New nursery looking for thoughts on container soil mix

RhisomeJuly 22, 2013

We will be container growing a variety of products but mostly shade trees. The volume of soil required will be quite high so we are looking at ideas of materials we can truck in fairly cheap if possible. I realize certain products we will have to spend on.

I have a nearly endless supply of fescue lawn clippings as well as owning a farm, we bale hay. It is hard to justify good quality hay for this but I might be able to get old hay, corn stocks, etc for this. I do not have a shredder though and I assume that will be required to get a reasonable breakdown time.

I was going to order in sand and Perlite but sort of concerned Perlite will be too expensive.

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R....I would recommend reading some of the threads here. There are many good ones. Your organic ideas like grass and hay are not good. They will decompose quickly and bind up your container. You did not state the "variety of products"...but possibly they will be in containers for awhile?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 11:07PM
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I think I was considering the grassy products more as fillers and organic matter but I do agree. The containers will be in place for 2yrs.

I know pine bark is common place in potting mixes but I have no resource for that product, just chipped pine trees complete. I can also get cedar.

I think I am trying to source some more economical solutions than the typical peat, perlite, bark, sand, etc... That would run pot costs WAY high.

I was going to check sources for manures as well. I need to get something blended to get it decomposing and send my sample out for test.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 12:24AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

No cedar; no sapwood.

You'd be better off with Pine or Fir bark, both of which will last those two years in the pot. When purchased by the yard, bark is economically competitive as a filler. I certainly know that buying bagged potting mix to fill my containers would cost me significantly more than mixing bark, perlite, and potting mix.

Where are you located?


    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 1:21AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I doubt your operation will be large enough to warrant your own soil mixing operation. Here most nurseries order the soil mixed by a landscape supply Twenty yards or more is usually delivered free. If you don't like any of their mixes, most offer up to 10 mixes stocked, you can have your own made up, but expect to pay a little more. I buy my favorite bark based mix at about $50 a yard in less than truckload quantities. Al

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 10:10AM
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Perlite is very expensive any way you buy it. I would like to consider mixing my own mostly so I can get used to tuning for different apps. I can get Lime cheap enough.

I will have to check on bark though.

trying not to be bull headed, I will also check on outlets for potting mix by the yard or ton but I am not sure too many exist around here.

I am in South Central KS.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 1:36PM
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You don't need different soils for different plants. Any woody plants are perfectly happy growing in a very barky potting mix - that's what 99% of the commercial growers use. Heed Al's (Calistoga's) advice - look into a custom or premixed blend you can purchase in bulk. There are bulk soil purveyors darn near everywhere. That's what landscapers use and any other nursery operators. You may want to check with other local independent nurseries (not the box stores) to see what they use.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 5:38PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

If it's going to be mainly shade trees, how about holding everything in Missouri Gravel Beds and then selling things bareroot? That way you can avoid all the root problems that I see with container grown trees. Also, gravel is cheap and reusable.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 11:14AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Rhisome, the cost of a good potting medium should simply be considered as part of doing business. You cannot grow a quality product in a mess of a medium! It's as vital to your success as the quality of your water.

When I had my container nursery, I shipped in tractor trailer loads of a bulk, pre-mixed bark based potting medium. I don't remember the exact composition right now, but it was mostly bark , with a small amount of perlite and peat. It was fabulous stuff, and made growing beautiful nursery crops easy.

What EVER the cost was to me, I simply carried it right over to the per pot average added to the price point of your finished product. Just like you add in the overhead costs, plant costs, etc.

You keep the cost of the plant down by being a smart shopper yourself, reducing overhead when possible, and other means. But never by trying to get by with a bad potting medium.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 3:41PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I agree with rhizo, if you are going to grow in containers you have to use a good mix. I have recieved shipments from nurseries that cheaped out on container medium. They never got another order from us again.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 10:54AM
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I would agree with Rhizo and Calistoga... this is the base of your business, the root of it so to speak, and if you want to build a good reputation for producing and selling a good, healthy product, you ultimately have to spend a little in order to make it all come together as you want it to.

I would recommend doing some reading and research before embarking upon your venture. "Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention XVII" is a great place to begin. You can usually find this article on the first page of this forum.

Container growing is vastly different than growing in a garden, so you'll want to address the needs of plants specifically grown in containers. Poor soil can make or break you as a nursery.

When I buy plants from any source, or am mixing my own mediums, my preference is a fir bark based, gritty, larger particled, fast draining medium that won't hold a perched water table, and won't require re-potting on a yearly basis, which ultimately saves money, labor, and time.

Save the organic methods for the garden... go for a more inorganic approach to container growing. You want to control what happens within those containers, including moisture, plant nutrition, light, etc... it's best to have your information firmly in hand before you begin this sort of business, or you'll fail before you ever get going.

I run a small niche business selling plants, and before I begun, I made sure I had a business plan, and I made sure I knew what I was doing... from the soil up. You really don't want to flounder around without an understanding of plants or their requirements, from a more scientific angle. Tapla's article will help you get there, I believe. It helped me more than I can say.

A green thumb is nothing more than applied knowledge.

Happy Growing!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 4:07PM
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chilliwin(EU DK 7)

Welcome to the forum, Rhisome.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 12:03PM
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