The 2012 Garden Season Begins

And the garden has hit the ground running. I spent the afternoon mixing up a big batch of potting soil so that I can get an early start this year. It’s such a luxury to be able to have a large batch of potting soil already mixed up rather than having to mix up a smaller batch every time I want to start some seeds. An added benefit is that the potting soil is in a large dark bin in the greenhouse, and will act as solar mass, storing heat in the daytime on sunny days and releasing it during the nights to help heat the greenhouse a bit.

I start almost all of my plants from seed, so I use a lot of potting soil throughout the garden year. This makes using prepared, store-bought potting soil rather cost prohibitive. This is why I mix my own, and also I like to have some control over the contents. I don’t want to use the potting soils that have non-organic fertilizers, and I have found the organic potting soils to be expensive and have a poor texture.

I use a mixture of sphagnum moss, vermiculite, perlite, chicken manure, organic fertilizer, and organic seed starter mix. I buy the sphagnum moss in compressed 3 cubic foot bales. They are fairly inexpensive and, because they are compressed, one bale goes a long way. They are dry though, so getting moisture into my potting soil mix requires a lot of work – sphagnum moss doesn’t mix with water easily when it’s dry. I use Espoma’s Garden-tone organic fertilizer in my potting soil as well as using it to top-dress the plants after they are in the ground. The seed starter mix is Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus, which I get at the local farm supply store. It contains mycorrhizae and beneficial bacteria that encourage healthy root growth. The chicken manure is Black Hen, which I get in bags at the farm supply store. I get the Garden-tone in 20lb bags at the farm supply also. It’s a lot more cost effective that way. The sphagnum bales, vermiculite, and perlite I can get at the garden centers of various home improvement/hardware stores.

Both the Garden-tone and the chicken manure are pretty smelly, and I find that if I want to do a good job of incorporating everything into the mix, I have to dive right in and do a lot of the mixing with my hands. This time around, because I am using a large plastic garbage bin to mix and store the soil, I had my arms stuck down in there almost up to the arm pits. My arms and hands smelled pretty ripe for a while afterwards. But it’s worth it for a large supply of good potting soil.

Here’s the bin for the potting soil

Bin for Potting Soil

This is how the greenhouse looked just before I started

Getting Ready to Make Potting Soil

Here are the products I used today:

Sphagnum moss

Sphagnum Moss

Vermiculite

Vermiculite

Perlite

Perlite

Garden-tone fertilizer

Garden-tone Organic Fertilizer

Bio-tone seed starter

Bio-tone Seed Starter

Black Hen Chicken Manure

Black Hen Chicken Manure

Here’s the beautiful, happy potting soil

Happy Potting Soil

It was necessary to hang weights on the window pulls of the greenhouse to keep the windows from popping open when there’s a stiff wind. They are pretty awkward to use because they are just a couple of mugs with some rounded gravel in them, and the gravel wants to be falling out of the mugs when I’m trying to close the windows. I think I’m going to try to find some nuts that are big and heavy to hang on the window pulls and weigh them down.

Here is one of the weights hanging from the window pulls

Weighted Window Pulls

Here is the greenhouse all tidied up and ready to close down for the night

Greenhouse Tidied Up

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