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how to start a vegetable garden
peat moss
soil mixture
new roots
planting seeds
container garden
How To Start A Vegetable Garden - 30 Day Challenge - Choosing Soil For Your Container Garden
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How to Start A Vegetable Garden  -  30 Day Challenge  -  Choosing Soil for Your Container Garden

Soil for Your Containers

It is important that you chose the right soil for the type of garden you are growing. The soil you use when planting in the ground or in a raised bed garden should not be the same as what you use in a pot or other container.

Bags of potting soil, sold by almost every store this time of year, is best for your container garden. However, there are a few things to consider when selecting your container soil.

Soil Density Matters

It is important to consider the density of your soil when planting your garden. The younger the plant, the less dense you want your soil to be. When planting seeds, you want a soil mixture that provides a lot of space for new roots to grow.

Peat moss is an organic compound that provides space for young roots to grow. It is not soil and it does not provide food to your plants, but when mixed with soil it provides the aeration needed for plant growth.

Potting soil contains peat moss, making it lighter in density and perfect for container gardens.

It is especially important to use the lighter potting soil for all of your hanging plant containers since it contains more peat moss and therefore retains less water. While it means you will need to water your hanging plants more often, it also means that the containers themselves will not be as heavy when wet.

Make Your Own Potting Soil

If you're interested in making your own potting soil, there are three key ingredients you will need: compost, peat moss, and vermiculite.

Compost is decomposed organic matter. Many people make their own compost, but it can also be purchased at many garden centers. Compost is lightweight and rich in the nutrients that your garden needs.

Peat moss (as we discussed earlier) is great for providing aeration for your soil. It also provides for good drainage. Peat moss can be used as a top layer in your garden to retain moisture as well (similar to mulch).

Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral made from volcanic ash. It is the white specs you find in your potting soil and its job is to retain water while keeping the soil lightweight.

Remember, lightweight soil is key for container gardening. Do not try and use the high nutrient garden soil from your raised bed garden in your pots. It is too heavy and will not allow for proper drainage or aeration for your plants.

One Final Tip

Make sure that you use new soil each year for your container garden. Reusing your soil can spread disease. It is also a good idea to wash your containers before each season with a mixture of bleach (10%) and water (90%) to kill any lurking diseases in your containers.

30 Day Challenge

For those of you who are following along with the challenge, how are you doing? Did you build your raised bed or purchase all your containers over the long weekend? If you have any questions, please post them here or on my blog and I will do my best to help you. See you tomorrow!


Street Talk

I never knew that those white specs in potting soil was vermiculite and that it is used for water retention. Thanks for the soil info and tips AJ

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

You're welcome, Jay. It's interesting how something as small as vermiculite can make such a difference in your soil.

Reply
  about 7 years ago

Great article. Thanks for writing it!

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

Thanks, Rebecca, I appreciate the read!

Reply
  about 7 years ago

Nice, AJ! Our former tomato seeds added the beginnings of their second set of leaves last night. In the basement, under the lights! Sunday I thought of you and the middle of your boxes. Your raised beds in progress, where the middle was unreachable. We've got two really big 8-sided raised beds. The very center of both is a returning-batch of rhubarb. One of the others has two returning-batches of rhubarb. I don't know if that grows where you are?? But it sure tastes good cooked up with strawberries. I like it on my oatmeal. The leaves are not eaten (poisonous actually). The stalks look like giant red celery. Over the years, they kind of take care of themselves. blessings, Cynthia

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

Funny, we were both thinking of rhubarb this weekend, Cynthia! I was visiting my grandfather and he always grew rhubarb. It made me a bit nostalgic and I was thinking of maybe adding some to the garden, but I think it's a little late in the season to plant it here. I think I'll save it for next year...I've gotta have something new to do then :) How fantastic that you're getting new leaves! Our tomato plants and some of our lettuce plants got their second set of leaves over the weekend as well. And we've got a ton of baby carrot sprouts in 5 containers outside - they took over a month to show! It's so much fun watching these plants grow.

Reply
  about 7 years ago

Congratulations AJ!

  
  about 7 years ago
Joan S  

We used to plant window boxes which we placed on window ledges in the front of our house, but stopped doing it because watering them caused damage to the wood frame. We planted vinca in the boxes plus some other beautiful flowers. The vinca mysteriously jumped out of the boxes into the soil below, and is growing like mad. It's so fierce, it's even killing the pachysandra. I love container gardens. Your advice is spot on. Thanks AJ. What is your advice about vinca?

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

Vinca is beautiful, but it spreads easily, it is quite hard to contain. Do you want to get rid of all the vinca or contain it? I'd spray it with vinegar if you want to destroy it (make sure you don't spray the pachysandra or any other plants nearby though). If you want to contain it, perhaps placing some plastic tubing around the area you want to keep might stop it from spreading. I'm thinking of the flexible type and dig it into the ground to surround it and maybe keep it contained in circles where you want it - could be quite pretty if it's in the right area.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

Having not seen your bed, I'm working off my imagination here...but, I would probably contain it in small circles so you can still enjoy the beauty without it taking over and attempt to kill off the rest. I have seen people "plant" pots in the ground to contain herbs and flowers that have a tendency to spread. This might be the best option as it would contain the roots. As for the other plants, yes I think it will choke out the other plants if it spreads that far.

  
  about 7 years ago
Joan S  

It has beautiful blue flowers, so I do like it, however I am afraid it will choke the lilies, allium, irises and roses. It is taking over the front beds. What would you do? Do you think it will choke out the other plants?

Reply
  about 7 years ago
Joan S  

Thanks AJ.

  
  about 7 years ago

What day are we in here?

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

Day 5 ... although I took a few days off for the holiday :)

Reply
  about 7 years ago

TY

  
  about 7 years ago
  

Day 4 is on my website - it's about selecting containers for your garden - if you want to pin that one as well.

  
  about 7 years ago
C4rmen  

Good read AJ. I am preparing my house for sale at the moment and have just redone the garden beds - what a job! But it will always pay you back if done well. Thanks for the info.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

Thanks C4rmen! Gardening can be a lot of work, but it's also great exercise and I love being outside getting dirty, as do my kids :)

Reply
  about 7 years ago

Great article AJ, the importance of a good soil the backbone of good results. I thank you for sharing the advise for those that need it, I'm sure they appreciate your help, keep it going. I told you of my experiment of growing potatoes in old tyres, well I have now cropped and learnt a few things to boot. The crop was good yet not as good as I have got from using containers. I intend to do an article giving my findings. However what I wanted to say was I tried different soil mixes, and the difference in production? unbelievable.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

Thanks Rob. We bought our seed potatoes for this year, but have not yet planted them. I look forward to reading your results so I can get the best yield possible from these potatoes. I was going to use garbage bags for mine, but hadn't thought of the soil for them yet. What kind of containers did you use in the past?

Reply
  about 7 years ago

When in Rhodesia we used 200lt drums but then we were within the tropics and sunlight got down the drums, in South africa i have used big buckets with the base removed. The tyres were not as successful on the first attempt as the soils compacted too easily. How ever the article is pending and should be published today. The best result I got was with a seedling type mix believe it or not, I think the looser packing soil gave the tubers room to grow.

  
  about 7 years ago
  

Maybe I'll try adding more peat moss to my potting soil to make it less dense. Before your comment, I was probably going to use a combination of garden soil and compost. But if they need more air to grow, I'll make sure to layer the peat moss to give space. Thanks for the tip and I'll look for your article later today!

  
  about 7 years ago
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