What Is The Best Potting Soil?

uniquelydivine(6)June 24, 2012

I need to repot some plants and need insight/advice on what soil would be the best to use for different plants (all indoor plants).

I am not sure if I would be able to make my own mixture because I might not be able to find everything that may be needed.

Should I use soil with or without fertilizer?

Also, if the potting mix contains fertilizer, should I wait about 6 months after I repot to start feeding the plant? I am asking because it is now June and 6 months from now will be December, and I read before that plants should only be fed from March to October. Is this true or can they be fed all year round?

Is Fafard Professional Potting Mix a good soil? I sent them an email and they said that it does not contain fertilizer.

A link to the Fafard website is included. The soil I am referring to is the last one on the page (green bag).

Thank you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fafard Professional Potting Mix (Green Bag--Last On Page)

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You'll get many answers to this. It depends on how you like to grow, how involved you want to get, and your philosophy of growing.

Personally, I make my own mix - quite porous and with lots of spaces for gas exchange. I like the control it gives me to tailor things and to ensure the roots are getting an optimum mix. It also means that I have to pay more attention to them than if I used a less porous mix.

Each mix has trade-offs - for you and the plant. A less porous mix means you water less, so your time isn't as involved, but the roots aren't quite as happy. They're not necessarily unhappy (depending). A more porous mix means you water more, but the roots get a benefit.

I prefer not to have fertilizer in it. I want to use a fert that provides the level of nutes that are optimal. Mixes with added ferts don't allow that.

I've read that some of the Fafard mixes are good, but I think the ones I'd use are on this page: http://www.fafard.com/Products/HeavyWeightMixes.aspx . I'd pick something with a low percentage of peat - no more than 30 to 35%, like the 51L.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 6:15PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I think we'd need to be satisfied with just isolating a good mix from a poor mix, because trying to identify the best soil probably isn't going to happen, and the number of variables involved pretty much makes a determination of what's best unrealistic.

Some of Fafard's mixes are very good, and some are just another run-of-the-mill potting mix, virtually indiscernible from other mixes that frequently present problems related to excessive water retention. Also, you need to determine whether you want to work on what's best from the plant's perspective or your own. Viewing the subject from the plant's perspective binds us down a little more than viewing it from the grower's perspective, and there is a tendency to mix perspectives when it comes to soil discussions.

In the Fafard line-up, their Nursery mix is probably the best you'll do insofar as a 'use as is' potting soil. It's what I would use if I didn't make my own soils. The other 2 mixes by Fafard I'd consider would be their #3 or #51L mixes.

In the end, if you can water properly without having to worry about the soil remaining wet so long that root rot becomes a likely issue, your soil is appropriate or 'good'. There are degrees of good, but being able to water correctly w/o worry is where I would set the bar, and wouldn't use anything I thought I couldn't water to the saturation point at will.

You could easily make your own quality soils if you have access to pine bark of suitable size. I'll leave you to determine if that's an option you'd like to consider. If so, there's plenty of help available.

Best luck!


    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 6:18PM
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Would I be able to use the Nursery Mix long term, say every time I repot? I see that is says "starter nutrients" so I'm thinking it has fertilizer.

I am still getting the hang of making sure I water correctly to avoid root rot so Tapla, the plants' best interest is my major concern.

I want something that will drain well and be a good mix.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 6:41PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The nursery mix is about as close as you'll come to a commercially prepared 5:1:1 mix, which is an excellent mix from the perspective of root health. Roots need air as much as they need water. The problem is finding a mix that provides both in favorable measure and avoiding those that excel at providing water at the expense of aeration.What determines the ratio of air:water primarily is particle size. A bucket of marbles has more air space than a bucket of BBs has more air space than a bucket of sand has more air space than a bucket of pudding. You don't want to grow in pudding or (fine) sand because it holds too much water and not enough air. The marbles hold too much air and not enough water. When you start getting around the BB size, you're getting close - especially if the particles are able to hold water internally, like little sponges.

Yes, you can use the nursery mix long term. It WILL break down eventually, but by the time the soil has broken down into tiny particles, a repot will be overdue. In most bark-based soils, root congestion becomes a limiting factor before a collapsed soil does. Bark breaks down at about 1/4 the rate of peat; and when you add the fact the bark particles are much larger, it's not difficult to imagine a bark based soil remaining servicable for (easily) 5-6-7 ..... times longer than a peat-based soil.

Most of Fafard's heavyweight mixes have large bark fractions. If you have a mind to, you can make a soil equal to or better than the prepared soils at a fraction of the price.

I think that every container gardener needs to understand the importance of air in the root zone, and what affects the water:air ratio or relationship in soils so they can avoid poor soils and easily determine a good soil from a poor or middling soil. If you have spare time, I think you'll find the info at the link I'll leave to be of value to your container gardening career. ;-)


Here is a link that might be useful: I hope you find this worth the time it takes to read it.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 9:25PM
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stonesriver(6B Tennessee)

IMO, there is no "best" mix. It's like lathyrus said, it depends on the person doing the growing and how involved they want to get. Also their conditions, what they grow, how much time they can realistically spend tending their plants, etc.

And opinions on what constitutes "best" are as varied as, well, the opinions on GW.

Hope you find what works for you.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 10:35PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Uniquely...yes, Fafard makes an excellent potting medium. But as Al and Laythrus have said, their professional line is far superior than anything in their retail line....which you've been looking at. If you find a garden center that sells Fafard, ask if they will special order you something from the 'Heavy Weight' line of mixes.

Good, good stuff.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fafard Heavy Weight Mixes

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 11:15PM
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