© 2012 Raymond Alexander Kukkee
“You CAN do it; mix your own, ask Uncle Mac!”
“But I need bedding plant soil mix!” I growled, rattling the pile of wooden planters. I pointed at the bag of potting soil the clever better half handed me.
“That’s ordinary potting soil, that’s for geraniums!” I said. She looked at me like I was from Mars. ” We need bedding plant soil mix” to grow bedding plants, so they’ll sprout. We need nice fine soil, not this potting dirt….. do you feed lumpy dog food to puppies?” I almost had her.
“You’re wrong, dear”, she said smiling, “ You can make your own soil mixtures for bedding plants, nurseries do it all the time.”
“Huh?” I said, wondering if I missed something. All I ever saw in nurseries were big piles of dirt. Ordinary dirt. Lots of dirt. In big timber bins. With a nice little yellow skid-steer loader to shovel it into your truck. Saves work. Not a bag in sight.
“Well, okay, but you can use that dirt, mix this with it”. She showed me two bags. “We’ll make our own bedding plant soil mix, drive that wheelbarrow over here.”
I’m a pretty fair wheelbarrow operator, so I drove the wheelbarrow over without running over anything. I cut the bag and emptied the topsoil into it. Big lumps, bone dry, crumbly, typical garden dirt with a bit of cheap peat moss in it. Garden center stuff.
She started adding the bag of peat moss. “Break up the lumps first.” she said. “Before you mix it in.” I was skeptical. This was all news to me. I wanted “Bedding Plant Soil” from the nursery, but
it looks like I might be was wrong. Maybe. No doubt about it.
You can mix your own bedding soil mix. All you need is good quality top soil. Don’t have any? Get some garden soil, regular dirt right out of your garden. Handy. Saves money. You’re going to improve it anyway. Mix in about 25% Sphagnum peat moss, breaking up any lumps.
She said the peat moss holds water so the soil won’t dry out as the seedlings sprout. It’s like a sponge. “It holds water and makes sure your seedlings don’t dry out when they’re just sprouting.You can add Vermiculite, too, or Perlite, consider adding some sand if the soil is clay. Add worm castings, composted leaves, and coconut fibre, any composted material will make the soil mix lighter and nice and rich.”
The woman is a veritable fountain of knowledge.
She was mixing away happily with her own shovel, too. “Here, watch out” she said, mixing my end of the wheelbarrow. She’s an independent DIY’er. I don’t argue with success or impede progress. She grabbed another bag.
“We’ll add a few handfuls of this stuff too, it’s Perlite, add about 10-20% by volume, it doesn’t have to be exact, just guess, it all depends on the soil you started with, ‘ya gotta go by feel’. She bakes bread like that too. Perfect results every time.
She tossed the bag at me, I almost caught it. It was light. “It looks like Styrofoam” I said. I poured some in the wheelbarrow and mixed it into the dirt too.
“More” she said. “Perlite is light-weight, natural rock foam that weighs less than 3 lbs per cubic foot and the little blobs keeps soil from packing and clumping, it lets the water drain out, and lets air into the soil too, which helps the roots of the seedlings develop.” she said. I added more and kept mixing.
“It’s not toxic either, dear” she added. She picked up a handful of our new bedding plant mixture and squeezed it. It made a lump.
“Maybe we should add some more of that Perlite”.
“Yes dear” I said looking around to see if she had any other magic ingredients squirreled away for her secret recipe. “Anything else?”
“If you had some of that new high-tech soil gel, you could add some, it swells up and holds water” she said, grinning. I stopped mixing. “We don’t have any”. I observed casually, guessing I would be heading back to the garden center in about 11 seconds. “I don’t like the idea of adding chemicals anyway”.
“It’s inert” she said. “We don’t need it, let’s throw in another couple of shovels of peat moss” she added. “It holds moisture just fine, and while you’re at it, toss in a couple of shovels of fine stuff from that old compost heap.”
I shoveled and added and mixed diligently and checked out the results. I watched her out of the corner of my eye. The dirt looked nice and uniform, —and there wasn’t a single lump in sight. Even pups would like it. She was smiling.
“Perfect, this ought to do it” I said, pretending I knew what I was doing.
“This looks just like the dirt they had our plants in last year,
remember those tomato plants, we bought, the flowers, and cabbages?” I said,
squeezing a spongy handful tightly. It didn’t pack. “It looks like the same stuff”.
“Imagine that.” she replied, grinning and squeezing a handful herself, nodding and scooping. She started shaking the soil loosely into some nice little wooden flats I made out of old boards.”Perfect bedding soil.”
She carefully pressed the seeds from the brightly coloured packages into the soil and wrote names on ice-cream sticks. Pansies, marigolds, cabbages, and tomatoes of all kinds. She paused and rubbed some dirt off of her nose.
“This will work perfectly”. I said, handing her a damp cloth.
“You can do it, just ask Uncle Mac “ she said.
“This year we’ll have our own bedding plants, in a few weeks, you’ll see.” “There’s lots of light, over there by the window on the table, move them ” she ordered. She sprinkled them with water and covered the table of newly planted flats with light plastic. I moved them to the table, and she arranged them, one by one lining them up.
I looked our work over. There were little sticks in rows, and her neat printing on each of the sticks told me what she planted. She’s organized. Lucky me. Cherry tomatoes. Beefsteak, MegaTon cabbage, broccoli, pansies, marigolds, and a whole lot of others.
“It’s not an exact science” she said, admiring our work.
” I really do wonder if Uncle Mac over at the shed would approve. He’s a professional gardener, not amateur like us” I said. “In a pinch we can always ask their advice”. “We’ll see if the plants come up first.” I teased her some more and she sprayed me with her misting bottle.
You did a fine job, dear” she said, smiling confidently. “I already asked.” Apparently now we already know how to make bedding plant soil mix, –and so do you.
Is that Incoming I hear?
Photo: ” The Old gardener” Briton Riviere Wikimedia commons