ASK Jeff: The Rodale Institute’s farm manager, Jeff Moyer, answers your hardcore farming questions

Where can I find seed starting soil mix approved for organic?

Posted June 16, 2005

What Jeff brings to the table

Jeff Moyer, who’s been the farm manager here at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm for more than a quarter of a century, receives lots of mail from farmers just like you asking for advice. Jeff’s hands-in-the-dirt experience over the past 26 years has run the gamut from refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems (including managing 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market) to overseeing The Rodale Institue Farming Systems Trial®, the world’s longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture. We thought it would be fun and informative to share some of these farmer-to-farmer exchanges, and Jeff’s practical wisdom, with our readers … and we’ll be doing it on a regular basis.

Got a question of your own? Send it to Jeff at:

Dear Jeff,

I am in my third year of running my one-woman, one-acre market garden called Peacevine Farm. I use organic methods, with this one embarrassing exception:

I don't know of a readily available and affordable seed starting soil mix that is certifiably organic. I have been using Pro-Mix BX, which has a wetting agent (don't know what it's called) that discludes it from organic approval.

What are some of the options for organically-approved seedling mixtures that will stand up to the quality of seedling produced in Pro-Mix BX? Thank you!

Trista Scheuerlein
Peacevine Farm
Coordinator, Farm-to-Table Program
Woodville, VA

Dear Trista,

The ATTRA website has a comprehensive section on “Potting Mixes for Certified Organic Production”, which lists several national sources for approved organic potting soils and includes a host of information about making your own mix and pertinent issues surrounding different ingredients you might choose.

Here at The Rodale Institute, we produce our own potting soil using leaf compost, perlite, vermiculite, a small amount of topsoil and some organic peat. We pasturize the compost to kill off any weed seeds, screen it and then mix everything together. We seldom have any trouble with the mix. We've never used any purchased potting mixes, so I have no personal recommendation from the list they provide. Hope this information is helpful.



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