The important points about a Good Potting Soil Mix.
1. First of all, it is confusing because there are so many options that make for a good mix. A lot of it has to do with what is available to you in your area.
2. Pea gravel. I used to add pea gravel to my well rotted hardwood bark mulch but I’ve learned that adding pine bark is really a better option. In small quantities pine bark is often sold by the bag and called soil conditioner in the box stores.
3. Rotted hardwood bark mulch is still a good option, I used it for years with great success. It only failed me when I tried to really stock up (50 yards worth) then it rotted too much and didn’t drain well. That’s when I started mixing in large amounts of pine bark.
4. Growers actually use pine bark fresh because even as it ages it really doesn’t change a lot.
5. So right now my ideal mix is very heavy in pine bark and to that I add either commercial compost or well rotted hardwood bark mulch.
6. But what I really do is buy a load (90 yards) of pine bark then I start working that into the potting mix that we are current using. I think it’s important for me to stay ahead of the wave by adding more pine bark before I am out of soil. Right now I have a large pile of pine bark that’s been sitting here since ???? early summer I think. And there is a part of my potting soil pile that is far too aged and compacted so on my to do list is to blend these two piles together before spring.
7. Yes, I now have a front end loader that makes this easy. But at this place, https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2016/03/mikes-first-backyard-nursery/, I used a shovel, a wheelbarrow and a rototiller. I usually kept about 10 yards on hand and always replenished my pile before it ran out using the old to mix with the new.
8. But back then I never turned the entire pile. That would have been crazy. I’m too lazy to turn compost! Or as I like to think of it, I value my time more than that.
9. Instead when I added fresh material, bark mulch, commercial compost or pea gravel to my pile, I simply put it on top. I’d use a two by twelve as a ramp to get the wheelbarrow up on top of the pile. I built the pile like a “Dagwood Sandwich”, you might have to Google that. Layers of materials. Then when I needed soil I would simply rototill one corner and get an awesome mix that I’d shovel on to the bench by hand.
10. And that’s where the legless potting bench came in. I’d rest one end on the pile so it would be nice and close for shoveling, then the other end on blocks or a saw horse. https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2014/01/homemade-mobile-potting-bench-it-has-removable-wheels/
11. So yeah, today I do things very differently, but I started exactly where all of you are today.
No matter what you use, it doesn’t have to be my mix, just pick a potting soil that somebody else here is using with great success. Bagged soil? Sure if that’s what you want to do. I have no idea how much it costs to fill a one gallon with a bagged mix but I am curious about that if anybody wants to share than number with us.
Here are some tips on getting good potting soil;
Looking online for mulch is probably not the best place to look because many of the dealers who sell mulch really have little to no web presence at all. I’m sure there has to be some hardwood bark available in New Jersey.
I’d pick up the phone and start calling around. Garden Centers, landscapers and excavators will know who sells bulk hardwood bark mulch. These dealers are often hidden away on some side street.
I’d take a full day and visit as many garden centers and nurseries in your area that you can. Browse, ask some casual questions.
1. Do you know of anybody in the area that sells bulk mulch.
2. Do you know of anybody in the area that sells bulk potting soil.
3. What do most growers around here use as a potting mix.
Bulk potting soil is available, usually around $55 a yard, but worth it. But it’s not readily available in all areas and in most cases you need to send a truck to get it.
But it won’t cost anything to ask these questions. You’ll either get really good, answers, might get the brush off, or you might find somebody who loves to talk about growing plants and will bury you in valuable information.
Good info here about potting soil, https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2014/12/mike-mcgroartys-secret-bed-building-and-potting-soil-recipe/
Questions, comments, mean things to say? Post them below and I will respond appropriately.