After watching a couple of years of Monty Don on “Gardeners’ World,” one of the differences I noticed was he doesn’t use peat moss in the U.K. He mainly uses a lot of compost, perlite and grit. I’ve also never seen him use fertilizer other than compost which he makes himself.
You would be hard pressed to find this mixture in any nursery or big box store.
What I have found is a mix which seems similar to what Monty Don uses.
SLC Grower’s Mix has a combination of pine bark fines, compost and PBH rice hulls, although they wouldn’t tell me the exact percentages.
When I talked to SLC they did indicate that they would recommend using Osmocote if I was planning to grow from small size to large size in a pot. He recommended using a medium dosage. They do include a small starter nutrition in the mix and a micro-nutrient charge.
The product will be a bit drier since it drains so well. You may have to water more often.
I’m going to be doing some tests with this product versus my standard BX ProMix. The SLC mix is only $6 per 2 cu. ft. bag.
You would obviously be better off buying the mix in bulk, if you have a place to dump it.
The one odd thing about this mix is that it is in bags which say Cotton Blossom Compost.
I’m going to use this page to add in information about this topic.
Here’s some good information from Gabe Brown on Mycorrhizal Fungi. One of the reasons I use Pro-Mix BX is because it has this fungi.
I tested various proportions of vermiculite for starting seeds.
1. 100% vermiculite
2. 100% Miracle Gro potting mix
3. 50% vermiculite and 50% potting mix.
4. Potting mix on the bottom and vermiculite covering the seeds on the top.
Here are the results below from best to worst – I had 18 hollyhock seeds per tray.
- 100% Vermiculite – 8 seeds germinate
- Miracle Gro covered with Vermiculite – 7 seeds
- 50% MG + 50% Ver – 4 seeds
- 100% MG – 1 seed
Vermiculite has zero nutrients so I will be bottom watering with Jacks classic 20-20-20 with micro-nutrients. This variety is more expensive than Miracle Gro, but does a good job. Note – see my results below – this does NOT work!
Note – wear a mask when handling dry vermiculite. Wet the vermiculite as soon as possible to reduce dust particles and possible asbestos.
As you can see in the picture above, while vermiculite is great for starting seeds, since it has no nutrients, the seedlings don’t mature and grow very well. Even though I have constant bottom watering with Jacks water soluble fertilizer. The seeds in the picture are dianthus and basil. They are much healthier in the Miralcle Gro mix.
Video – Vermiculite for Starting Seeds
Here are some notes from this book and also his book, “Square Foot Gardening – Answer Book.”
- He plants on top on the dirt and grass. No tilling and no improving the soil.
- His soil mix is 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 coarse vermiculite and 1/3 compost (from different sources)
- As part of the compost mix, he encourages using worm castings, composted manure, etc. – this is probably where he gets his Nitrogen source.
- No added fertilizer.
- He does add extra compost every year.
- He suggests using 1 x 6 or 2 x 6 lumber.
- He says to use landscape fabric underneath the box.He used to recommend putting down newspaper or cardboard. He’s worried about old weeds seeds sprouting from the soil.
- After you harvest a crop you add a handful of compost to that particular square.
- Crop Rotation – after you harvest a crop you put in a different type of vegetable. You move from root, to fruit to leaf crops.
I’m going to test this system out this year and see what results I get. I do a version of this as my “Easy” butterfly garden. I use a mix from St.Louis Composting which does contain soil and compost.
Here’s a good video of the process although it’s a bit old.