So, you know potted plants are the thing if you want to start gardening without any yards, but where do we start? On the top of the must-do list is learning how to prepare soils for planting in pots.
Remember that the plant container is not the natural cradle for your potted plants, especially for seedlings. That is why understanding how to prepare soils for planting in pots could mean a life-or-death situation for them. Even in the wild, research by the Latvian State Forest Research Institute suggests that soil preparation could improve plants’ survival rate and better growth.
Think of it as concocting a nutritious comfy bed/dining table. When done right, your potted green children can grow healthy and kicking. Without further ado, let’s learn how to prepare soils for planting in pots!
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Prep 1: Know which recipes work best for your plants!
Do you know which recipes work best for your plants? Yes, before you start mixing, you need to understand this point first.
Potting soil has to meet the needs of your plants. The right mix will create a much healthier plant with a productive yield and less tending than the sickly ones grown from the wrong or no soil mix.
Good soils have good drainage, are strong against pests, and can absorb nutrients well. Good drainage helps prevent rotting roots. At the same time, it can maintain sufficient water intake for the plants. Too dry, the plants can’t grow. Too wet, it attracts pests such as fungi and bugs. We absolutely don’t want those pests disturbing our green babies!
Lastly, we also need to consider the needs of different plants and how much tending they would need. Rosemary, Verbena, and Agave can tolerate dry medium. Cacti, Sago Palm, and the used-to-be famous Sansevieria thrive in dry soil. Perennial flowers need a moist bed. Veggies, such as cauliflower and spinach, need extra wetness. Others might need to swim only during the seedling stage but move to a drier medium as they grow.
Upon deciding what to plant, taking soil mix into account is a must-do. Make sure to pick and choose wisely!
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Prep 2: Know when to prepare the soil!
Sometimes the soils need a while to ‘chew and swallow’ the nutrients. To ensure this, farmers alternate the plants seasonally. What about our green-potted children at home? Do we still need to think of the timing and season?
The answer is yes, to some extent. Indoor plants may not be affected all that much. On the contrary, your outdoor potted plants will thank you with a bountiful harvest if you get it under the sun once in a while. Moving them to a larger container is also best done under good weather. Although the timing may be conditioned (especially if a greenhouse is in the picture), it is necessary to understand when the right time is to leave them alone in their containers or to move them.
Notice whether they are big enough to receive more minerals. Too much mineral for seedlings can rot them like what too much sugar does to kids’ teeth. Choosing a container larger by 30-40% allows more room for growth and reduces the need to keep moving them out.
Unlike humans, moving out of their comfort zone too often for plants can be harmful. Naturally, it takes 12-18 months to renew the soil. However, circumstances such as growth rate can quicken or slow this timing down.
Be extra careful in choosing to re-pot or renew the soil inside the pot!
Knowing when to prepare the soil mix is key to successfully creating a fertile planting media.
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Prep 3: Know what to put in the mix!
Just as in prep 1, considering what to put is vital. Adjusting the soil to the location of your potted plants is a good start.
For indoor, the mix should include peat, aerator minerals (perlite or vermiculite), and shredded pine bark. Succulents crave loose and dry grainy texture beds like sand because they are drought-resistant plants. The outdoor boys need soils containing aged-wood fiber to simulate the condition of them growing under the tree shade. Throwing in some extra fertilizers and moist control pellets will also do wonders for them.
Regarding fertilizers, we cannot forget to use the right amount of minerals. Most plants do well with a balanced NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) fertilizer. However, some will do better when absorbing a certain mineral. More phosphorus will benefit the crawling and climber plants.
Some plants, such as tomatoes, squash, and pepper, enjoy the extra nitrogen. Some flowers, like orchids and roses, want a potassium side dish.
Be sure to learn about your plants’ favorite minerals before adding them to their soil! By knowing what to put in the mix, you will create an effective planting medium for your potted plants!
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Prep 4: Know how much you put in and get mixing!
In regard to choosing the soil, there is one easy rule. Garden soil is good for ground-grown plants, and store-bought soil mix works well for potted plants and seedlings. Naturally, they have different ingredients and consistency. Garden soil is heavier, denser, and holds nutrients well. However, soil mix is lighter and better as an aerator because it has perlite or vermiculite. One is available from any backyard, but the other can be bought from a garden store.
To combine the best of both worlds, McGill researchers applied the recipes from Homemade Potting Mix 2018. According to their research, all mixes have pros and cons, but mix number 2 seems to work moderately better. It consists of 1 part 10:90 solarized soil mix, ¼ part coconut fiber, and ½ part of perlite. The 10:90 is manure to soil ratio, and they solarize the mix to combat the weed growth.
Solarization takes a longer time and is divided into two batches. For the first batch, we need to water the mix, spread them under a black plastic cover, and let them sit under the sun. Next, we need to sieve the soil because we don’t want clumps. Redo the steps from the first batch but use the transparent plastic cover for the second batch. Two weeks are enough for this step, but ideally, it can take 4-8 weeks for the best weed-free result.
In the end, there is no single best mix for potted plants. It all comes down to what your plants need and how much effort you can provide.
After you’ve learned how to prepare soils for planting in pots, you might also want to find out about the best houseplant soil mix!
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