Choosing which soil to use.

What Type of Soil Should I Use?

This is the most common question we get from new growers. Soil is a popular growing medium for container gardening and is often the hardest part to get right. Consumers are bombarded with a wide range of soil options ranging from simple “potting soil” to specifically formulated mixtures that are designed for certain types of plants. Narrowing down your options and selecting the proper soil can often feel daunting.  

What Actually is Soil?

Common soil ingredients.

Soil isn’t just a bag of dirt, it is a blend of ingredients that together make up what we refer to as “soil”.

Some common ingredients in soil include:

The type of ingredients that you want in soil depends on what you’re growing and what characteristics you need from the soil.

Adding and 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, which 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 and a soil that is too dense and clumpy won’t be able to drain properly. An ideal soil mixture will also be free of pathogens. Some examples of soil pathogens are harmful soil bacteria or weed seeds that might interfere with your plant’s growth. Learn how to detect signs of bad soil to avoid jeopardizing your grow.  

Quick Tips For New Growers

Mulch. If you’re not sure about the exact requirements of your plants or if you’re growing several different types of plants at once, then an easy option is to buy a commercial grade potting soil such and some mulch from a local nursery to supplement your potting soil. We checked with our local nurseries and a couple of popular brand suggestions we got are E.B. Stone and Fox Farm. Potting soil is usually premixed and contains a good combination of essential ingredients such as: compost, sand, sphagnum peat moss, and fertilizers that deliver nutrients into your plant’s roots. Although each brand of soil will differ in composition and consistency there are some general traits that are desirable when seeking a good soil blend. For example whenever picking a soil you want to look for a mixture that has low water retention and a fluffy consistency.  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

Close-up of soil. If you find that a generic commercial soil doesn’t meet your growing needs, we suggest purchasing a local and organic soil from a local soil company. Like food, soil is best when it is locally sourced and organic. You want to aim to decrease the number of middlemen between you and your soil producer to ensure the highest quality and consistency. Typically, locally mixed soils produce the best results because they are free from debris, pathogens, and contaminants that can negatively affect your plant’s growth.    

Special Situations and 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 a soil with good water drainage. If your plant is high maintenance and has special needs in order to thrive, then using the right soil is crucial. There is a wealth of information on YouTube and other sources that can help provide specific information about your plant’s needs. After deciding on what soil works best for your needs, it’s important to take notes and evaluate the performance. Document which brands and formulas work best for your plants. 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 then don’t be afraid to switch or try a combination of two or more soils. Feel free to contact us with any questions, our soil specialists will get right back to you.

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