Peat Vs. Coir
Peat has been the tried and true main seed starting soil ingredient for years but coir is catching on fast. Coir is made from the waste hulls of coconuts while peat grows naturally and slowly in peat bogs. There is some concern today about the sustainability of peat which is why many gardeners are leaning in favor of coconut coir. Either will work fine.
Vermiculite vs. Perlite
Both vermiculite and perlite are light materials that improve the drainage of soils but there is a major difference for the gardener be aware of. Vermiculite added to soil works great to improve the drainage but there is an issue with some vermiculite containing asbestos. Asbestos isn't a good thing! I prefer perlite which is made from heated volcanic glass that resembles styrofoam bits and pieces. You've probably seen it before and wondered "why in the world did they put styrofoam in my potting mix?" Well they didn't!
Commercial Mix or Homemade?
You can go out and buy a commercial seed starting mix (which I've done many times) or you can make your own. Generally it is cheaper to buy the raw ingredients and put together your own special blend. It also gives you a great amount of control over what kind of plants you're starting. For something that needs better drainage and lighter soil you would just put in a higher ratio of perlite to the mix. You can even add in other ingredients like compost to create your own seed starting mix. There is some evidence that completely composted compost (say that 5 times real fast!) has a positive effect against damping off! So consider the compost! You could also buy the store bought seed starting mixes and add a little of your sifted and full decomposed compost from your compost bins. I'm convinced compost will save the world one day!
If you're short on time or lack of experience is a concern then there is nothing wrong with purchasing a ready to grow seed mix. Because these mixes do not contain many ingredients that will offer nutrition to the plants you may need to add some light fertilizer after the seeds have germinated. (Please steer clear of synthetic fertilizers if at all possible!) Keep fertilization light at this point because you don't want too much green growth until a good root system is established.
I have used the peat pellets in the past and found them to be very easy for starting seeds. The pellets, which resemble small dried disks, need moistened before seed starting. Once the pellets been sufficiently moistened they expand into small cylinders of soil where you can plant your seeds. I like the fact that you can plant these directly into the garden when the plants are strong enough or you can move the seedlings into larger pots without having to change pots around.
Pots, Pots, Pots!
|Cowpots from Gardener's Supply|
|Mushroom containers make great seed starting flats!|
A lot of people have success using newspapers wrapped into a pot form or even cardboard tubes left over from toilet paper and paper towels. There are many, many options for seed starting pots!
|Growing The Home Garden Seed Sowing 101 Series|