, 2020 9:06 pm

Thanks Sally & Monika. Looking around my kitchen supplies I had been thinking that maybe. I could give the soil a good watering first with something like a Dettol disinfectant mixture but that wouldn,t kill off weed seeds would it.? I have in the past mixed in a small quantity of soil or home made compost in my bigger pepper & chilli growing pots to bulk them out which rarely seem to,produce many weeds but I guess small seeds are more vulnerable to being overwhelmed by weeds.
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Re: Running low on seed compost. Suggestions?

Postby oldherbaceous » Mon Apr 06, 2020 7:30 am

My old next door neighbour used to use soil straight from his garden...He used to grow the strongest, best looking tomato plants I have ever seen..and these were started off in an unheated greenhouse, with just a few sheets of newspaper ready, in case of sharp frosts.
How times have changed...
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Re: Running low on seed compost. Suggestions?

Postby peter » Mon Apr 06, 2020 8:17 am

Wickes are doing click and collect from outside front of store with queueing marked out.
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Re: Running low on seed compost. Suggestions?

Postby Colin2016 » Mon Apr 06, 2020 8:37 am

How about plug pellets for growing seeds get them via mail order.
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Re: Running low on seed compost. Suggestions?

Postby Tony Hague » Mon Apr 06, 2020 9:27 am

A local- ish Frosts garden centre (Milton Keynes) are still delivering for orders over £60 up to 15 miles, for £5, so I got supplies of feeds and compost. Worth checking the individual store's website - they weren't set up for internet shopping, so it was more like give us your wish list and we'll see what we can do and get back to you.

For small amounts for seed compost, I use a biscuit tin like Sally suggests, but to avoid annoying the cook I set it over the camping stove outside. I love the smell of cooking compost. My dad used to make his own mix for growing 30-40 tomato plants. He used sand, leafmold and loam from stacked turf. He'd stack up brick piles and set a metal tray, about 2'×4' on them, light a fire under it and cook the compost batch at a time, while we warmed ourself round the fire. The smell still brings back memories !
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Re: Running low on seed compost. Suggestions?

Postby sally wright » Mon Apr 06, 2020 12:20 pm

Dear All,
having done the seed compost here is the soil mix for your big pots such as cucumbers and tomatoes.
You will need pelleted slow release fertilizer; a 1kg jar usually costs around £5-6. This will make about 250 litres of compost.

The rate of fertilizer to compost mix is 4 grammes per litre. Sounds complicated - not really - let me explain.

Find a container that has a metric volume tag on it such as an old food bucket or large plant pot. I use a 10 litre plant pot as it's not too heavy to lift repeatedly.

I usually do a direct 50:50 mixture of soil to garden compost. If your soil is very stony sieve it to remove large stones over 2cms; if your compost is rough I would do the same, but don't go mad - life's too short etc. For heavy clay soils add some sand to the blend (say three clay soil potfuls to one sand potful). Fill the pot and settle it by thumping it on the ground a couple of times and then scrape the top flat. Put the soil/compost into a pile on a swept area of hard surface. I usually alternate the soil and compost to make it easier to mix.

For each 10 litre plant pot I will be adding 40g of pellets. I usually find a small container that will hold 40g so that I don't have to measure it out as I like to add the pellets after each layer is added to the pile. Do try to keep count as overdosing will make the plants unhappy. If you do lose count just add a couple more pots of soil and compost.

Get a shovel and turn the pile at least twice, three times if you have the energy. This compost will settle quite a lot so make sure you keep a little back for topping up purposes. This soil mix should be kept in the shade before use and ideally used within a couple of weeks of mixing as the pellets will start leaching out fertilizer and cause problems with too much fertilizer being present when the plants are put in.

This is also a good place to use all the scraps of compost you have saved from your propagation area such as the bits left in the trays and pots after you have taken out the seedlings and cuttings; and the bits that fall off whilst you are potting up. Assume zero fertilizer in the scraps and add at the rate above. You will be shocked at how much compost you throw away once you start saving it into a bag.

If you usually use grow bags then you can make your own grow bags by filling old bought compost sacks with this mix. They will be heavier that bought ones so fill in situ if you can. Fill the sack as full as you can and staple the end shut; lay it on it's side and use as normal.

I would point out that liquid feeding will have to start after about 6 weeks as most plants put into this type of mixture are greedy feeders.

Hope this is of use to you all.
Regards Sally Wright.
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Colin2016
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Re: Running low on seed compost. Suggestions?

Postby Colin2016 » Mon Apr 06, 2020 12:34 pm

Believe on Monty Dom show (3) the guy from Lincolnshire was doing a sowing demonstration and suggested if you have no compost use soil.
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Re: Running low on seed compost. Suggestions?

Postby oldherbaceous » Mon Apr 06, 2020 1:29 pm

Dear Sally, as always, a wonderfully written and informative post...long may they continue.
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