The most common question we get from new growers is, “What type of soil should I use?” Soil is a popular medium for container gardening and is often the hardest to get right. With so many options from simple “potting soil” to specifically formulated mixtures, it can be overwhelming to determine the best choice for filling your fabric pots and beds.
What actually is soil?
Soil isn’t just a bag of dirt. It’s a blend of ingredients that together make up what we refer to as soil. Some common ingredients in soil include: moss, sand, vermiculite, perlite, pine bark, compost, and other natural ingredients.
The type of ingredients that you want in the soil depends on what you’re growing and what characteristics you need from the soil. Adding a removing certain ingredients can affect the soil’s ability to hold water, provide ventilation to the roots, and deliver nutrients So getting the right soil composition for your plants is really important.
How do I know good soil when I see it?
Regardless of what you are growing, there are some general traits that are desirable when seeking a quality soil blend. As a rule of thumb, you always want a soil blend that is easy to handle, lightweight, and has a good texture. Ideally, soil should be fluffy. This will make the soil easier to work with and will encourage maximum growth. A soil that is too dry will result in low water retention. A soil that is too dense and clumpy won’t be able to drain properly. An idea soil mixture will also be free of pathogens. Soil pathogens can be harmful to soil bacterial or contain weed seeds that might interfere with your plant’s growth.
Tips about Commercial Soil
If you aren’t sure about the exact requirements of your plants or if you’re growing several different types of plants at once, commercial grade potting soil and some mulch is a great option. Potting soil is usually premixed and contains a good combination of essential ingredients – like compost, sand, sphagnum peat moss, and fertilizers – that deliver nutrients to roots. With soil selection, you typically get what you pay for. So cheaper options aren’t necessarily the best route for your plants.
Local & Organic Soil
If you find that a generic commercial soil doesn’t meet your growing needs, we suggest purchasing from a local and organic soil from a local soil company. Like food, soil is best when it is locally sourced and organic. To ensure the highest quality and consistency, aim to decrease the number of middlemen between you and your soil producer. Typically, locally mixed soils produce the best results because they are free from debris, pathogens, and contaminants that can negatively affect plant growth.
Special Situations & Optimizing Your Soil
Certain plants are meant to thrive in specific soil and environmental conditions. For example, succulents are a type of desert plant that requires soil with good water drainage.
After deciding what soil works best for your needs, do a trail run and take notes on the performance. When you notice that a soil mix performs well, then stick with it. If the soil you are using isn’t producing your desired results, consider Microbe & Plant Food soil amendments. If you still aren’t finding success, you can always ditch the soil all together, wash and reuse your fabric container, and start again.