Talking Dirt 101

With all of the heat we’ve been having lately, I’ve noticed that some of my container plants aren’t doing so well, so I’ve become concerned and started doing some research on the internet. What I read the most is poor garden soil and improper drainage can make or break our plants in containers!

Crack pot

From my own experience, most bagged soil you buy is just horrible.

Longs Brand Sun & Soil

Here’s some things I’ve learned lately.

When you think your plant is in trouble, you must consider the soil.

I’ve learned that the roots of a plant need air as much as they need light and water. Most all soil we buy in a bag isn’t going to supply our plants with enough air – some will be okay for a while, but after a period of time, this bagged soil breaks down and compacts and compacted soil means no air circulation for the roots. Apparently, they need to breath. Then the soil ends up holding too much water, and when roots are in water for too long, they end up drowning or dying from root rot.

Douglas-fir failure due to laminated root rot

I’ve learned that the number one priority is to choose a soil that will give the plant proper drainage or air for the roots in our containers. Apparently if you are able to go for long periods of time without having to water one of your containers, although you may not known it yet, your plant is dying during the wet period and regenerating once the soil dries out so it never really goes anywhere and can eventually die altogether.

Root rot

I’ve also learned that a fast draining soil is better than one that stays wet, but you have to water and fertilize more frequently.

After doing my homework, I think I might have found a solution that I’m going to try:

3 gallons of composted pine bark
1/2 gallon sphagnum peat
1/2 gallon perlite
A small handful of lime and gypsum combined
1/2 cup Controlled Release Fertilizer (Osmocote, etc.)
1 tbsp micro-nutrient powder or a fertilizer that contains the minor elements (24-8-16 soluble blends)

Ok, so what is all of this stuff?

pine tree bark

Composted pine bark is a finely ground pine bark that is an excellent soil amendment, but you have be sure and buy the fine particles and not the big pieces of it. The size of it ranges from 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch. This stuff is supposed to hold water, air and nutrients together at correct percentages for the plant.

sphagnum moss and peat

Sphagnum peat is made up of decomposing sphagnum moss and is used in the soil to retain water. When added to a fast draining soil, it can slow the drainage down a bit and allow the plant to take root. It doesn’t really add any nutrient to the soil. It’s just for holding in some water for the plant. This is the stuff you buy when you start plants or seeds indoors.


Perlite is some type of rock and it’s white. I’ve actually bought this and used it, but had no idea why I was using it or if I was adding the right amount. Basically, it’s used to prevent compaction and improves the aeration and drainage of the soil. It also holds moisture, but doesn’t become soggy.

Lime raises the pH level so the soil is less acidic and gypsum helps correct compacted soil or soil with clay in it.


Osmocote is something I’ve used before, too. It’s plant food – an all in one solution that feeds your plant for up to six months and contains 12 essential mineral nutrients. It has a 15-9-12 soluble blend, and don’t ask me what that means, because honestly, I have no clue.

Miracle Shower

Ok, I googled 24-8-16 and found Miracle Grow All Purpose Water Soluble Plant Food. Easy enough.

I’ll let you know what happens! I feel like such a nerd tonight. LOL

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