Seed starting mix vs. potting soil

Ever wonder if you really need to use a special seed starting soil mix, or if just regular potting soil will do? I have, because I want to save money and make my life simpler by having less bags of stuff to buy and store in the garage. So this year I am going to experiment a little.

I am taking 3 different seeds and planting them side by side in cell packs. One of the cell packs has potting soil, the other seed starter mix. These will be side by side on the grow light stand in the basement, and I’m going to make observations about when they germinate, how tall they are, how green they look, etc over the next several weeks.

Seed mix left, potting soil right
Seed mix left, potting soil right

Last year my brother had problems with some of his tomato plants that he started indoors from seed. After a lot of brainstorming and troubleshooting about why his plants were so “sad”, we guessed that the likely culprit was soil. He had started them in a seed starter mix, and hadn’t transplanted them, so the plants didn’t have enough nutrients to be “happy”.

So over the next month or two I will track their progress and update you with anything I learn.

The seed varieties I am using are: Lemon Balm, Falco Spinach, and Dinosaur Kale. That just happened to be what came in the mail this week from my online seed order, so that’s what I used. I planted exactly 2 seeds in each cell (not an easy task with those super tiny lemon balm seeds).

Do you use a special seed starting mix, store bought potting soil, or a homemade potting/planting medium?


Update: Please check out the follow-up post Seed starting mix vs potting soil – Part 2  as well as my more recent post More thoughts on potting soil vs seed starting soil


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