Plants for Dummies- Soil
So, you've just started your journey with plants. Where do you begin? It seems like there are a million directions to go when you just begin with an interest in plants. To tell the truth, there are. I learned that when I went to school for horticulture technology. After we finished with the basic plant knowledge there were so many directions to go in, it was mind boggling. But- there was a basic place to start. That's where I'm starting with this blog. My ultimate goal is to show the world there is no such thing as a black thumb!
Let's start with the rule I live by to this day: "Right plant right place." This rule can be applied everywhere- indoors, outside, planters, window boxes... The list is endless! Let's break this down into four main parts separated into different blog posts; light, water, soil, and size.
Soil is something nearly every plant needs. There is a lot of noise on the internet about what types of soils will work the best for certain kinds of plants. This is always dependent on the environment you have your plants in. What works for one person, may not work for someone else. There are few hard and fast rules when it comes to soil. There are a lot of soils you may see in your local hardware and garden stores and they can be a bit confusing. The list below goes over some you may see, their components and the plants they are intended for.
This is the typical soil seen most often. It is meant to be suitable for almost every plant and will often have fertilizer already included in the mix. There can be some modifiers to this (i.e. organic, water control, etc.) but it has the same basic consistency and components. This is typically the soil plants come in from nurseries. This will be used as the base to compare the rest of the soils to.
- Potting Mix
- Cactus Mix
Cactus mix is chunkier and does not hold onto water as effectively. This is beneficial for xerographic plants, as they can easily be over watered. Fertilizer is often already added to this soil.
- Carnivorous Plant Mix
Carnivorous plant mix holds one of the hard rules when it comes to soil. It has low to no nutrients and never has added fertilizer. This is because the plants it targets come from various environments that do not have the nutrient levels in soils that other plants need to thrive. It often also holds onto water well, as most carnivorous plants thrive in wet to moist conditions.
- Orchid Mix
Orchid mix is even chunkier than cactus mix and may be entirely bark. Orchids are epiphytic; many of them grow in nooks of trees. Some orchids are terrestrial, but those are not common in cultivation. Orchids thrive in soil that breathes well, which is why orchid pots also have more holes in them than typical. This soil may also have fertilizer infused into it already.
- Aroid Mix
Aroid mixes are becoming more and more common as the rise of pandemic plant parents become more advanced. This mix is chunkier than cactus mix, but finer than orchid mix. It often is infused with fertilizers or worm castings.
- Seed Starter Mix
Seed starter mix is the smoothest of all. This is to ensure that the seeds do not get washed to the bottom and the beginning roots have enough to grab onto when germinating. Additional fertilizer is not always added to this mix because seeds have their own energy reserves and is not intended for long term use.
LECA stands for Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate. Sometimes it is called semi-hydroponic or passive hydroponic. LECA has no fertilizer and it must be added to the necessary water reservoir that gives the names passive and semi-hydroponic. Without the water reservoir, the roots will not have enough moisture to stay alive. No roots, no plants.
Hydroponics use no soil at all. There are several ways to build a hydroponic system. The nutrients are added to the water that is continuously run over the roots. The water flow is important to prevent root rot. This method requires certain understanding of chemistry and plant nutrients and needs.
Aquaponics are very similar to hydroponics. The main difference being this method includes fish to provide fertilizer. There are also several ways to set this up, but the most common way is to float the desired plants above the fish so the plants can immediately absorb their waste. Chemicals are avoided in this method for the safety of the fish.
Soils can be intimidating when it comes down to it. I hope this will help decode some of the mysteries contained within the sheer amounts of soil options there are. My hope is this article shed some light on the options.