blank'/> 66 Square Feet (Plus): Organic Mechanics

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Organic Mechanics

Organic Mechanics Seed Starting Mix

I am having some potting mix issues.

After my anti Miracle Gro rant I have been testing some different mixes. One of them is Organic Mechanics, made in Pennsylvania. It has an impressive organic pedigree. Most of the chatter about it on the web is self generated by the media-savvy company, so I am curious to hear from gardeners who use it. In theory, it is wonderful. Bizarrely, it is stocked locally by the deli around the corner, at the head of Bergen Street, on Court.

It is far too early to write a review of the potting mix as a growing season ought to be pass, first. So far, though,  I am not enamoured of their seed starting mix. It has mulch-like chunks of bark in it (above, with cucumber seed), which I find myself picking out. Whether or not the chunks affect a seed's ability to push through to the light is perhaps debatable - plants do it in the wild all the time. But seed starting mix suggests, to me, smooth friability. I had the same to say after last year's experiment with the awful Miracle Gro organic mix (in which my seedlings later turned yellow). The organic product I have liked best so far, is still Whitney Farms. Owned guessed it: Big Blue Brother. Oy. And I have also used some Fafard Complete Planting Mix, which I love. But it contains peat.

I like the Lower East Side Ecology Center's worm compost, but I aint' going to hop on the subway every time I need some. It would be wonderful if it was stocked by local stores. I have already begged two hardware stores to have organic options available and we'll see. Now I'm off to GRDN to see what they have in stock (and I need another clematis, a boxwood and extras). I asked about grow bags there recently and the sales girl told me that grow bags didn't "go with the aesthetic of GRDN". Really? I wonder if she knew what they are. But I didn't feel like pursuing it. I am increasingly drawn to them, for lightweight edible growing, and as a plastic-alternative.


(For more about why peat is an undesirable ingredient read this post at Garden Rant written by Ken Druse.)


  1. I'm a peat bog killer. Larry's, around corner, 7.99 for the big bag.

    But it makes me think about how many of us want to do the right thing, want to have someone to trust to stock the right thing and how that place simply does not exist.

    I've often thought we were ready for Brooklyn Ag House or URB-AG or some cleverly named city ag store.

  2. About the time that Gro-bags appeared on the market (initially, for tomatoes) I hauled a couple of big bags of premium grade potting mix up the stairs, out the window and down a fire escape to my roof garden.I jabbed holes in one side, flipped the bags, cut a rectangle out of the upper side and planted my seedlings.
    Ugly, but effective and everything grew well.Not quite as big as Gro-bags, but my back probably wouldn't have liked G-bs anyway!

  3. I've used Posey Power (all organic), made from horse manure and manufactured in Jackson, Ohio for years with wonderful results. I think the closest distributor is in PA. I even have it shipped to New Orleans!!

  4. Love, love, love Organic Mechanics soil. We have been using it for 3 years now and it is divine! We get it at Terrain in Glen Mills, PA and at our local Whole Foods. I'm actually adding more to our beds today!

  5. I have to chime in about GRDN. None of the people who work there know the first thing about caring for plants. And yet I return, again and again - there is some sort of inexorable pull. It might be the Campo de Fiori pots, which are a terrible temptation.

  6. Fran - There's a Fafard organic, with...perlite? Weird. Now, URB-AG. That's cutting edge, man. Totally Brooklyn :-)

    Dinah - I think you were a grobag pioneer :-)

    Cheryl - Posey Power - thank you!

    Becky - that's helpful feedback, thank you!

    Hi P - yeah, GRDN. And I have one of those pots :-) I met the owner and that warmed me to the shop, as she was friendly after a cool start. And I am a HUGE fan of the plants she picks, to sell out back. She has a great eye, and taste in general. But the last two trips have been very off, based solely on interaction with one employee. I have to wonder why I sing a place's praises if customers are treated so dismissively. Wasn't just me, but another person in the store, too. A sales opportunity walked right out that door because of her you-are-so-stupid-and-boring attitude. Inexcusable. Get out of retail.

  7. Hi Marie, I am in love with your blog and I check it every day for inspiration...what about Coast of Maine organic potting soil, lots of seaweed, compost, however, I just read the ingredients and there is peat and perlite. Please tell me why peat is such a bad ingredient, thanks

  8. Sally - good question. Every day brings us a new thing that we should feel bad about. It can become overwhelming. Peat comes from peat bogs. Which are destroyed by peat 'mining'.

    Ken Druse, one of my favourite garden writers, explains it pretty nicely here (in fact I'll add this to the post - thanks for bringing it up):

  9. Fran here. It's been awhile since I've read the bag. I don't recall seein perlite in the mix. Purple bag? Damn, it's outside and wet, will check later. Larry sells them to me so cheap. Fafard planting mix I believe it's called. Surely has peat, but also composted wood products. They say organic but not in the USDA certified kind of way.

    Alright, next venture after farming is URB-Ag. Can't get enough.

  10. Marie, just wanted you to know that Ken Druse interviewed Fern Richardson on 3/30/12 and your rooftop garden was discussed. Check it out.
    (I hope you are not receiving this twice. I was thinking I deleted my first)

  11. Sally - thank you! I had no idea...Funny that I should just have mentioned Ken Druse.

  12. Hi Marie, our mix does have aged pine bark in it, which has been screened down to 5/8". I know its not your typical seed starting blend, but we are not your typical potting soil company. The pine bark adds drainage and provides fungi food in the mix. Your instincts are right on, if there are any pine bark pieces on top of the cell after planting your seeds, I would suggest removing them to allow the seed free access to the world above the soil. OM Seed Starting Blend is OMRI listed, so you know it is 100% organic. We have hundreds of people using our seed starter with great success...let us know how the seeds continue to do as they emerge into the true leaf stage? BTW - someone told me about 66 sqft on Sunday at the 1st ever Farm & Food Fest in Philadelphia (#PF3 on twitter)... then your post came up when I searched 'organic potting soil'... serendipitous.

  13. Hi Mark - thank you for your feedback! Creating perfect, guilt free potting soil must be something of an art so I appreciate your efforts a great deal. For a gardener, picking out big bits of bark (mine were averaging an inch) is not much fun if you're planting many seeds. If, in the future, you can see your way clear to refining the seed starting mix, that would be very helpful. I'm using your other potting soil in my vegetable pots this year.


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