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Soil for Starting Seeds

A question came in over the holiday:

“What is a good commercial soil in which to start vegetable seeds?

That’s a great question.  There are many ways to start seeds, and almost as many opinions about what soil to use for seed starting.  In general, commercial seed starting mix is of a finer grade of potting soil, meaning it is not as course or chunky as regular potting soil.  It is intended for use when starting seeds indoors under grow lights.  Many companies produce seed germinating mix that has higher moisture retaining properties, and some add fertilizers to their mixes to help get plants under way.  If you are growing organically, you will want to avoid seed starting mixes that come with Miracle Gro in them, since Miracle Gro is a chemical fertilizer and is derived from petroleum products.

I have used a couple different commercially available germination mixes that I can share with you:


I have used the Gardener’s Supply Seedstarting mix and found it to work very well.  The company gets rave reviews from customers, and even though the idea of shipping soil through the mail is preposterous to most, everyone seems to feel that it’s completely worth it.

Black Gold Seedling Mix is another one I have used for starting seeds indoors.  You can get it at Anawalt Lumber, and it is available online from

Black Gold Seed Starting Mix

I recently purchased, but haven’t used yet (will very shortly though), the Natural Beginnings Seed Starting Mix from Gardens Alive.  I will post my findings about it after I try it out, but obviously it looked good enough to try.  You can click the link below to find out more about it.

Natural Beginnings Seed Starting Mix

Of course, if you are starting veggies in pots or in the ground, rather than indoors, I highly recommend the Master Nursery line of soil amendments.  They are available at many nurseries around the country and you can find one near you at their website:

Master Nursery Location Finder

Those are my top recommendations, but that is not by any means a complete list of seed starting mixes available out there.  This should get you started though.  Let us know how it works out.

If anyone else has a favorite seed starting mix they use, please feel free to share it here.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Christy Wilhelmi

    It’s your preference, of course, but I do recommend using organic amendments and fertilizers to go organic all the way.

  2. Paul Salisbury

    Does it also mean if we’re using organic seeds, everything else that we dump into the garden also has to be organic?

  3. vergara


  4. Anonymous

    This soil is exactly what my wife and I need in our gardens/landscaping. We like to purchase loose seeds from the store so that things look a little more random as opposed to created by man. We are having some trouble getting our seeds started in regular soil.

  5. John Campbell

    I used the Natural beginnings last year, lost my whole planting and had to start over. dries out from the bottom in the cells whilst the top stays damp. Once I realized it the second set of plants + rootblast worked well enough that I’ve bought it again and am about to start 13 trays (64 species) this week in it.

  6. Christy Wilhelmi

    Yes, I actually use vermiculite often, but not for seed starting indoor.  I use it when I direct-seed in the garden. It helps identify where you’ve planted so you know where to water, and where to replant if the seed doesn’t emerge.  Also, it helps new gardeners determine what’s a weed and what isn’t.  If it’s growing in the vermiculite, it’s not a weed.  If it’s growing in the surrounding soil, it most likely is a weed. 

    Thanks for the reminder that it can be used to start seeds indoors too!

  7. Cynthia

    I have often used vermiculite to start seeds. With it’s light consistency and ability to hold water it has been helpful. It can go right into the garden with the seeding. (Squarefoot Gardening was where I heard about it.)

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