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I was adding miracle-gro seed starting soil to paper pots with my daughter a few months ago and was a little leery about letting her touch the stuff (let alone breathe it in).

What's in it that is dangerous? Do you need rubber gloves or just gardening gloves? Should children be kept away from it? Are there natural alternatives?

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2 Answers 2

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Here's the MSDS. Notice that it says it does not require gloves, but does recommend eye protection.

I'm looking at the label and I don't see where it calls for gloves -- though it's possible this product is slightly different from what you've got.

The product label tells you what's in it:

This product is formulated from 80-90% horticultural-grade sphagnum peat, perlite, fertilizer and a wetting agent.

Since it is a fertilizer product, they are required by many (most?) jurisdictions to list the N-P-K content:

Seed Starting Potting Mix, 0.05-0.01-0.05

Guaranteed Analysis

  • Total nitrogen (N) . . 0.05%
    • 0.005% ammoniacal nitrogen
    • 0.035% nitrate nitrogen
    • 0.010% urea nitrogen
  • Available phosphate (P2O5) . . 0.01%
  • Soluble potash (K2O) . . 0.05%

Derived from: urea, ammonium phosphate, and potassium nitrate.

The only mystery ingredient in there to me is the "wetting agent".

The peat and perlite are pretty harmless (just don't inhale). I'm no safety expert, but the fertilizer is at such a low concentration that it doesn't seem like it could do much harm.

I mix my own potting / seed-starting soil with higher fertilizer content, sometimes with peat and/or perlite as ingredients, and I've never had any problems handling it with bare hands. The only reason I sometimes shy away from letting the kids dive in bare handed is because their hands often end up in their mouths, and that just doesn't seem like a good idea.

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Looks like it has some fertilizer mixed into it.

Fertilizer Analysis

.05 - .01 - .05

From here (I have no idea what this actually means). However being a miracle grow product I assume its typical miracle grow fertilizer that we use in our gardens. Wouldn't hurt to request the MSDS on it just to know what the safety procedures should be.

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    Three numbers for fertilizer probably means NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphor, Potassium). They'll be ionic form (ie. you won't have pure phosphor which WOULD require gloves!), and I guess as such they might be corrosive. If so, they can't be too bad as it is being sold as a soil medium! Could be a biological component? Eg. composted manure?
    – winwaed
    Jun 10, 2011 at 20:08
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    @winwaed - if it does have manure in it they aren't saying it directly on the product info page. Still no clue why you need gloves. Looks like CYA to me.
    – wax eagle
    Jun 10, 2011 at 20:29

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