Veganic Seed Starter – Baby Food for Baby Plants
February’s a month when many of us get an indoor start on our summer gardens. Out come the peat pots or planting trays, heating pads, and grow lights. Most importantly, out comes the seed starter – the sterile, lightweight growing medium formulated to support and nourish the tiniest roots and most delicate seedlings.
Because like baby humans, baby plants need their own food. To quote Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin’s Skinny Bitch:
“Cow’s milk, by design, grows a 90-pound calf into a 2,000-pound cow over the course of two years… Sounds even more fattening than human milk… It should be. Cows are bigger than humans. And the inner workings of their bodies are completely different than ours…”
Cow’s milk is a superfood only for baby calves. And as its name indicates, veganic seed starter is a sustainable, cruelty-free growing medium explicitly made for baby plants!
What Veganic Seed Starter Is Not
A veganic seed starter isn’t potting soil.
Seed starter, according to Michigan State University Extension horticultural agent Gary Heilig, contains no soil. Instead, it’s a sterile loose, and lightweight blend of:
- milled (not baled) peat moss
- perlite (expanded volcanic rock)
- coconut coir fiber (the husk from a coconut’s outer layer)
and/or vermiculite (a flaky type of clay).
Potting soil, on the other hand, is much coarser than seed starter. In addition to soil, it may contain compost, manure, peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite. So it’s definitely not sterile – and not a suitable medium for seedlings susceptible to damping-off disease!
Using a seed starter is especially important if you’re planting in multi-cell trays or small containers. It’s much less likely to become compacted around the roots like heavier potting soil can.
Veganic Seed Starter vs. Garden Soil
Garden soil is what’s already outdoors awaiting the rototiller, shovel, spade, or ( in the veganic no-till world) digging fork. All garden soil is a combination of clay, sand, loam, and minerals. Your particular mix depends on where you live.
However, garden soil also harbors billions of disease bearing-bacteria and fungi, many of them waiting to pounce on your seeds and seedlings.
And unless it’s exceptionally loamy, substituting garden soil for seed starter may sentence your seedlings to death by asphyxiation. Like most potting soils, it will harden into a brick and choke their developing roots.
Making Your Plant’s Baby Food: Veganic Seed Starter Recipe
Veganic gardening is sustainable gardening. A genuinely sustainable seed starter won’t have peat moss, which we excavate from environmentally essential wetlands that have taken Mother Nature centuries to create.
Our soilless veganic seed starter recipe replaces peat with coir (a coconut industry by-product).
And we add vermicompost (earthworm castings) to give our baby plants the best possible start in life.
Because vermicompost teems with the microbes that “switch on” seedlings’ immune systems and prepare their roots for the crucial symbiotic relationships, they’ll eventually form with garden-soil microbes. It’s as if, when they move outdoors to the garden, they’ll be among friends!
The basic recipe:
- 8 parts vermicompost ( for nutrients and microbes)
- 4 parts coconut coir (for drainage)
- 2 parts perlite (for drainage and aeration)
- 2 parts vermiculite (for moisture and nutrient retention)
- Measure all four ingredients into separate containers and moisten them lightly with water. Otherwise, they’ll raise a cloud of dust when mixed.
- Pour the moistened ingredients into a suitably large container and stir them with your hands or a shovel until thoroughly mixed. They should be evenly moist, not soaking wet.
- Store the seed starter in a sealed container or bag until you’re ready to plant. Then fill each of your containers or growing cells to their rims with the mix.
- Tap the containers to settle the starter and remove air pockets. Spray, so the mix is evenly moist if needed, and plant your seeds as you normally would.
Their vegan seed starter is the closest thing to mother’s milk your baby plants will ever have!