Selecting Potting Soil – A Staple for Growing Plants and Flowers

No gardener can have a green thumb without a little help. That help, okay, maybe it is a lot of help, comes from the soil in which the plants grow from. Even the best of plants and bulbs will flounder if you do not choose the right kind of potting soil for your project. And potting soil is not only used in plants that you plant indoors, but potting soil is used for outdoor areas as well.

What are you going to plant?

Depending on what and where you are planting will determine what type of potting soil to use. For instance, if you will be planting azaleas, they love to grow in soil that is acidic. Different kinds of ingredients from potting soil can be added to the bottom of a hole before you plant or it can be added on top to give some nourishment to depleted soil. So when you were ready to plant, you would dig your hole for transplanting a few inches deeper than normal, or you can create your own. To make your own, you would need sand, mold a little manure and peat moss. Whichever way to go, you take the mixture and place several inches at the bottom of the hole, place the azalea inside, and cover with the remaining acidic mixture. This way your plant will have plenty of its soil of preference to grow and flourish in.

Types of potting soil

There seems to be a special mixture for every type of plant. Cacti love loamy soil. Orchids require special nutrients to grow. Bulbs like a lot of bone meal to grow well. There are special mixtures to use in shady areas and recipes to use in full sun areas. And the list goes on and on. Following are some of the popular organic ingredients in certain types of potting soil:

  • Humus – Humus is decayed organic material. It holds the moisture in the soil and provides nutrients and aeration at the same time.
  • Manure – Manure is organic and odorless farm byproducts. Meaning, it is poop that has been refined so it doesn’t stink, but still has all of the valuable nutrients for your plants.
  • Peat Moss – Peat moss holds a lot of water in your soil mixture. It will keep the roots moist and provide aeration they need to grow.
  • Sand – Sand provides material for easy drainage around the plant. Heavy rains will not saturate your plant and kill it since the sand works to filter it away quickly.

Other ingredients mixed in potting soil are considered inorganic. Some mixtures use wood chips, small sticks and charcoal in their mixes. There are also materials like Perlite and Vermiculite, which are silica based products made to hold moisture, used in potting soil mixes.

Making your own potting soil.

You can create your own potting soil recipes if you have a large yard or place to store the ingredients. The ingredients don’t need to be stored inside, but you will want to keep them out of the weather elements like rain and snow. If they get saturated, the nutrients may seep out and be wasted before they are even used to plant.

Care of potting soil.

This seems like a funny statement – who takes care of dirt? You should, if you want healthy plants. No matter if you get dirt from a pre-mixed bag or if you use parts and create your own, it should be sterilized. Sterilization will kill any miscellaneous weeds or bacteria that could be harmful to your plants.

Sterilization can be done in small batches in the oven or it can be done under the summer sun. In the oven, you can fill a cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees for 30 minutes and stir, then repeat. If you elect to do large batches outside, find a full sun area and spread your mixture evenly. After four weeks, turn it over and let it sit for another four weeks before use. The hot sun will kill any bacteria and weed seeds just like the oven does, it simply takes longer.

How to store potting soil

Potting soil can be stored in its original bag if it can seal. The bag will keep moisture and rodents out, but has little breathe holes punched in for air. If your bag is too small or doesn’t seal, place in a plastic container where rain can be kept out but it is still allowed to breath. A small hole or two on each since of the bin will work well. Store the bins or bags in a dry and dark or shady spot. Warm spots may make any unsterilized dirt grow weed sprouts!

Where to find potting soil

You can find pre-made specialty potting soil at any home improvement store, nursery or greenhouse. Potting soil can also be ordered online from gardening and specialty websites, but it may be pricey to ship. When the air is warm enough, use your potting soil to plant outdoors. Use it anytime to plant and re-plant houseplants as needed.