It is one of the basic requirements for most plants. It not only gives them access to water and nutrients, it also keeps them anchored down. We’re talking about soil. While you might think it is fine and dandy to just go outside to your backyard or local park, grab some dirt and call it a day, it is actually very important that you obtain the correct potting mix for your plants to thrive.
What is soil?
Soil is organic matter on the Earth that acts as a place in which plants can grow. There are many different types of soil from sandy and clay to silt and loam but finding the right one for your houseplants might be a tough task to complete. With everything to consider, such as water absorption levels, nutrient level and more, it can be a bit daunting to pick out the proper soil. But with due diligence and research, you will be on your way to providing your plant friends with the best soil they could have.
Why is potting mix so important?
Soil is likely one of the last things you’d think about when preparing your garden. From light sources to watering schedules, you may not have put that much thought into the soil and think any old dirt will do the trick. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy, and soil requires just as much research as the other aspects of gardening. Soil is the foundation for your plants. Like a house, plants need a good foundation. Without it, anything would knock it over.
Wind, animals, people, storms, the list goes on and on. And once a plant is knocked over, it’s likely the end of that plant’s time on Earth. Seeing as how plants don’t have any motor functions, it would be impossible to get upright again on their own. Their only way back would be through a helpful hand (such as their gardener’s) but who wants to be picking up plants all day long. Soil will allow for your plants to burrow their roots and solidify their position in the ground, setting themselves up to thrive.
In order to grow, plants need nutrients. Think of it as food for the plants, you needed food to grow as a kid, now your plants need food to properly grow now. Soil containing nutrients that the plant required for growth and life is the best kind of potting mix. This way, you don’t have to do too much when it comes to fertilizing as the potting mix is already jam packed. Plants need 3 primary nutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (sometimes seen as NPK).
If you do any amount of research into plant nutrition, NPK will be very prevalent in your results. And for good reason, plants use nitrogen to make the proteins needed to grow, phosphorous to help needs germinate and potassium to produce flowers and fruit. All three of those activities are vital and essential to plants thriving. They also require other nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and more, but not as much as NPK.
Plants obtain water through their roots. The potting mix a plant is in will determine how much water it can absorb. If the potting mix is good at absorbing and holding water, the plant will have more water to absorb. If the soil doesn’t retain moisture, the plant will likely suffer. A good soil that holds enough water to prevent the plant from drying out, but also not so much that it drowns the plant is ideal.
Alongside good potting mix is good fertilizer. There is no better fertilizer than the kind made by mother nature herself. Decomposition of dead organic matter such as other plants, animals, fruits, vegetables and more recycles nutrients into the potting mix. From there, plants located in this soil can utilize those nutrients for their own benefit. Be careful when fertilizing to understand how much organic matter has decomposed in your soil, you may end up over fertilizing this way! Check out this blog from Soltech on the Top Five Fertilizer Mistakes to better understand what fertilizer can provide your plants, along with how to properly fertilize your plants.
Examples of good potting mix
Vermiculite acts like a sponge in soil. It absorbs a good amount of water and can gold it for longer periods of time. It can absorb 3-4 times its volume when in water, so it will cause your plants to be full and heavier. It is made from compressed minerals that expand when absorbing water, helps aerate soil and is also good for starting seeds.
Perlite aerates soil, holds water and prevents it from packing down. Due to this, it will allow high humidity plants to thrive as well as making root trimming easier for you. It is a good option to have when you have plants that need to have completely dry soil between watering such as cactus or succulents.
Compost is usually decaying soil that is very nutrient rich. It combines organic matter that is decomposing such as food scraps, lawn clippings, dead leaves and more. You can make compost at home with your own composter, such as the one found here. You can use compost soil to refresh older soil right before planting a new set of crops for the spring.
As is the case with anything plant related, do your research and make sure you are getting the proper potting mix for your plants. Check out this blog from Soltech, 6 Common Houseplants that can live outdoors in the summer, to get some ideas on plants you can add to your home.