all in the soil, says John Lewandowski, retail manager at Bluemelís
Garden and Landscape Center. "Far too often, Iíve seen
customers spend hundreds of dollars on high-quality plants only to
take them home and plant them in a cheap 99 cent bag of Ďdirtí
without giving it a second thought," he laments.
believes there are discouraged or dejected gardeners who actually have
a green thumb. They just have bad or poor soil.
While there are
many high-quality custom mixes available on the market in bags or in
bulk at an affordable price, many of his customers are choosing to
make their own potting soil as they learn the importance of quality to
maximize plant potential.
But there are
challenges in making a personalized mix, especially the time it takes
to hunt down ingredients and achieve the proper ratios as well as the
cost. "Chances are you may need to source your ingredients from
several different stores, plus you may end up having to buy more than
what you need. Some materials arenít generally sold in smaller
quantities," he points out.
challenges wonít be deterrents to the fun of making soil, especially
since it is a fulfilling family project. "It would be a great way
to get everyone involved and excited about gardening. Plus, it would
be a wonderful learning experience," Lewandowski adds.
A shovel and
garden trowel are the only tools needed, with gloves being optional.
"Most serious gardeners I know love the feel of a good soil and
donít mind getting their hands dirty. In fact, they love it,"
he continues. Since good potting soil is airier or lighter in weight
than soil from the ground, it should have excellent drainage as well
as water-holding capacities.
A heavier soil
as a base gives the mix depth, with peat moss (not peat humus) giving
it the necessary lightness and drainage.
and perlite to add moisture retention, minerals and aeration. Sand can
be incorporated into the mix to improve drainage.
Mix soil in a
container to minimize mess and speed cleanup time; an outside area
that can be sprayed with a garden hose is ideal.
If potting up
hardier or woodier plant varieties such as a small shrub, rose bush or
fruit plant, a heavier potting mix than one used for flowers is
Make what you
will use for the season, storing excess in a breathable bag or
container, and keep in a dry, cool place such as a garage or basement
to minimize mold.
emphasizes, gardeners should know that there are hundreds of different
ways to make a good muffin. "Same goes for potting soil," he
get caught up or overwhelmed in making that magic recipe. The
satisfaction in making soil comes when you see the difference it makes
in your plantís performance versus using a cheap or poor soil,"
consumer horticulture agent for the Milwaukee County UW-Extension,
says there are few benefits to making oneís own container growing
mixes. "There are now so many options for commercial, packaged
container mixes that the hardest part is sifting through them all to
find the mix with only the components you want for the best
price," she points out.
that most are soil-less but use some composted materials as the base.
"These are lighter weight and easier to work with for that
reason. They are also sterile ó whereas mixes containing soil need
to be sterilized by the manufacturer, making them a little more
may also contain slow-release fertilizer and soil moisture-holding
polymers, which add to the price considerably. "Adding
slow-release fertilizer purchased separately may be cheaper,
especially since it can be added just to the top 1 to 3 inches of
soil, and with each watering, washed down into the soil where plant
roots can get it," she explains.
moisture-holding polymers may not be a necessary expense. While they
do hold more moisture in the soil, they do not really mean you need to
water much less often than without them, according to Morrisey. M