Getting down and dirty with soil

Getting down and dirty with soil

Soil 101

Soil is so essential for life on earth that archaeologists determined that many sophisticated civilizations such as the Mayans and the Harappan, fell because they mismanaged their soils.

Soil provides the medium for plant growth, stores essential nutrients and provides a habitat for insects and beneficial organisms. Apart from earthworms there’s a whole other world going on in just one teaspoon of soil, which contains 100 million to 1 billion individual bacteria alone, according to scientists.

Soil helps fight climate change by absorbing carbon and pollutants, and also filters dust, chemicals and other contaminants from rain and surface water as it drains through. This is why aquifers are one of the purest sources of water on earth.

When it comes to human health, almost all of the antibiotics we take to help fight infection were obtained by soil microbes.

Oh, and best of all – soil contains a serotonin booster!! Mycobacterium vaccae is a bacteria found in soil that helps improve breathing, reduces allergies and asthma, and increases serotonin levels.  

Different types of soil

Potting Mix

The best potting soil isn’t made of soil. Good potting mixes are lighter and fluffier than topsoil and garden soil. They have special ingredients including peat, vermiculite or perlite (those little white things you see in the soil), organic matter and bark.

All of these components will be discussed below.

The main difference between potting mix and garden soil is that potting mix is much lighter to provide adequate pore space for air, water and healthy root growth.

Month after month of watering, without the benefit of earthworms and weather to aerate the soil, usually results in an unhealthy, compacted root zone. To ensure that your plants' roots have the oxygen they need for healthy growth, your potting soil should contain plenty of perlite, coco peat and bark chips. This will allow water to drain freely, and ensure that the soil is at least 10 to 20 percent air.

Never use garden soil for pot plants!

Most well-balanced potting mixes like Bark Unlimited Indoor  & Outdoor potting soil will be perfectly suited to most plants. Except a few fussy ones that need that little something extra.

 

Peat Moss

If you’re a fan of peaty single malts, you’ll feel right at home with peat moss - a lightweight dead fibrous material that forms when mosses and other living material decompose in peat bogs. The main benefit of peat is it holds several times its weight in moisture, and releases the moisture to the plants roots as needed. It also holds onto nutrients so that they aren’t rinsed out of the soil when you water the plant.

Many growers tend to have a heavy hand when it comes to peat because it reduces watering requirements and increases plant performance and shelf-life. It works well as an additive for moisture loving plants like ferns, Calatheas, Marantas and Banana Plants

However, beware of overwatering peat based potting soils. Peat should never be used alone. It should only be used as an additive to normal potting soil and with added perlite or pumice. Why? Too much peat can lead to waterlogged roots and a dense potting medium. There should never be more than 1/3 peat in the potting mix.

Perlite

Yes, if you've been wondering what those little white things are in your plant's soil its not styrofoam. If you’re using peat, you should use perlite. Perlite has a porous texture similar to popcorn with tiny air pockets. The air pockets help to channel away excess water from roots to prevent them from getting waterlogged, while its porosity enables roots to 'suck back the water' if they need. Perlite helps to better aerate the soil, reducing the chances of compaction and root rot.

Bark

Bark chips are one of the primary components of orchid mix. Orchids are epiphtyes, growing on trees without soil, and just like Staghorn Ferns and other air plants, their roots cannot cope with a regular potting soil. Using bark chips creates an environment similar to what they’re used to in the wild. Most orchid mixes also contain perlite to keep the roots well aerated.

 

Succulent soil

Succulents like well-draining rockier soils, which is why succulent mix has perlite and fine gravel added. Sand can become compacted over time, so small gravel is better. Succulent mix is a good addition to regular potting soil where you need the mix to drain well or you're prone to overwatering.

Herb & seedlings mixes

Due to the delicate roots of seedlings & herbs they benefit from an extremely lightweight soil with extra peat & perlite, to enable the tiny roots to access water and establish themselves. However, seedling mix doesn’t contain much organic matter or nutrients, so as the plants mature they should be transplanted into regular potting soil.

Kraal manure

Manure is organic material made up of the residues of plants which were digested by cattle and then composted. It is high in nitrogen and phosphorous making it a good soil additive for leafy green plants. Plants that enjoy a richly composted soil like Philodendrons will appreciate a handful of manure mixed into their potting soil.

We primarily stock a range of soils from Bark Unlimited, an industry leader in 100% organic, weed free, export grade potting soil.

So what are you waiting for? Dig your hands into some happiness microbes and get re-potting!