Miracle Gro Potting mix problems

COLNJuly 22, 2013

This year I had to switch to all container gardening. I bought Miracle Gro Potting mix and filled all containers. I have to say I am terribly disappointed. I can't say any of the plants are really thriving as they did in the garden. The tomatoes have developed blight on their lower leaves, the chard refused to germinate in it, and the cukes came up but either died after their first leaves formed or like now are slowly dying without any cukes forming. Did anyone else have a problem with this mix or did I buy the five bags that were contaminated?

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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Well the clue is blight, not a disease but a response condition. Inconsistant water. You're probably watering too much, or not enough. I agree it's not the best mix, but it far from the worst too! I have used it, but prefer higher end products like Happy Frog. Some help to find out what is wrong is what zone are you in, what size pots, what color pots, plastic, clay, ceramic? How much light, etc. You have given us no info except the potting mix. When did you plant them? Are they outside or inside?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 8:46PM
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The cukes are in a large plastic container with four plants in each container. They get full sun most of the day and seem to dry out quickly. They have good drainage and I check them frequently to see if they feel dry down at the root level (moisture meter) We haven't had any real rain for the past seven weeks so they need to be watered more frequently than normal, temps running in the high 80's now.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 9:40PM
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C....nice job with the moisture meter. Those cheap ones really do work. As stated above (sorta)...watering and moisture is critical in container growing. You can learn about wicks here...and things like custom mixes that drain quickly. Hopefully, you did not buy the moisture control model. Those create a mucky mess (most often).

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 11:13PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

"Hopefully, you did not buy the moisture control model. Those create a mucky mess (most often)."

In a way I disagree, it is bark, peat, perlite, and control release beads. Not a bad mix. Basically the same of any high quality potting mix. I myself again like Happy Frog, It has organic fertilizer (bat guano, worm castings), plus beneficial bacteria (although probably dead). And the usual bark, peat, and perlite.Another I like even better is Fafard which is Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss, Pine Bark, Perlite, and release beads.. I'm pretty sure Happy Frog uses pine too, looks like pine. I buy Fafard but today they were out, so Happy Frog (yeah I just bought some today).
The Miracle Grow garden soil is excellent. A high amount of compost, and the soil looks dark, impressive. I use it for 1/3 of my garden mix. I add peat (it rains a lot here in the spring) and compost. 1/3 of each.
Here's a photo of one bed with 5 strawberry plants ( they are Pineberries, and musk strawberries plus runner growth), a blueberry in the middle, in front of my raspberry bed, all planted this spring (including raspberries). You're looking at almost 4 months growth.
As you can see, the Miracle Grow products deliver. So whatever the problem, I doubt it's the soil.

The strawberry bed was prepared last fall as I added sulfur for the blueberry and it takes as long as 6 months for the bacteria to break it down to sulfuric acid. Plants were bought as bare root and added in April and May. I also added some sulfur to the raspberry bed, but soil was added this spring. Only a little sulfur to keep soil around 6.0. The strawberry/blueberry bed is around 5.0.
Trace elements were added in watering with powdered kelp and Azomite. Rain water is used for most watering, but at times I have to use city water. I use organic fertilizer and inorganic (water soluble). But little was used as soil has fertilizer and is new.

Sorry to ramble on, maybe you can try some trace minerals next time, use a different soil, add compost. Use rainwater, or at least let the chlorine and fluoride evaporate off before you use it. Let tap water sit 24 hours before you use.It really depends on what you're growing. Corn needs more Nitrogen, radishes don't need any. So each plant will need different care.

This post was edited by Drew51 on Tue, Jul 23, 13 at 0:30

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 11:58PM
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I think you will find a good many folks that disagree with the concept that Miracle Gro soil products "deliver".......unless you mean deliver poor results. Lord knows, there have been enough posts over the years complaining about the performance of these products to come to the conclusion that something is amiss. Annual potting soil trials we hold at my nursery always place MG soil at the bottom of the bunch. Too uniform a particle size, too moisture retentive, too liable to compact and unnecessarily fertilized, especially for seed germination. One can do sooo much better!!

btw, blight IS a disease. Tomatoes experience both early and late blight, both of which are fungal pathogens. Both are encouraged by warm temperatures and high humidity and overly moisture retentive soil. Tomatoes can also experience a whole bunch of other diseases (mostly fungal) that resemble blight as far as yellowing/dying off of foliage and general decline of the plant. Without seeing the plants, its difficult to say what's up specifically but your soil choice could certainly have contributed. I would also never choose an MG soil for seed starting, either. Too many chances for damping off or over fertilization issues.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 5:53PM
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G....I am glad you piped in! You were able to explain clearer what I was trying to convey. Water retention is not something that is usually looked at fondly in containers....unless there are unusual conditions (such as hanging baskets which are prone to very drying conditions). Some components of MG are good things...such as bark and perlite. I have learned so much on this site by following the lead of more learned gardener's than myself.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 11:47PM
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I have bought Miracle Gro for years until the last 5 years. Plants grew in it but so did knat flies. I think the maker scrapes the soil from the woods for it isn't sterile. Eggs are in the soil, hatch living on rotting wood and sticks in the soil. They don't hurt the plant but are a pain flying around in the house getting into things, including my coffee.

I am not alone with problem. Many gardeners have discontinued buying this brand.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 7:19PM
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Wow. I've used MG for MANY years and can't say I've ever had any of those problems with it. Everything grows just fine and I even use it for seed starting using the winter-sow method and indoor sowing. Do they have different mixes from region to region? Actually using a different brand this year though since it was convenient...."Super Soil"....much like MG, but a little lighter maybe.


    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 11:09AM
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"I think you will find a good many folks that disagree with the concept that Miracle Gro soil products "deliver"......."

And I think you will find that a good many folks on here hate pretty much any product by a company with more than 1000 employees.

Millions of people have great gardens container, or otherwise, with MG soils. It works fine.

The biggest problem is that people fail to understand that no all soils are the same, and they base their watering/etc on convenience, and not whether the plants actually need it.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 5:52PM
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Well, I've got six big bags of Miracle Grow Potting Mix that I will be using this year. I guess I'll find out for myself whether they "deliver"or not. I hope so because I want a successful container garden. I've heard good things about Pro Mix but haven't seen any around here in my little part of the world (western Colorado). Anyway.......

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 4:52PM
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Miracle Grow is a contract product mixed to specification pretty much all across the country. It's possible your MG came from the same yard as your Kellogg's or your big box house brand. Since this thread is descending into a MD hate rant that will prove nothing but ignorance, maybe you all should just recognize that blaming one's dirt gets you nowhere.

I've used it. It worked. It's dirt, not magic. I don't use it any more simply because I don't need it with the way I do things. Blaming it for bugs, or pesticides, or herbicides, or rocks, or smell, or whatever is pointless. You can do that with ANY bagged soil.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 5:10PM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

MG can be made better by adding more perlite or something similar. I have used it just fine on annual containers or other plants that just arent as important to me. i start all my veggies and annual flowers for each year in it with no problems.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 1:26PM
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Though new to GW, my first comment about a week ago related my 4 month struggle with a massive infestation of fungus gnats thanks to MG. Today is April 30th and I am still battling the darn things. Fungus gnats are more than annoying, they feed on delicate roots and will eventually harm the plant. Without GW and members comments specifically Tapla, Josh, Meyermike and Ohiofem, I would have lost my mind and my plants. Converted almost all my plants to gritty mix and though some of my green things were not initially happy-now they are looking good. Though the commentators were strangers, reading through their guidelines and suggestions were so helpful and made me feel supported.
Now my friends joke about the time I spend doing the "gritty"! MG acknowledged the issue when I contacted them and there are a significant amount of complaints about fungus gnat infested MG all over the internet.
Would never touch another MG product. Searching for ingredients did take time but was worth the results ten-fold and fungus gnats hate gritty mix!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 6:30PM
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I used to use it for years but several years ago I drifted away from the type of fertilizer in it. I wanted something organic because it was just safer. If I was going with a peat based mix I'd want it plain like it was a bagel or something and I wanted to add my own toppings and not interfere with the over all creation. For that I'd choose Pro Mix over MG. I'm going to try the bark mix(5-1-1) but for the addition of potting mix/peat I'm going to use a veriety of exotic mixes and stage a competition. Perhaps one will be MG haven't decided yet. Gonna try Foxfarm products(if I can find them) and some Coasts of Maine products. I'm sure just about anything can work depending upon your expectations but I think how well things work out is more related to how you adjust on the fly especially where water is concerned. I watch my neighbors use MG and all summer long just sit there for hours drenching their yellow tomato plants. Yeah the sand they put in clay soil might have helped too or the fact they were so lazy they used a post hole digger to plant their tomatoes but their tomatoes should have done better had they just stuck to basics and used organic products instead of products high in animal urine. I didn't even see if they put some slow release formula in the soil. Gotta give the tomatoes some minerals as well and that's sometimes the problem. Those post holes were filled with MG, and sand and they planted some short posts. In the fall they didn't remove them or till at all. They still haven't but memorial weekend.....Starting in late March I've tilled 1500 square feet and some of that several times. I've used MG organic potting mix and had better results without hardly trying using containers. Not bragging but sometimes products are not used right or are expected to work alone. That is a pipe dream. Not referring to OP but to myself and my own experience and others I see around me. If I don't grow a Sigmund the Sea Monster I feel very disappointed and ashamed.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 9:04PM
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I had problems with Miracle-Gro potting mix.~ it was instant suicide for my tomatoes, cukes, peppers and flowers. Not all bags of the potting mix were bad. I bought bags in April, which were okay - but the bags I bought in mid-May were like poison to all of my plants. I used the potting soil to amend in my soil in the flower and vegetable garden and in containers. All plants had leaf curl - they all either are dying or died. Did anyone else have this problem? I emailed Miracle-Gro but did not hear from them yet.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 3:07PM
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I noticed a definite drop in quality over the years where Miracle Grow mediums are concerned. I don't even bother with bagged potting soils any longer, preferring to mix my own mediums for better performance.

One thing to keep in mind is that growing within the confined space of a container is not the same as growing in the ground, in a garden. In a pot, the science and physics are a little different, and we have to compensate for that.

The concepts outlined in the link below should help you understand what happens under the soil surface in a pot situation... and help you rectify any issues.

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Soils - Water Movement and Retention XIX

    Bookmark   June 1, 2014 at 7:45AM
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johns.coastal.patio(USDA 10b, Sunset 24)

I've used a number of potting soils, and even run the big mixer at a local arboretum.

I guess I'm an optimist after that experience, I think there are more good mixes out there than bad.

That said, I guess I accept that MG could have a "bad batch" here and there. They'd certainly be on guard against it, to protect their reputation, but they can't test all their inputs in every batch .. especially against something sneaky, like a "cide" of some kind sprayed on an input of bark or peat.

One thing I do like to remind people is that in many regions there are suppliers for greenhouses which have potting soil available in bulk. Where available I'd think those would both be reliable and economical.

For instance, a compost, peat, and pumice mix from www.compostoregon.com, a mere $48 per cu yd, or $1.77 cu ft.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 5:49PM
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Some of the problems posted in this thread gave me the motivation to figure out how to make my own soil mixes.

I have seen many containers filled with MG or other brands of peat-based potting soil that retain so much water that plant roots actually rot and die in the bottom of these containers.

Last year a friend complained that his tomato plants had mostly yellow leaves and were not producing anything. Turns out that when he dumped the soil at the end of the season the peat-based potting soil was completely waterlogged. Most of the containers were saturated with water and the roots of the tomato plants looked really bad.

A few years earlier I bought a 3 or 4 foot tall sugar maple tree from a big box store at end of season sale for a very small cost. The tree was in bad shape, looking very droopy and with few healthy leaves. I removed it from the container and the soil was a mix of peat and sand, completely soaked with water. The soil even smelled bad. I planted the tree in the ground that fall and gave it some TLC for a few months and the tree rebounded into a fine and healthy tree.

I'm not saying all peat-based soils are bad and should not be used. Some people swear by them and others like the convenience of buying pre-made soil without the extra trouble of screening bark or finding perlite or Turface. I simply believe there are better alternatives and prefer to use them whenever possible.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 8:02PM
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johns.coastal.patio(USDA 10b, Sunset 24)

Commercial growers, including greenhouse growers of produce (most closely matching my interest as a container vegetable grower), use all kinds of things, some peat based, some pine bark based, some compost based, etc., etc.

This makes me think the key is matching soil to crop, and to practices.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 9:27PM
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