[Market-farming] Organic fertilizer in seed starting medium?

Marlin Burkholder burkholders at glenecofarm.com
Fri Apr 8 20:41:23 EDT 2016

Looks like I have done it again!

A year or too ago I posted on MF about have trouble getting seeds started
after mixing an organic based fertilizer (Plant Tone I think) into potting
soil I was using for seed starting and for pricking week old seedlings over
into grow out flats.  Plants would germinate satisfactorily, then stop
growing.  After a week or two of wondering why the slow to no growth I would
check a few seedlings and find few to no roots.  As I recall someone
mentioned that plant proteins contained in some organic fertilizers can be

The first time it happened about five years prior to the time I last posted
about it, I had used a premixed OMRI approved ³ready to plant into² medium
bought at a local garden center.  Every thing I planted into that stuff
failed and I got my money back when I went back to the garden center and

The time I used Plant Tone I mixed according to instructions on the bag,
about a 1/2 to one cup into about a cubic foot of medium.  I assumed that
organic materials are more forgiving of less than precise mixing procedure
but apparently got bit.  Last year I decided for the next go round to use
nothing but chemical salt based materials, Miracle Grow or something
similar, and got along better.

Well guess what!  I succumbed to temptation again and bought a five pound
bag this spring to use in my starting mixes.  You know, it had kelp, bone
meal, alfalfa meal, fish meal, micorizae, several other beneficial organisms
whose names I can¹t remember etc.--all the good stuff, along with the
promise that the plants would love it!  When two seedling flats of peppers
tanked, I blamed it on a small amount of germination mix I had left in an
aluminum baking pan for about a week which I had used to cover seeds.  The
one I had covered with material other than what was in the aluminum pan did
not have impressive germination, but the seeds that did come up were
healthy.  Then the tomato seedlings I had pricked over into to grow out
flats started to go down hill.  A watering with Miller¹s Nutri Leaf didn¹t
revive them.  This afternoon I repotted 180 plants into clean potting soil
watered with nothing but Nutri Leaf.  I will do the other half of my tomato
seedlings on Monday and hope for better luck.  After over 20 years of plant
starting this thing is getting embarrassing and extremely frustrating.

Is it wrong to use fertilizer in seed starting mix?

Marlin Burkholder


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