May 6, 2015
This Sunday is Mother’s Day and along with all the flowering plants that are bought for Mom, it is also the start of the season for planting containers with annual flowers. Last week, a reader of the column sent in a question about potting soil. She wanted to know about using potting soil that had fertilizer and moisture holding granules added to the soil. This type of potting soil has been around for years. When you think about it, this would appear to be the perfect type of soil for your window boxes and other outdoor containers. The potting soil has food to feed the plants and the moisture holding granules help to keep the soil wet. Many years ago, gardening gloves were made as a one size fits all type of glove. It didn’t take long for people to realize that these gloves probably didn’t fit their hands. Now gloves are made from extra small to extra large. One-size fits all shouldn’t apply to potting soil either.
One of the newest gardening trends is to fill outdoor containers with succulents. People have embraced this trend because succulents don’t require as much water or fertilizer to put on a nice show of colors and textures. However, if you use a potting soil that has timed released fertilizer and moisture-holding granules added to the soil, your succulents would be in trouble if we get an average rainfall during the spring and summer. On the other hand, if you are making up a container to take to the cemetery, you will probably not be there on a daily basis to water and fertilize the plants. Using a soil mix that has timed release fertilizer and moisture holding granules added to the soil makes a lot of sense in planters that you may not be able to keep up with the watering and fertilizing of the container
Several years ago, one brand of potting soil was packaged with the timed-release fertilizer and moisture holding granules. Many believe that the soil was packaged a bit too wet and then the bags were put onto pallets and then the pallets were shrink wrapped in black plastic. The thought was that the black plastic heated up the soil in the bags and the timed released fertilizer, which releases the fertilizer based on soil temperature, released much of the fertilizer into the soil. When people potted up their plants in the soil, many people experienced root damage due to the excessive amount of fertilizer in the soil.
My feeling is, you can buy potting soil without additives and then as you pot up your plants, you can add the timed release fertilizer if the situation warrants and you can add the moisture holding granules in whatever quantity that is best for the plants and growing conditions of the plants. We have been selling seperately the timed-release fertilizer for years and we have been selling the moisture holding granules for an equal amount of time. It makes the best sense to me to buy a quality potting soil and add the ingredients in the quantity that are required by the plants that are going to be in your containers. This way your plants will thrive and you will get the benefit of having easier to care for plants.
On a final note, we have still had some cold nights and probably will until the end of the month. There are many vegetable plants that don’t like cold temperatures. If you plant temperature sensitive plants too early, you will stunt their growth or if we get a late frost, the plants will die. Don’t rush the season because of a few nice days. If you are not sure if it is appropriate to plants certain plants now, ask at the store where you purchase the plants which plants can go into the ground at what part of the month of May.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.