Need help with a new brand of soil.

grace_m(NY)August 5, 2011

My fiance bought a new bag Miracle Grow soil for me (big mistake) and because I read a few stories of bug infections online, I decided to microwave it and freeze it right away. I didn't see anything initially, but after 2 minutes in the microwave, I could see these little moving white flecks. I have two questions.

Since I handled the soil in the kitchen near my plants, is it possible they got contaminated? I didn't see any of these buggers fly, but can they? Gah, I'm still itchy...

What soil do you guys use/recommend?

Thank you.

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hi, Grace - you may find the link below to a discussion about soils for containerized plants helpful, perhaps even eye-opening.

The key to a good soil is that it is made from ingredients that promise to retain their structure and thus adequate aeration for the intended life of the planting or the intended interval between full repots. More below.


Here is a link that might be useful: See what he was talking about by clicking me!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 9:36PM
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Hello Grace. As for the soil recommendation, if there's anyone you want to listen to, it's Al. I am a recovering Miracle Grow user, currently using Al's mixes in some shape or form, and I am having the best results I've ever had.

On to your bug friends. Is the MG soil you bought perhaps the organic kind? This stuff is notorious for having insects and/or insect eggs in it, but, that's the risk with any organic mix. Little moving white flecks could be either mealy bugs, or white flies. I would bet on the latter, and if that's the case, yes, they can fly.


    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 9:59PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Whiteflies don't infest soil nor potting mix.

To ID what the "white stuff" is, one needs either a sample or an excellent image.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 10:23PM
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Al, that link is wow. I think I'm going to need a day to read and digest it all. Very informative, thank you.

The soil isn't organic, it's "moisture control" I don't even know why I attempted so salvage it.

I wish I could get a pic, but these things are incredibly tiny, just white/off white dots, no identifying features that can be seen with the naked eye (and I think I have decent vision). I would guess they're about 1/8-1/16th the size of a grain of sand.

Here is a link that might be useful: The soil

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 1:35AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Grace - most out-of-the-bag potting soils are too moisture retentive to allow you to water properly to begin with, leaving you 'on the horns of a dilemma'. Then comes the MG soil you pictured that boasts that it holds 33% MORE water ....... The 'dilemma' is, when you choose these heavy soils, that you have to choose between watering in small sips to make sure that the soil isn't soggy for an extended period, which promotes a build-up of salts in the soil that affects vitality, or you water properly and risk the root rot/damping off issues that accompany soils saturated for extended periods. ANY soils that contain large fractions of peat, sand, topsoil, coir, compost ....... let's just say soils that are comprised primarily of fine particles, are much more difficult to bring along healthy plants with unspoiled foliage in.

Fast draining soils that hold little or no perched water, which is the water that causes all the fuss - the water that remains in the pot, occupying an often tall layer (in the case of the soil you pictured) of soggy soil at the bottom of the pot or just above "drainage layers", are MUCH easier to grow in because the roots love the added aeration (the roots are the heart of the plant, and even though you can't see them, it's of paramount importance that you keep roots happy. "If the roots ain't happy, ain't NO part of the plant happy." Dr Carl Whitcomb PhD) and you can water freely with virtually no concern for fungal issues associated with saturated soils.

I tried growing in bagged soils like MG, Jungle Grow, Hyponex, others, and they were not satisfactory. It wasn't until the 'aeration light' went on that I realized that a coarse soil made from durable ingredients (that don't quickly break down) that producing healthy plants became easy. Initially, finding the ingredients to build your own soils can be a pain, but once you've established suitable sources, it's a snap, and life gets easier from there.

Combine the use of a fast soil with a 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer, and almost anyone can grow happy, healthy plants. With a little attention to the other cultural requirements, it really is that easy.

Good luck.

BTW - I recently repotted a few tropical trees and found masses of what I believe to be eggs in the soil with no evidence of damage on the plants from adult 'anything'. The eggs were about 1/2 pinhead size or just a tiny bit larger than that. Though unsure, I guessed them to be the eggs of June bugs. I'm, not saying that's what your 'dots' are, only that it's my guess that it's what mine are; and wondering along with the guess if what we're looking at are the same? I wish I'd had the presence of mind to snap a picture. I'll do that if I bump into it again.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 10:46AM
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I'm so annoyed, today I saw one the bugs crawling on my kitchen counter. If my plants get infested... I didn't even use this garbage.
Seeing the bug on it's own made me realize it's not white, it's beige, a tiny bit translucent. I guess the almost black, soaking wet soil made it appear white.

It's seems like most of the ingredients for DIY mixes come in large quanties that I don't have the space for:( I live in an tiny NY apartment.
I know I won't get the stellar results that you guys experience, but I'm hoping there's a middle ground between soil that can grow prize winning tomatoes in the dark and bug infested MG:)

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 6:45PM
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Grace, are you sure you didn't see Perlite or Vermiculite?
After being mircowaved, I doubt any living insect would survive.
There are horror stories about microwaves and....a terrible ending.
Therefore, how can a tiny insect survive the nuke machine?

Both Perlite and Vermiculite cling like Styrofoam. I don't know the results either would have after being microwaved.
If you've ever handled styrofoam, especially large amounts, (in a shipping box) they seem to move of their own accord. Especially peanut types. Perlite and Vermiculite act the same.

You said you saw one of the bugs. Most MG Moisture Control bags are kept outdoors. If it was an insect, perhaps it was outside the bag. Also, it's summer. A season spiders and other creatures find a way indoors.
If the bag was opened before your fiance purchased, and he bag had the teeniest hole, any outdoor bug can crawl through. But then we go back to the microwave. It doesn't make sense.

I use MG, but not Moisture Control. Thank God I've never found an insect of any type in the bags..however, there were a few times milipedes, which I detest, were crawling about, in other soil brands, not MG.
As much as I detest spiders and 'pedes, I take the risk of using black soil w/certain tropical plants. It's been several years finding any bugs though..

Are you growing tomatoes in or outdoors?

If outdoors, your Moisture Control will work like a charm. A friend is growing tomatoes in pots. She used MC MG. Her tomatoes are large. They weren't yet red, but I saw them a little over 3 wks ago. I was impressed. Her potted tomatoes were larger than mine growing in the garden.

If you feel agitated, return the soil and get a refund. Ask an employee, 'if you find one who knows soils,' to sort through the soil..

Or if you're really curious, send a sample to a local university or county agent, as Jean suggested. Toni

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 1:34AM
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