Shitty Seed Starting Setback – Sorry Miracle Gro!

I started many of my seeds very early this year. It’s not always easy in my part of the country to find a store selling good seed starting soil in January. When I saw a bag of Miracle Grow Organic potting soil, even though it seemed a bit expensive for the size of the bag, I grabbed it.  When I opened the bag, I noticed that it was strangely  odiferous, “But,” I said to myself, “it’s organic, so that’s to be expected.”

I filled up a few seedling trays and added water. It took a LONG time for water to begin soaking in. In fact, this soil seemed to be almost water repellent! Strange. Eventually I got it mixed together. It smelled much worse now. “Oh well, I’m sure that smell goes away in a few hours.” I planted all the seeds for this year’s peppers, eggplants and basil, and some of the tomatoes.

Fast forward  two days and I was checking on the seed trays to see if they had dried out too much. Oh my Lord, the smell! It smelled like we were running an animal shelter in our basement. “It’s just the fan, blowing the smell around,” I justified.

So I lived with this mysteriously smelly soil that didn’t seem to want to be wet at all for almost two weeks when it became clear that the seeds were NOT going to germinate. I finally decided to closely examine the bag of the soil I had purchased.

Miracle-Gro All Purpose . . . PLANT FOOD??? Seriously?  Not potting soil, FERTILIZER.

SHIT. Literally.

I started my seeds in pure crap, and I didn’t notice my mistake for almost two weeks.  So much for keeping a schedule.

Live and learn. It’s my 4th year doing this and I think I was running on auto-pilot. I need to pay more attention to detail.

P.S. Several days ago I wrote an e-mail to the Miracle-Gro folks complaining about the smell of their potting soil. I was told that I could get a refund if I still had my receipt. I didn’t have it, so I dropped the issue. Oops.


2 responses to this post.

  1. When you do get the correct potting mix, try wetting it with hot water. Of course, let it cool down before planting the seeds 😉

    I’ve had really good luck with Ace Potting Mix (NOT potting soil, it’s soil-less, from Ace Hardware), which is about $6 for a big bag. It has a lot of larger bark pieces in it, so I screen those out, then I add about 1 part vermiculite to 5-6 parts potting mix. I like to cover my seeds with straight vermiculite, unless I run out….like this year. Until the seeds have germinated, I keep the soil spritzed with some weak chamomile tea (6 tea bags to a gallon of water), which seems to keep the seedlings from damping off. I experimented this year, did a flat of lettuce with plain water and a flat with the chamomile. Not a single plant was lost to damping off when watered with the chamomile tea, but several keeled over with the plain water.


  2. I use a drop of dawn dish soap as a wetting agent. Granted, it probably wouldn’t help pure crap. 🙂


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