Bagged Soil Products – What’s Best To Choose?
By Heather O’Bryan, Horticulturalist
A trip to the garden center can become fairly confusing very quickly. Many people are heading over to the bagged soils area to find what they need for their specific project. This area has so many choices that it is hard to decide which one is best. In this article we will break down what several of these bagged soil products are used for.
This bagged soil is mostly used in containers. Always think of the word “pot” in “potting soil/mix” to remember what it is used for. It is typically a mix of compost for nutrition, peat moss for a light soil texture, perlite and added fertilizers. All those ingredients add up to a light and fluffy mix that will not harden in containers like topsoil might. The perlite controls moisture, mostly letting water out to keep the roots from rotting. This is why potting mix dries out quickly and may need to be watered daily in hot, dry weather conditions.
Potting mixes come in a few different types, which can be confusing. When growing annual flowers in containers, a conventional potting mix such as ASB’s potting soil will do. If you are growing vegetables in your pots, make sure to choose a product with a good mix of organic material for natural plant food like Earthworks Replenish 3-4-3 or any other composted chicken litter will do the trick
If you have a hard time remembering to water your container plants or they are drying out in all day sun, try adding a product that holds water for longer like Fertilome’s Hydro-Stretch. This product retains water and releases it slowly as the soil requires it, making plants happy.
Garden soil can be the most confusing of all the bagged soil products. It is an amendment meant to till in ground gardens. It is mostly a mix of composts meant to loosen and feed native soil to help in ground flower and vegetable plants. It is just as prudent to skip the re-branding of a tried and true soil amendment and choose a well-rounded compost such as that put out by McGill or any of a number of manufacturers who offer a mushroom compost product.
Garden soil is great in one type of container, the raised bed. Combine 1/3 garden soil, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 vermiculite and you have the best “soil-less” media possible for growing vegetables above ground.
Speaking of compost, the choices offered can be overwhelming. Compost is, at its basic level, broken down organic matter. It is used for several things including improving soil structure, providing nourishment for plants and soil living organisms, and control water retention.
There are so many different kinds of composts, such as, Black Kow Manure. These all nourish in different ways, but are all great for soil. Try mixing a few of these types together and make your own well rounded, multi-sourced compost.
This bagged amendment seems to confuse the general garden center shopper. With the word “soil” in the name, some people think it is indeed a soil product. It is actually intended to help native soil by loosening thick clay which helps with water drainage and nutrient availability to plants.
There are several different soil conditioners and most are helpful for in ground vegetable gardens and flower beds., but we recommend a product that doesn’t even come in a bag. There are a number of products that attach to your water hose and spray the area that needs help. These conditioning products will react with the particles in the soil and help to literally release the tight positive and negative charges that cause soil compaction.
A trip to the garden center doesn’t have to be confusing if armed with the knowledge you need ahead of time.