topsoil in containers?

toad_ca(z7b Bellingham, WA)April 12, 2008

Late last year I purchased WAY too much of a topsoil blend from a local nursery. It's a "5-way" of sandy loam, cow manure, sand, sawdust, and mushroom compost. I bagged what was left after filling my raised beds and put the bags in the garage. Now I'm thinking about putting some of my extra tomato plants in 15 gal. pots. Usually I'd buy potting soil, but I was wondering if I couldn't use the bagged topsoil. What do you folks think?

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

What goes in bags of topsoil covers lots of ground (oh look - a pun) ;o), but I think what you described will be found wholly inappropriate in containers if you use it. . . . best to turn it into the garden, beds, or compost pile.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 3:06PM
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Hello Toad-ca if I had that mix I just could'nt let it just sit there and not know how good it might be as container mix. I would try one container with that mix so I would know if it was good or not. I have over 30 self watering buckets planted and working on about 10 more to finish my spring garden, and I was figuring today my cash investment, it must be getting on about 12 bucks for all of them. Ill show in pic. when I learn how.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 5:15PM
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toad_ca(z7b Bellingham, WA)

Al--Could you please explain why it would be inappropriate for containers? Why does container soil need to be different? I have a lot of confidence in this particular nursery, so I'm not overly concerned about pathogens.
I'm just asking about this since I've always purchased container soil for my container plants in the past, but wonder if the extra cost is worth it given what I have on hand.

dangsr grow--wish I could run out and try it but it's still a little early to put tomato starts out here in Western Washington unless you have a green house or a cold frame.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 6:00PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Container soils need to be different than garden soils because the physics of water movement/retention in container soils differs radically from water movement in our beds & gardens. As I look at the ingredient list, every ingredient is fine-textured, so no matter what %s of how they are combined, compaction and high water retention is virtually assured. This is especially so if the organic components comprise the bulk of the mix. You should probably also expect the mix to be quite high in soluble salts because of the mushroom compost and manure. The soil could also be initially very hot (high in N) - especially if it's been moist. I also would expect an accelerated rate of collapse as the organic components are not structurally stable and will quickly break down.

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    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 6:28PM
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In very simple terms, if the medium in the container is too fine, it will settle and pack down after a few waterings and a bit of time, and literally suffocate the plant's root system. Roots need a certain amount of aeration to function properly.

I have found Al's mix to be of great value in growing healthy root systems on all my container plants due to it's excellent drainage and aeration properties.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 12:19AM
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toad_ca(z7b Bellingham, WA)

Thank you both so much. Very helpful.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 12:12PM
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