Wow….71 degrees the other day, and it is still March. With temperatures being as warm as they have been, I took advantage of the “spring like day” and started preparing my gardens for the spring. Are your patio containers cleaned out and filled up with new soil? Do you have your seed trays all ready for planting? That leads me to my next topic which is “What’s in the Soil”?
Soil, by definition is “The top layer of the earth’s surface, consisting of rock and mineral particles mixed with organic matter”. So does that mean that you can go into your yard with a shovel, take a scoop of “dirt” and fill up your containers? NO, NO, NO….
Seasonal plants (annuals), and plant seeds, need to be planted in loose, organic material that is rich with nutrients. When plants are installed in mix like this they will quickly develop, and grow, a healthy root system, which will help them flourish quickly in our short growing season.
So, what’s in the mix? Soils for containers (and seed trays) need to be well aerated (loose) and well drained while still being able to retain enough moisture for plant growth. These mixes are often composed of various things such as peat moss, vermiculite, organic matter (leaf mold), bark and the mixes will vary depending on the manufacture and the type of plant material being grown.
When I prepare my gardens I always have on hand a bale of peat moss, a bag of vermiculite, an organic fertilizer (such as Planttone) and a bale of good organic compost. The compost I use is soil that has been created from heaps of wet, organic matter (leaves), that has been decomposed and aerated over time. I mix those ingredients up into a workable potting mixture, which is free of weed seed, loose (from an aeration standpoint) and well drained. Now, one secret passed on from my grandfather is to ADD a little “super-phosphate” to the potting mixture. That macro-nutrient will help promote root growth in your new seedlings. And my other secret (which I kid around with my kids about all the time) is this… after my containers are planted I dust the soil surface with a slow-release fertilizer, that will provide daily nutrients to my container plants for months to come. I then install my drip irrigation feeder tubes into each container and away we go!
With the proper soil mix and a shot of slow-release fertilizer in all of my containers my annuals, plants and veggies simply take off!