What Planting Mix is Best for Plants?
In March my grandson Jacob won the regional science fair with a project of interest to all of us who garden. I asked him to be my guest columnist this month so he could share his results with all of us. For many gardeners his conclusions may seem obvious, but I believe his experiment suggests some other interesting results. So, here’s Jacob!
The question I wanted to answer by doing my science project was to decide what planting mix is best for growing seeds and plants. I chose this question because last summer in my grandpa’s garden we grew red, yellow, purple and Jalapeno peppers, but they didn’t grow well at all. I asked my grandpa what he grew them in and he said he used old potting mix. When the plants did not grow well and failed to produce peppers, we came up with the idea to use a different planting mix the next year and see if peppers would grow better. I decided to try different mixes now before springtime arrived so we would have an answer.
The eight planting mixes I used were Starter Mix, leaf mold, coffee grounds, Perlite, tea leaves, Peat Moss, sand, and used potting mix. I planted four Zinnia seeds in each of six cups for each of the eight mixes, poked holes in the bottom of each cup for drainage, placed them in planting trays to be watered and put them under lights for sixteen hours a day. The first seedlings sprouted in one week.
To get my conclusion on what mix is best for seed growth I gathered numbers on each mix. For germination I just counted the number of seeds that sprouted in each mix and wrote the total in my notebook. The best two mixes were Peat Moss and Starter Mix and only the tea did not have any seeds germinate. I decided to also measure the average size of the seedlings. Just because the seeds germinated in the different mixes does not show how good the mixes are for growing plants for a longer time. I took a ruler and measured each plant in millimeters, and then got the average height of all plants in each group. Peat Moss and Starter Mix had the best seedling size. Several weeks after my experiment I found the Peat Moss seedlings getting the biggest with several forming flower buds!
Even though on the bag it says Starter Mix has more ingredients than just Peat Moss, I believe Peat Moss is best and if it cost a lot less than Starter Mix to use. I would use it knowing it worked well. I will tell my grandpa that mixing Peat Moss into the gardens will improve the soil and probably will give us peppers this year.
Thank you, Jacob! I look forward to a successful gardening season this year. For all our readers, an obvious lesson is amending the soil every year will help assure success. Compost, and Peat Moss are great additions and the low cost of both make it a no brainer for good choices.
April 21st Update
Q: I have several ashtrays from Las Vegas casinos that no longer exist. I especially like one from the old Flamingo. Keep or toss? -- Fred, Howell, Mich.
A: Ashtrays have become popular with collectors in recent years. The ones you have sound especially interesting, and my bet is that they are valued in the $10 to $35 range, depending on rarity and condition. There are two price guides that you should find helpful: "Collector's Guide to Ashtrays, Identification & Values" by Nancy Wanvig, and "Collecting Ashtrays" by Jan Lindenberger. Both are available at amazon.com.
Q: I have a pile of sheet music that I took to an antiques dealer. He only offered me about a dollar a sheet. What do you think? -- Beatrice, Sun City, Ariz.
A: Wayland Bunnell is an expert and collector of sheet music. I contacted him about your collection, and he said that unless you have something extraordinary, a dollar a sheet is probably a fair price. Of course, there always are exceptions to every rule.
For example, if most of your pieces are fairly common, a dollar sounds reasonable. If, on the other hand, your pieces feature personalities such as Shirley Temple or early Ragtime compositions, the values could be much higher. Bunnell is willing to advise you. Contact is email@example.com.
Q: I purchased a tea set consisting of a teapot, sugar bowl and creamer, four cups, four saucers and a serving platter. The pieces are marked Clifton Art Potteries and have a matte glaze in a rose color. I paid $65 for the set and hope I made a good buy. -- Roberta, Maple Valley, Wash.
A: I found your tea set referenced in "The Antique Trader Teapots Price Guide" edited by Kyle Husfloen (Krause Books). According to Husfloen, your tea set was made between 1920 and about 1940. It would retail for about $150 if in exceptional condition.
Q: I have a 1977 Lincoln penny with an image of JFK facing Lincoln. It is in excellent condition. -- Mary, Deland, Fla.
A: Your coin was, no doubt, a souvenir, and only a coin dealer can tell you if it has value.
April 7th Update
Q: I have a Mr. Peanut novelty bracelet made of plastic and metal, probably from the 1960s. Is it worth keeping? -- Rhonda, Albuquerque, N.M.
A: Your Mr. Peanut bracelet is valued in the $25 to $35 range, depending on condition and style. There were several designs made of this bracelet, which usually were given away as premiums by the company. Other values include a Planter's Mr. Peanut display jar, $35; a plastic lapel pin, $15; and a ballpoint pen, $20.
Q: I began collecting bottles as a teenager in Nevada. During the past 40 years, I have managed to find more than 400 bottles, many of them from saloons and pharmacies in Nevada. Since I now find myself downsizing, I would like to donate my collection to a museum or institution where it can be seen and enjoyed by others. -- Sam, Las Vegas
A: I suggest you contact the Nevada State Museum, 600 N. Carson St., Carson, NV 89701; 775-687-4810. Your collection sounds interesting, and I hope you find an appropriate home for it.
Q: In 1937, I visited a relative in Britain and was given a Wedgwood earthenware cup and saucer commemorating the coronation of George VI and Elizabeth. Is it valuable? -- Sue, Waco, Texas
A: Commemorative ware has become increasingly popular in recent years. For example, a Royal Doulton bone china cup that was issued to mark the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer has increased in value to almost $700; a plate featuring an image of Queen Victoria from 1887, $400; and an eggcup showing Princess Margaret Rose, $95. Your cup and saucer probably are worth about $50.
Q: My granddad worked in a North Dakota assay office during the 1920s and '30s. I have inherited his scale, which was used to weigh gold ore during that same period. I would like to find out more about it. -- Rob, Mason, Iowa
A: Bob Jibben is president of the International Society of Antique Scale Collectors, and he has agreed to help you. Founded in 1976, the ISASC is an active non-profit group. Contact Jibben at 1821 W. 49th St., Minneapolis, MN 55419; info@ISASC.org; and www.ISASC.org.