Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Dirt on Dirt potting soil

What makes a good Potting mix?
Almost any article on plants ends with "and make sure you use a good potting mix" -great advice but what does it mean? Let's go over the basics and see if we can answer that question. To know what a good potting mix is you kind of need to know what the purpose of a potting mix is, so let's discuss that first. The main functions of a potting mix are:
  • To hold moisture and nutrients around your plants roots.
  • To provide enough air for growing roots to be able to breath and not rot once you plant your container.
  • To support your plant, providing anchorage for the roots.

Rules of thumb for choosing a potting soil:

  • Potting soil used in containers should be light and fluffy.
  • Look for a potting soil made up of peat moss, pine bark and perlite or vermiculite.
  • Fertilize may be added in the form of a slow release formulation. You may need to fertilize even if you used a slow release fertilizer.
What is in potting soil?
Most potting soils you buy in a garden center are made up of three basic ingredients: peat moss, pine bark, and either perlite or vermiculite ( to provide air space).
Peat moss comes from peat bogs. Peat moss provides a great moisture retaining quality with good air space. For you annuals peat moss is to acidic you need to add to the peat moss. Peat moss can retain a lot of water so always watch your watering. Note peat moss when it is in a potting mix can also repel water, so mix your potting soil in a bucket and add water and then add to your container.
Pine Bark comes from paper mills. provides moisture and more air space. All by it's self pine bark does not do a lot. Mix it with your peat moss or again by a pre mixed potting soil.
Perlite & Vermiculite both a type of rock when heated it takes a different form. They both provide air space and hold moisture, and really makes your soil light.
I see this problem all the time. People pay a lot for a nice container and spend 2.00 special potting soil. Spend the extra money and get a nice potting soil that will provide a nice place for your plants to grow.

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