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Let’s Talk Potting Soil

by Fern on March 5, 2011

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My car smells like cow manure, thanks to the bags of potting soil I have in the back. Can’t say that it smells bad either. I’ve been looking forward to finishing the book so I could get out on my balcony again. Which got me to thinking, what kind of potting soil do you all use?

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Brad Linder March 5, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I had been buying the cheapest stuff I could find that wasn’t riddled with pesticides or inorganic fertilizers. But after doing some research I picked up some better stuff with perlite and vermiculite mixed in. I added some mushroom compost and mixed it in with the peat-heavy cheap stuff already lining a few of my containers.

I also have two new containers on my rooftop with only the good soil/mushroom compost mix, and I’ll be curious to see how plants in those pots fare when compared with the ones in the mixed soil planters.

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Fern March 6, 2011 at 10:05 pm

I’ll be interested to know how your plants do in the different mixes too! Please check back and let us know the results.

Brad Linder March 15, 2011 at 5:17 am

Well so far, I can tell you the mixed stuff dries out faster. But it’s too soon to say if that will have any impact on the plants, since I’m still waiting for my snow peas to poke their way up.

Fern March 15, 2011 at 10:18 am

Hmm. Well, one of the problems with peat moss is that once it has dried out, it is hard to get it to “re-wet.” So, it would make sense that the pots with the older peat-based potting soil mixed in with the good stuff would dry out faster.

meemsnyc March 5, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I mix a combo of potting soil, manured compost, and peat moss. It works well.

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Fern March 6, 2011 at 9:58 pm

When you have a chance, check out coconut coir. It does the same thing as peat, but it is much more environmentally sustainable.

tldaisy March 5, 2011 at 4:21 pm

I use inexpensive organic potting soil.

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Fern March 6, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Where do you find inexpensive organic potting soil?! Usually organic potting soil is the most expensive bag, not the cheapest.

Julie March 6, 2011 at 5:39 am

I answered “cheapest” but really I did that last year with the exception of one or two bags from a local organic gardening business. The plants in the higher-priced (and much higher quality!) soil did much better, so this year I’m planning to make it a much higher spending priority.

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Fern March 6, 2011 at 10:07 pm

I’ve had pretty much the same experience Julie. I started out using cheap stuff, but then I tried a better quality potting soil and the results were so much better I couldn’t go back.

Mary C. March 7, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I started out with some prepared soil in bags, then moved on to mixing peat moss, compost and perlite.

Now that I’ve a year’s worth of potting soils I’ve been emptying all the containers I’m replanting into a big bucket and mixing in new compost and organic fertilizers, sometimes more perlite if it needs it (or crushed terra cotta).

I just found a nursery that carries small bags of vermiculite I’ll probly start using after I’m done w/my perlite. Still haven’t found a local source for coir.

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Fern March 8, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Mary–I’ve seen coir at Home Depot & Lowes.

Bob March 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm

I buy cheapo stuff -but mix in my composted kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, and paper waste.

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Justine March 14, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I use organic potting soil mixed with Cedar grove compost (local to me). I recently built a worm bin and my little wormies are making lovely looking compost. I’ll be adding some of that this year.

Love your site, and intend to check back often. Always so much to learn!

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Fern March 14, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Justine–Sounds like an awesome mix! I wish I had the guts to try vermicomposting. I think I am just too squeamish though.

Justine March 14, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Fern-I grew up a farm girl who played with frogs often, and I still had to warm up to the idea of worms in my house. I had dreams for two solid weeks that they were trying to escape because I wasn’t taking care of them. I shot up with fear of roving household worms more than once. Haha! All is well now though, and I’ve grown quite fond of my new friends. :)

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Fern March 14, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Good to know that it is possible to overcome the willies! Where do you keep your worm bin?

Sharon March 20, 2011 at 11:52 am

I haven’t gotten my tomatoes off the ground in the last couple of years. Someone suggested at the nursery that (since I have to plant in pots due to apartment life) that I mix a 50/50 ratio of cow manure (bag of black gold) and cheep potting soil. So far, everything is thriving! But, I have never used cow manure before. Will my veggies be safe to eat? The ratio seems kindof high after reading on the web.

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Fern March 20, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Sharon–That’s not a mix I would use, but there’s nothing wrong with eating plants that have grown in soil amended with cow manure.

I’m not sure what you mean by “I’ve never gotten my tomatoes off the ground,” but I’ve never had a problem with growing tomatoes in high quality potting soil and fertilizing them once a month with granular tomato fertilizer.

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