Gardening is no longer confined to the ground, as many of us have long envisioned. These days, along with the overall movement towards cultivating some of our own food, container gardening — growing fruit and veg in pots and planters — is on the rise. This methodology, of course, has opened the door to gardening on apartment balconies, rooftops, patios, and windowsills. But, like any gardening, the success of a container garden has a lot to do with the medium plants are growing in.
Growing in the earth and growing in pots is quite a different thing, and the soil used with each method is, in turn, also different. In stationery gardens, we work to build the soil into a self-sufficient eco-system, using techniques like mulching, compost, and nitrogen-fixing plants. Plants in containers, however, operate in a partially different fashion, as they aren’t growing as part of a natural system. In essence, we — the cultivators — have to piece together the right ingredients for them: a potting mix.
What Makes for a Good Potting Mix
A lot is required of a good potting mix. Unlike garden soil, which, if cared for properly, is constantly replenished with cycling plant life, a potting mix must be long-wearing on its own. It needs to be loose and airy so that drainage is good, which will prevent the mixture from getting anaerobic and prevent the roots from getting the oxygen necessary for the plant to grow well. At the same time, the soil needs to have qualities of water and nutrient retention, as these things won’t be delivered, via rain and organic matter, the same way they are in nature. The mix needs to be made of fine crumbs, strong enough to support a plant but inviting enough for young roots to take hold. The inclusion of microbes, i.e. soil life, is important as roots/plants and microorganisms have symbiotic relationships that keep both healthy. Lastly, in some climates, potting mixes do well to have properties of insulation, as plants are exposed to extremes of weather.
In other words, it’s quite a puzzle to piece together, and that’s without considering the persnickety needs of each individual type of plant. But, don’t worry it’s doable, and all of the ingredients are there to be combined, for much less cost than buying one of the bagged mixes, which tend to be lacking.
Your List of Ingredients
The trick to make a good but inexpensive potting mix is using things that perform multiple functions.
Video from: California Gardening
A great potting mix using coco coir, perlite or vermiculite and compost. We prepare this easy potting mix or soil with rain water. Coco coir is an easy to use and neutral pH potting medium. Buy coco coir here: http://amzn.to/16ino3a