Thursday, January 30, 2020

Preparing To Plant? First, Pick The Right Soil.

Green sprouts popping out of dark soil. Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash.
As we move through winter and eye the upcoming spring, gardeners everywhere are preparing to plant. But before decisions are made as to where and what to plant, it is important to pick the right soil to plant in. Dirt is not just dirt. Potting soil, topsoil, native soil and garden soil are all different and each has unique and specific properties that make them suitable for different types of growing. Additionally, what you are planning to grow in the soil can color what type of soil you should use.

A colorful array of different types of soil.
Types of soil
All soils contain three components: clay, sand and silt. The percentages of each of these can vary widely according to geographical regions and mixes in bags. The first step to knowing what type of soil is optimal for you,  is to determine where and how you are growing. This will help determine whether you need soil that is more of one component than another.

Multi-colored pots filled with a variety of plants and flowers.
Are you planting in pots? Resist the temptation to use just any soil mix. Soil formulated for container growing provides enough drainage and aeration to allow healthy root growth, whereas denser soils may lead to compaction and water retention. Our recommendations for potting soil are A little girl squatting by a a raised garden bed. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.Tank’s Pro Coco-Soil Potting Mix, Tank's Pro-Lite Seeding & Potting Mix and Soil Mender 109 Potting Mix.

Considering a raised bed?
You’ll want something a little “heavier” than a potting mix, with a bit more organic matter. Blending potting mix with another pre-mixed soil blend at around a 50/50 ratio should yield close to what you need. Depending on what you’re planning to grow, you may want to tinker with that ratio to meet your plants’ needs. Take a look at our Prococo Coconut Coir Products; you may find just what you want in one of the three formulations.

A pile of black dirt with a gardening trowel in it and white gloves beside it.Should you use topsoil or garden soil? Topsoil is more of a general landscaping tool and can be used for filling out and leveling or conditioning native soil. It should not be used for new plantings. Here is what we have for topsoil. Garden soils are pre-mixed blends that contain added nutrients and other organic matter. Garden soil can be used when planting, but is only intended for in-ground use. For more on the differences and how to choose between them, check out this article.

A person kneeling down in brown dirt, holding some in both hands.Do you want to cultivate a garden plot? You’ve already got the native soil in place. But chances are your native soil will need some help to properly support what you’d like to grow. Your first step to figuring this out is to determine  what your native soil consists of, In this article, Home Depot suggests doing a “feel test” as follows:
Moisten a tablespoon of soil and roll it into a small ball.
If the soil pack together and is moldable, your soil contains clay.
If you can form a 2-3” ribbon with your ball of soil, you have a very high clay content.
If the ribbon falls apart or feels gritty, you have a mix of clay and sand.
If the soil ball will not hold together regardless of how much water you add, and it feels a little gritty, it’s sandy soil.
Once you know what you have, you'll have a better idea of how to get to where you need to be soil-wise.

A woman and a brown bear cub digging side by side in a garden plot. 
Yep, that's a bear cub.
A pink ceramic pot with a handle with a green cactus in it. Photo by Stephanie Harvey on Unsplash.Plants can grow in many different  soils, but the trick is to know which ones grow best in what. You can plan your garden by what the soil will support, or build the soil that can handle what you prefer to grow. Succulents, for instance, need good drainage, while flowers prefer lighter soils. How you approach what you cultivate is not important as long as you get to the right soil choice.

In the coming weeks, we will go through the steps to getting the soil ready to plant as we test for pH and add soil amendments.

Submitted by Pam (with Sterling)

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