The Milkweed Diaries

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dirt farming

Last weekend we made supercharged dirt...seed starting mix for our fall starts.

Shannon and Rain and DCT joined us, and we ended up with a WHOLE BUNCH of plant babies.

We used a recipe that we learned in a class we took earlier this spring at Sugar Creek Farm (see below).

Above: Screening peat moss through hardware cloth...

Below: Mixing by hand and squeeeeezing to see if it's wet enough yet...

Top: DCT on hose duty...

Bottom: Hands getting dirty...

Joe Allawos’ Starter Soil Recipe

Thanks to CF for putting this together

This is the recipe we learned from farmer Joe Allawos from Sugar Creek Farm for making soil for starting seeds. It makes about a wheelbarrow load of seed starting mix, or enough for about 20 flats. We ended up with 218 4-packs (salvaged cell packs from Dogwood Hills and elsewhere) or a whopping 872 starts!

Ingredient Volume Purpose

Peat moss 6 gallons Retains water, provides good drainage

Compost 3 gallons Provides nutrients

Perlite 3 gallons Drainage, air and water retention

Vermiculite 3 gallons Soaks up water and nutrients and holds them in the mix until the plants are ready to access them

Lime (pulverized, not pellitized) 1 ½ cups Neutralizes the Ph

Greensand 1 cup Contains all the micronutrients and improves disease resistance

Dried blood 1 cup Protein and Nitrogen

Colloidal phosphate 1 cup Phosphorous

Azomite 1 cup Clay that contains all the micronutrients


  1. Lay hardware cloth across the top of a wheelbarrow. Take chunks of peak moss out and put onto the hardware cloth, breaking it up and pushing it through the hardware cloth to sift it. Do this with all the peat moss.
  2. Add the lime.
  3. Add water and mix it all up with your hands. Wet it enough so that you can squeeze a few drops from the mixture.
  4. Add the perlite. Wear a mask! Spray it down with water as you’re pouring it in to cut down on the dust.
  5. Add the vermiculite. Definitely wear a mask! Spray it down with water as you’re pouring it in to cut down on the dust.
  6. Add the greensand, dried blood, colloidal phosphate and azomite, then mix it up with your hands.
  7. Put the hardware cloth back on the wheelbarrow and sift the compost through into the mixture.
  8. Mix thoroughly with your hands.
  9. You’re done!
Note: for flowers and nightshades, remove dried blood from the recipe.

We planted lettuce, cabbage, kale, chard, brussels sprouts, onions, leeks, bok choy, cauliflower, broccoli, and probably some things I'm forgetting. We'll direct seed carrots, radishes, beets, and some other things for the fall garden, too.

Planting seeds...

The flats full and planted...

And a few days later:

The babies emerging....

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