Savvy Alternatives to Peat-Based Products for Starting Seeds Indoors

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If you start your own plants from seed, you've likely noticed that commercial seed-starting products are heavily peat-based: seed starting mixes, compressed peat pellets, even pots and flats made of compressed peat. But, as we've mentioned here on TreeHugger a couple of times, (here and here) peat is not really a sustainable option. So, what's a gardener to do?

Make your own mix, and re-purpose biodegradable objects to replace those plantable peat pots. Here's how.

Peat-Less Seed Starting Mix

The best alternative I've found for peat moss is coir, which is a by-product of the commercial coconut processing industry -- definitely more sustainable than peat. Coir is usually purchased in compressed bricks, which yield quite a lot of seed starting mix once fluffed. Here's the basic recipe I use:

  • 1 part coir
  • 1 part vermicompost
  • 1 part perlite

A "part" can be anything, depending on how much mix you're making: a cup, a bucket full, a scoop -- whatever. The coir provides water retention and bulk. The vermicompost provides nutrients to the seedlings, but, perhaps even more importantly, protects seedlings from diseases like damping off (as Sami reported here.) And the perlite (light volcanic rock) provides lightness and helps the mix drain well. Mix this up, moisten it, then fill up your seed starting containers or flats. Which leads us to...

Make Your Own Plantable Seed Pots

Those peat pots that you simply plant when it's time to plant your seedlings out in the garden are definitely a convenience item, but you can do the same thing without peat by using items you'd normally toss out. Three great options are newspaper, toilet paper rolls, and eggshells. I wrote about how to turn all three items into plantable seed pots over on TLC Home.

So there you have it: seed starting, peat-free!

Tags: Gardening

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