Getting the dirt on soil.

When shopping for soil it can be a little overwhelming with all the different choices. You have organic garden soil, garden soil, potting mix, organic potting mix, etc. So which one is right for your container garden? Well lets break down what each soil is meant for, and how it effects what you grow.

Lets start with garden soil. Garden soil is basically dirt pulled up from a few inches in ground. Soil from your own back yard can be considered garden soil. This type of soil is good for doing in-ground plants. So if you don’t have desirable soil in your yard (it’s too sand, clay-like, etc.) then you can grab a couple of bags of soil to compensate that. Most of the time you’ll see a warning on garden soil bags that says “NOT FOR CONTAINER USE”. The reason for this is because the soil won’t drain well in containers, causing watering issues (not retaining enough water is normally the main issues, but sometimes retaining too much water can be the problem). Another issue is the fertilizers that are present in the soil. When you use gardening soil in a yard the fertilizers can spread out, but in a container there is no where for the fertilizers to go, so your plants can overdose on the fertilizer. This creates sickly plants, or may just out right kill them.

Now, since gardening soil is just dirt then what is potting mix? Good question! Potting mix is generally a mix of peat moss, perlite, and some compost. It has little to no soil in it do to the fact that soil is too heavy for most container plants. With potting mix you can pretty much get what you need for your particular plant. Some plants like a heavy peat moss mix while others prefer a heavy perlite mix. Potting mixes are also sterilized to kill any fungus, diseases, or larvae that might be present in the mix. Potting mix is better for household plants because it doesn’t have fertilizers in it, and it has better drainage to avoid common watering issues.

The down fall of potting soil is that it’s pretty expensive.  A bag can cost around 12-15 dollars. If you have a lot of containers you need to fill then that can get pretty expensive. A good mix that I have found that works for me is combining equal parts peat moss to perlite. I normally mix up a few gallons and then save it in a large container until use. You can mess with your own recipe to find a good mix that you like. Some people will add a small percentage of sterilized soil, or sand to cut back on costs. If you add sand, then cut back on the perlite. Either way find a mix that works well for your needs.

So what about organic garden or potting mixes? Organic mixes are good for growing vegetables, or any edible plant. When growing plants you don’t plan on eating normal mixes are find, but with edible plants you may want to use an organic or natural mix. This means that everything used in the mix is not chemically made or altered. So your plants are safe to eat!

I hope I cleared up some questions you may have had about soil!
Happy Planting!

Getting into the “Zone”.

Zone information

Have you ever looked on the back of a seed package and seen a highlighted section of the United States, with the words “Zone 6-8”? Most beginner gardeners breeze over this, and then are met with disappointment when their plants fail to thrive, or worse don’t even sprout. Zone location is a vital piece of information that all gardeners need to know in order to select the best plants for their zone.

So how do you find out your zone? Easy! The USDA has an interactive map that will show your gardening zone (I’ll link it below for you)! For Florida, we are zone 8b (panhandle) to zone 10b (Miami)! Most states have a wide range of zones, since the USA is big, so make sure to select your city for the most accurate zone information.

Now, you might be thinking, why does zone location matter? Well, it matters because each zone indicates the average lowest temperature range of that area. This in turn helps us find plants that will tolerate that zones lowest temperature. If you’re thinking that zone 13b (the hottest zone) would be the best place to grow plants due to their lowest average temperature being 65, then you would be wrong. Some plants (think Peonies, Tulips, Lilacs) need to freeze in the winter. You won’t be able to grow some plants below zone 8 due to the lack of freezing temperatures in the winter. It’s not just winter temperatures you have to keep in mind, the plant in question also needs to be able to withstand the heat of your zone. A good way to think of zones is to think of the temperature in the house, you’re comfortable between a range of 72-75(or whatever you find comfortable) you’ll be fine if it goes a degree or two either way but anywhere way out of that range you’d be either too hot or too cold. Same goes with plants, they have a range that they are comfortable in. You wouldn’t want to sit in a house way out of your comfort range, and your plants don’t want to live way out of their own comfort range either!

So with a better understanding of zones, you can now make a more informed decision when it comes to what plants to select. You’ll have happy plants growing in their comfort zones and you’ll find that they will do much better!
Happy planting!

USDA interactive map: