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Most potting mix do not have any soil in them. Most mixes, including the potting mixes that you buy from your local stores, are going to be some type of peat-based potting mix. It is going to be peat mixed with a couple of other things, usually perlite, and that is your potting mix. It actually doesn’t contain any compost or any real soil. These types of mix are also not very eco-friendly.
Peat is harvested from peat bogs which are also where sphagnum moss is located. The sphagnum moss naturally breaks down, is crushed and composited, broken down again, and is then naturally turned into peat. In order to harvest this peat, companies will actually go and drain entire bogs. Destroying entire ecosystems. They will then pick up the peat moss and will sell it and utilize it in potting mixes.
Sphagnum moss is completely different. We can harvest sphagnum moss simply by going in and scooping it up. They can do it without draining all of the bogs and it’s much more sustainable. So if you are using sphagnum moss it is generally a lot more sustainable and better for the environment than these peat-based potting mixes that you have out there. One thing that peat has to go for it though is that it is very moisture retentive. This moisture retention is actually very important for any kind of root growth. Most plants even cacti like to have some type of moisture and humidity around the roots in order to grow. It is understandable especially with it readily available, to use a peat-based potting mix.
But if you are trying to move away from that and just kind of be a little bit more environmentally friendly then this might be something that’s helpful for you as well as your plants.
The soilless potting mix that we are going to be talking about today is a very simple and very basic recipe. It is fantastic for plants like aroids. Philodendron is gonna love it Anthurium, Epipremnum, and Alocasia are going to love it.
This mix is mainly for house plants but there are a lot of outdoor plants that would enjoy it as well. This is of course depending on your location and the outdoor environment but this mix, in particular, has been tested on houseplants and does really well. It could also be amended to be able to fit whatever you have going on in your particular specific situation for your particular plants.
Generally, any good mix needs 3 separate things:
2. Good airflow or aeration
3. Moisture retention
This mix will give them all of that. You can also supplement nutrients so if you are not using some type of soil or some type of compost then you can add some other type of fertilizer in there Generally warm castings is as a good one or there are lots of chemical fertilizers out there that folks use.
Airflow comes from a chunky substrate making little air pockets inside the mix in order for oxygen to sit in there and then our plants can go ahead and soak up that oxygen. The roots need to breathe(respire) and if they don’t they are going to have damage done to them. It’s going to allow bad bacteria to grow and this is where rot comes in. Plants get rot when they cannot breathe properly through their root systems so good airflow is essential to a healthy root system.
Moisture retention is the humidity that’s going to surround your roots and enable your roots to grow so if you don’t have enough moisture retention and your plants are always drying out, they are not going to be able to grow and create a good root system.
In this potting mix there are going to be 3 simple ingredients and I will tell you the purpose of everyone so that you can see how it fits together.
There are so many other kinds of media out there for plants this is just a few basic ones and definitely encourages you to go and research more on your options. There are a plethora of options out there. You do not have to use just the potting mix that comes straight from the stores you can make your own and customize it to your own needs and your plants.
The 3 basic ingredients for our mix today are going to be
this is going to create aeration and moisture retention. As it dries out it will create air pockets around the plant for air to flow through. It is also not very squishable and compactable. More airy and fluffy and there is always going to be air in there but it holds on to that moisture and it’s gonna be able to create that humidity around the roots for you.
Sidenote: A lot of plants are happy to be potted up and just sphagnum moss with some type of nutrition.
Coming in a variety of sizes it will hold on to nutrients and it will also create kind of a chunky airy mix so that way air can get through. In any mix, it will keep the sphagnum and other ingredients from getting too compacted down. It is also going to add a little bit of acidity and it takes a long time to break down so you don’t have to worry about it getting super waterlogged or rotting. Fir bark is able to soak up extra nutrients and minerals and slow-release them back into the mix which is a fantastic trait while it slowly breaks down.
is a volcanic substance that has been superheated. This pops it and thus adds extra aeration and prevents compaction of the soil. This is why it’s actually added into our potting mixes from the grocery stores. To prevent the peat-based mixes from compacting too much.
You will see a lot of recipes out there that will say do 50% soil mix and do 50% perlite because the aeration it creates is incredible and it’s very very vital to the health of our plants.
Please note that there are certain kinds of perlite out there that have been treated with chemical fertilizer. So just be aware when you’re grabbing up your perlite and make sure you read the labels on them. You might be getting extra fertilizer and if you are fertilizing and you have fertilizer in the perlite already you could give your plants fertilizer burn. I’m not saying don’t use that. I’m just saying pay attention and be aware of what you’re actually giving your plants so that you don’t overdo it and the plant is getting what it needs.
The ratio of the Mix:
The Health and wellness of a plant directly relate to the potting media it is in. It is not just watering the plant and giving it nutrients. If the potting media is not a good potting media for the plant then the plant is not going to be able to thrive no matter what you do to it. So it is very essential that you pay attention to what your plant needs and you add in the things that it’s going to need and that are going to help.
If you are in a very humid natural environment may lessen up on the more moisture-retentive properties of your potting mix and give it a little bit more aeration. This will prevent mold, mildew, and root rot.
On the opposite spectrum of that, if you know that you are in a desert and your humidity is very very low, maybe you want to add more of those moisture retentive properties.
Or you could just do an equal combination of these if you’re testing it out and see which is going to work best for you and you’re environment. Part of owning plants is just the trial-and-error and learning what your plant is going to need and the unique ecosystem that you have created.