This may be the most important gardening article you will read.
One of the most important keys to success in your garden is to use the right soil. Unfortunately there are a lot of bad choices readily available in every big box retailer, grocery store and etc. as spring comes rolling around. These are not the places to be buying your garden supplies if you want success. Your local garden center, where they are actually growing thousands, if not millions of flowers and plants from seed are the ones to talk to about what soil to use. I assure you that those of us who are actual growers are not buying the big box store brand potting soils...and neither should you if you want a beautiful display this year.
So how important is the soil that you use? VERY, very important!
Imagine going and buying a brand new car and filling the gas tank up with whatever was cheapest at the pump; diesel, fuel oil, kerosene, etc. Wouldn't the performance of that vehicle be severely hampered? Yes, and it would be ridiculous to expect anything different. So are your plants and flowers when you use cheap, nutrient deficient soil.
No matter how much you fertilize or give all the best care, if the soil can't get the nutrition to the plant it will not perform. Use good soil or be a frustrated gardener.
The very first question we have for a customer who has growing troubles is "What kind of soil are you using?" They reply usually with "Oh, I use national brand X that I bought at big box store X, it was only $4.99 for a big bag." Your flowers will never perform if you use cheap, nutrient deficient soil. In fact we have seen countless times where our greenhouse customers bought our flowers and then potted them up in a cheap brand X soil and guess what? Weeks and months later that plant hasn't even rooted into the soil. Why? There weren't any nutrients for the roots to go and find. You can literally pluck a plant right out of the soil because the root system never grew, and the plant never did anything. We've seen it hundreds of times.
So what soil should you use? We've been using a commercial grower mix called Metro Mix 360 for about 35 years. It is a high quality, expensive soil. It costs us more, but we are looking for long term results and head-turning curb appeal. Quality counts.
A good soil actually makes it easier to care for your plants. Remember, the larger container and more soil that you use, the larger your plants can get. And if you have a lot of soil volume it will also be easier to water. The soil will hold adequate moisture throughout the day. Small hanging baskets and containers are always more work to care for. Trust me, go biggy size even if it costs more.
What to look for in a good soil:
- The soil should have a nice consistency and NOT be full of perlite (the white lumps.) Some perlite is fine to help with drainage, but often it is over used by manufacturers as a cheap filler.
- The soil should not be "crunchy" or full of mulch...again, that is where they are just using a cheap filler. Bark ash or composted bark is good, just not where the soil looks so porous that is almost mulch like.
- Contains peat moss for moisture retention.
If you absolutely can't find a good potting soil to use, get some topsoil and mix it with a potting soil. Most people don't want to get an entire dump truck load of screened topsoil, but you can usually go to the plant and bring your own bucket and fill it for cheap. Then just mix in a bag of potting soil (even if it is the cheap stuff I said not to buy) and make your own mix. Add in worm castings for a nice batch of nutrients.
Jolly Gardener also has several good mixes in their product line.
Here are some great tips from Jolly Gardener:
Remember this: Cheap soil equals cheap results. Don't pay all that money for quality plants and flowers from your local garden center only to put them in cheap potting soil. It just doesn't work.
There is a lot more to say about soil and we will come back to this topic often, it's that important. We are also planning on doing a video series about soil so check our YouTube channel periodically. More to come.
Be sure to also to read our article on why you should not be using moisture control soils here: