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Vermiculite.

Vemiculite is a natural mineral that when subjected to heat has the unusual property of exfoliating or expanding into worm-like pieces (the name vermiculite is derived from the Latin 'vermiculare' - to breed worms). Vermiculite is ideal for the germination of seeds. It has high aeration and moisture retention properties that make it highly suitable for use in seed germination. Vermiculite's  many uses and beneficial properties include:
Inorganic, and sterile
No known toxicity or fire hazard
High water holding capacity
Non-abrasive and non-irritant
Absorbs excess nutrients
Facilitates re-wetting
Low alkalinity
High cation-exchange capacity
Does not deteriorate in storage (if dry)
Free from disease, weeds and insects
Good air holding capacity
Insulates and minimizes soil temperature fluctuations
 
Seed Germination
Potting Mixes
Vermiculite is ideal for the germination of seeds, because it's aeration properties combined with it's water holding capacity make it a very suitable medium for direct contact with the seeds.
When vermiculite is used alone, without compost, seedlings should be fed with a week fertilizer solution when the first true seeds appear.  Large seeds can be mixed with Vermiculite in a small polythene bag closed at the neck, and kept in a warm place until the seeds just start to germinate.  Then plant them singly in small pots or trays of potting compost.  Vermiculite can also be applied to the outdoor seed bed where it will give improved emergence and less risk of capping.
 
Vermiculite in potting compost gives a very light open compost, holding more water and facilitating re-wetting, thereby lengthening the time between watering.  Vermiculite also has excellent ion exchange properties which absorb excess nutrients and release them slowly to the plants via the finest root hairs.
A 50/50 mix of vermiculite and sphagnum moss peat is widely used for greenhouse pot plants and hanging baskets, while a 25/75 mix is generally suitable for for bedding plants, nursery stock, etc.
To improve an existing compost add 20-25% by volume of Vermiculite and mix thoroughly.
Rootings/Cuttings

          Vermiculite/sphagnum moss peat composts stimulate root growth, giving quicker anchorage of the plant and uptake of nutrients. A 50/50 mix is generally suitable for cuttings on the open bench or under plastic covers, but a maximum of 25% is recommended under mist irrigation in Summer.
Thoroughly water the vermiculite before inserting cuttings, and do not compress around the base of the cutting.
 
 
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