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The Dirt About Dirt – Potting Mix Tips

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Spring is fully in the air. You are ready to start your plans for a garden, yet once you walk into your local nursery you can be overwhelmed with choices. Your choice of what you place your plants in is a major decision that can lead to the potential success (or not) of what you are planting. Let us help take the stress off of you by giving you some good tips to follow when choosing the soil for your garden.

Sothern Living Magazine says, Not all potting soils are created equal; some of the best ones have no soil in them. A good mix holds water but has enough air pockets to prevent roots from rotting. Follow these tips when choosing a mix. Purchase bags with a mixture of Canadian sphagnum peat moss, ground or aged bark, and usually perlite. This combo is light weight, holds the right amount of moisture, doesn’t compact, and drains well. Look for a wetting agent, which helps organic matter absorb water easily and evenly. Potting mix without a wetting agent is hard to hydrate the first time or to rehydrate when dry. Don’t buy bags labeled “top soil”, “garden soil”, or “cow manure.” These are heavier, compact easily, and do not drain well.

By doing a little research on what you are planting and the best mix to use you can save yourself a lot of headache down the road. Here are a few basic types of growing products you should know about to get you started:

  • Germinating mix is a nice product to use as it holds moisture evenly. Germination mix tends to be made up of peat, perlite, coir, etc.. You pay a little more for this product but it is worth it and will make a world of difference in your growing.  
  • Transplant mix works well when it is time to move your seedlings into their new container. This mix tends to contain sphagnum peat, perlite, and vermiculite formulated for ideal growth for seedlings. It is a well-drained mix which holds optimal moisture needed for young plants.
  • Container mix is another lightweight choice for your gardening needs. Containing much of the same ingredients as the others, this product is excellent at retaining moisture without clumping or becoming heavy.
  • Potting Soil surprisingly rarely contains soil. Most are made up of peat moss, perlite, and bark. Potting soil tends to require frequent fertilization to give your plants the nutrients they need.
  • Topsoil is often considered to be ideal for plant growth, however this is rarely true. Topsoil in itself usually requires amending with lime and fertilizer just for starters. It is a heavier product and made even heavier when wet making it not an ideal choice for planting.

Know what you want to grow and read packaging so you can choose the product that is best for your needs. Remember, while cheaper products and soils can work for your gardening needs, often they need additives that over time can make them more work and more cost than the higher quality products are. A little research can go a long way to saving you time and money down the road.

Go into your local nursery armed with knowledge and confidence. Take this first step to create a garden that will do well! 

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