The Great Seed Starting Mix Debate

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Update posted here

The saw mill and the table saw both make very fine sawdust. Lots of it. At first, I was so discombobulated by the amount of sawdust we made... I mean, there must be something we can do with it all..? Sticking it into the recycle bin each week seemed like such a waste.

byproducts - just another surplus

The sawmill does its job man. It is truly a beautiful machine. And that is coming from someone who really doesn't want to go near the thing, just admire it from afar. When you cut into a log, the first thing to get stripped is the bark. The bark makes a great mulch for pathways and other landscaping, so I'm really happy about that. But then the cutting continues and you're left with a big ol' mess. So we came up with a plan to make pressed logs by combining it with extracted fatty acid after making biodiesel. We learned that while the bark is fire-resistant, the inner part of the trees burn just fine and so the sawdust from redwood should work as a pressed log. (I can't wait to write about that one!) But the business gal in me couldn't help thinking that until then, there must be something we can do with it right now.

a little of this, a little of that

So I decided to go to the people I trust with all things concerning homesteading. My go-to place is Homesteading Today. This message board has made life so much easier for us, it ain't even funny. (When I first learned that there is no need to peel, seed and chop plums to make plum jam, I instantly became a fan of this site. Thanks knowledgeable homesteaders!) So once again I find myself searching this site for help on what to do with all this dang sawdust. One lone soul speaks up. On a post about making your own seed starting mix, he explains that compost mixed with sawdust is all he's ever used to start his seeds. Well, while the debate continues, I've already decided. I'm game! The only problem is the recipe wasn't explained, so I just took equal parts of each and mixed them up. (I should also note that both the sawdust and compost weren't fresh. They had been sitting around for several weeks.)

life pots

We have plenty of both, sawdust and compost, things we made ourselves. And you know me, I am not into buying extra stuff when I can just use my own stuff. Sawdust retains water like crazy, which is all you have to worry about anyway because seeds contain their own nutrients. I mean, how else do they get started all by themselves in the wild? Seeds can start amongst the worst conditions as long as there is water and light. (Yes, I used the word amongst.) And by the time you're ready to plant, the seedlings are already used to growing in compost which makes for a smooth transition to your garden. So I watered the mix down and waited another few days to sow. The mix looks great and seriously holds the moisture in*. Even with these clay pots that like to draw moisture out, the mix held up fine.

look at those muscles!

And before I knew it, my little peppers popped up! These are red bell peppers which always take forever to start. Within a week and a half they started popping - that's a record for me! I also started jalapenos, ancho and cayenne peppers in this mix, and they're even stronger and bigger.

peeping peppas

So far, I'm convinced. But I should say that I don't know if this would work for a more delicate seedling? While the peppers worked out great, I'll be trying this with eggplant, tomatoes and more this week. I'll update this page asap with the good, the bad, the trials and the triumphs.

aw, they grow up so fast

And they're off!

*Info: The mix held water so well, that you should watch for mold/mildew. I scraped off 4 different spots where I saw growth and the rest was fine. I never really had a problem with mold or mildew in the past... just kinda ignored it and my plants would still thrive. And it only happened in the clay pots, so I figured that may have something to do with it. That clay...

Update posted here


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