fancy gardeners must call the dirt -
A fairly lightweight potting mix is needed for container vegetable
gardening. Soil straight from the garden usually cannot be used in a container because it may be too heavy, unless your garden
has sandy loam or sandy soil. Clay soil consists of extremely
small (microscopic) particles. In a container, the undesirable
qualities of clay are worse. It holds too much moisture when wet, resulting in too little air for the roots, and it pulls
away from the sides of the pot when dry.
Container medium needs to be porous because roots require both air and water. Packaged potting
soil available at local garden centers is relatively lightweight and may make a good container medium. Soilless mixes such
as a peat-lite mix are generally too light for container vegetable gardening, since they usually will not support plant roots
If the container is also lightweight, a strong wind can blow plants
over, resulting in major damage. Also, soilless mixes are sterile and contain few nutrients, so even though major fertilizers
are added, no trace elements are available for good plant growth. Add potting soil if you wish to use a peat-based mix.
For a large container garden the expense of prepackaged or soilless mixes may be quite high.
Try mixing your own with one part peat moss, one part potting soil and one part clean coarse builders sand or perlite and
a slow-release complete fertilizer. Lime may also be needed to bring the pH to around 6.5. In any case, a soil test
is helpful in determining nutrient and pH needs, just as in a large garden.
the straight scoop about "poop" - oh! sorry, fertilizer....
Fertilizing... If you use
a soil mix w/fertilizer added, your plants will have enough nutrients for 8 to 10 weeks.
If plants are grown longer than this, add a water-soluble fertilizer at the recommended rate. Repeat every 2 to
An occasional dose of fish emulsion or compost will add trace elements to the soil, is one opinion
we found. No matter what option you use, don't add more
than the recommended rate of any fertilizer, since this may cause fertilizer burn & kill your plants.
Container plants don't have the buffer of large volumes of soil & humus to protect them from over-fertilizing
or over-liming. Just because a little is good for the plant doesn't guarantee that a lot will be better.
Since potting mixes drain water rapidly, fertilizer will be washed out
of the container as you water. Lighter mixes will require more frequent fertilizing than heavier mixes.
It's another option to use a dilute liquid fertilizer w/every other
watering. Liquid fish emulsion or liquid seaweed are great plant boosters, but remember that you need to provide your plants
w/a variety of nutrients.
Check the labels on the products in you garden center to be sure that they
contain a complete, balanced solution that includes trace elements.
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Make sure your planting medium drains
rapidly but retains enough moisture to keep the roots evenly moist. Your compost will make an excellent potting soil.
Check the requirements of the plants
you grow to determine whether you will need to add sand. If compost is not available, purchase a good quality potting mixture
or make your own from equal parts of sand, loamy garden soil & peat moss.
Commercial potting mixes are usually
slightly acidic, so you may want to add a little lime.
Most container gardeners have found
that a "soilless" potting mix works best. In addition to draining quickly, "soilless" mixes are lightweight & free from
soil- borne diseases & weed seeds. These mixes can be purchased from garden centers.
When you add your soil to your container, leave a
2" space between the top of the soil & the top of the container. You will be able to add 1/2" or so of mulch later.