[permaculture] Eliot Coleman's seed starting mixture

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Fri Apr 8 16:10:33 EDT 2011

To further muddy the waters, sphagnum peat distributors claim that peat in Canada is forming at a much faster rate than it is being mined--obviously, they have an interest in having us believe this, but the bogs do cover thousands of square miles. So it's not very clear whether coir from industrial palm plantations or peat from ancient bogs is the better choice. Perhaps for North Americans peat has a slight edge unless you are gathering coir from Hollywood median strips. We all have to make our peace with our decisions. One bag of peat will last me a decade, but it still makes me uncomfortable. 

I've done just fine using a mix of sifted sand, compost, and bark dust. Sometimes I can get a broken bag of vermiculite (high in embedded energy and with toxic dust, but it's a bag that otherwise would be tossed out), and I'll add that. The bark dust is optional, too, seeing as it's usually from clearcut logging. Sand and compost works fine. And sometimes I just use garden soil lightened with sand.

YMMV, in the end.


On Apr 8, 2011, at 12:10 PM, Lawrence F. London, Jr. wrote:

> On 4/8/2011 2:18 PM, Paul Cross wrote:
>> I've often wondered why people seem to think coir is ecological. It is
>> produced as a byproduct of industrial agriculture that destroys
>> rainforests and plants monocrops of palms. As permaculturalists we have
>> to recognize that any outside input impacts the site from which it was
>> taken. Maybe in our accounting that is acceptable, or maybe it is not.
>> We can think we're doing good by washing our dishes in coconut oil soap
>> instead of petrochemical detergents, growing seedlings in coir instead
>> of peat, but the orangutans who lost their habitat to palm plantations
>> don't see it that way. We're always causing impacts.
> To back you up on this here's something I picked up on recently:
> "The biggest problem agriculturally is that the most profitable crop 
> here and in Indonesia is palm trees for palm oil, the universal cooking 
> oil in this part of the world.  Problems are that palm oil is hideously 
> viscous and overwhelms anything cooked in it.  In addition, there is no 
> life form that can survive in a palm oil forest.  Zero ecological balance."
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