Do you know what is the best soil to use in your garden? How to find the most suitable

Posted By: Manuel Gaviño
The earth or better what we call substrate, is the foundation on which to develop the plants, the medium where they settle down and develop the roots and where to purchase most of the times the necessary nutrients, and not all are equal.

Among our customers, there are many who come to us asking for "garden soil".

And usually when we ask them what kind of soil they are looking for, most of them go blank.

"What? But are there different kinds of soil".

Well, yes they are.

In fact, the type of soil that you use will depend on the plants you want to grow in your garden or in your pots, and the nutrients they shall need.

And it is a choice that you must make very carefully.

Because choosing the right soil to grow your plants is essential to ensure that they survive and grow strong and beautiful.

If you also have doubts with this, keep reading, because in this post we are going to explain:

  • What types of soils and substrates exist.
  • What characteristics should it have.
  • Which one is more suitable depending on the type of plant you have in your garden.

Ready? Let's go there.

What soil to use in your garden: main characteristics

The first thing you should be clear about is that, to grow your plants, only one type of soil is rarely used.

Instead, it is usual to use a mix of soils and organic matter.

This mixture is what is called "substrate".

When you go to your usual garden store, you have two options:

  1. Acquire different soils to prepare your own substrate.
  2. Buy substrates ready to use.

Which of the two options is better?

In general, either one is valid. But when creating your own substrate, you have to be very clear about the needs of your plants and the characteristics of the soil in which the plants will be.

Let's take a closer look at this.

How should the soil of your garden be

We told you at the beginning that the substrate is one of the most important aspects to ensure that your plants germinate and develop successfully.

And for that, it must meet a series of characteristics:

  • Good drainage: does the ground get overflooded when you water it? This means that the substrate does not have good drainage, so it does not allow water to pass through. In the same way, under the surface water accumulations can cause the roots to rot and the appearance of fungi. It is a very common problem when the soil is too clayey.
  • Retaining moisture: it may seem like a contradiction to the previous point, but it is not. The soil in your garden or (or in your pots) must be able to retain moisture without overflooding, so that the roots can absorb the water they need. Achieving this balance requires using different types of land in adequate proportions.
  • High porosity: this means that the substrate contains a lot of air, which is very important for the plant to be oxygenated.
  • Great contribution of nutrients: to achieve this, the soil is also usually mixed with some type of organic matter and fertilizer (depending on the needs of your plants).

Of course, the substrate you use also needs to be free of parasites and microscopic fungi that can attack the roots of your plants.

For this reason, even gardening enthusiasts who create their own substrates often go to specialty stores to buy the soil in bags.

What types of soils and substrates exist (and when to use each one)

Now we are going to see the different soils and substrates that you can find in garden stores and which plant species they are indicated for.

1. Garden soils

Despite its name, in this group we shall include both soil itself and compounds of organic materials.

These are the raw materials that are used in different proportions to form the substrate.

A. Clay

As its name indicates, it is a type of soil with a high clay content.

You will recognize it because it is very heavy and hard to the touch, with great compaction capacity.

It is often used to fill in the holes in the garden soil and level them.

Clay-rich soil is often used to plant Mediterranean-type trees and shrubs, but always mixing it with compost or peat to make it lighter (otherwise the soil would end up with little drainage and waterlogging would occur).

B. Peat

A material composed of the decomposition of plant species, very rich in carbon.

In general, the peat has a high porosity, reason why it retains the oxygen and the humidity but it does not generate puddles.

There are two types of peat:

  1. Black: very rich in nutrients. Being more compact, its water holding capacity is high. Its pH is between 4.5 and 7, so it provides little acidity to the soil.
  2. Blonde: a more acidic peat (pH 3.5-5), very fluffy and with more porosity. It has less nutrients than black peat, but it is mainly used to make substrate for acidophilic plants (later we will talk in detail about this type of substrate).

Peat can be used mixed with soil or alone, except if you live in a warm climate. In this case, it will become too dry and will not provide enough water to the roots.

However, it is a good ally to avoid waterlogging in clay soils.

C. Mulch

Mulch is formed by the decomposition of organic matter that accumulates on the soil surface (dry leaves, pruning remains, flowers and dead branches ...). It is a very nutritious matter with high porosity.

Typically, it is used in conjunction with organic animal waste and topsoil.

 

D. washed river sand

It is used as the base of the substrate to loosen the soil and facilitate both drainage and aeration.

It also serves to topdressing, mixed with compost. 

E. Amendments or manure

It is a product resulting from animal excrement and other remains such as straw.

It contributes a great content of nutrients to the soil since it also favors that the soil has more microorganisms.

2. Substrates for the garden

The substrates, as we explained before, are the result of mixing the materials that we have explained to you in different proportions.

The usual thing is to buy them in specialized stores, where they have different types of substrates with the exact proportion of soil, mulch or sand depending on the type of plant and which are prepared to plant directly on them.

These are the most common.

A. Universal substrate

A generic recipe that works for almost any type of plant.

The specific composition will depend on the manufacturer, but usually it is composed mostly of organic matter.

On it we can sow:

  • All kinds of indoor plants.
  • Annual and vivacious plants
  • Seedlings for small urban gardens
  • Plants to be grown in a pot.
  • In general, all those plants that do not require special treatment.

In addition, transplants from one pot to a larger one are usually used as amendments, due to their high nutritional value.

We can also use it to plant bushes, but in these cases it is recommended to use it together with some other material that has more weight, such as mixtures made with topsoil and mulch to give more stability to the plant.

In this case, the ratio to use would be three parts of substrate and one of mixing.

For larger bushes or for trees that we can plant in mulch, a part of the substrate can be added to avoid compaction of the soil.

B. Substrate for acidophilic plants

Acidophilic plants are those that need a soil with a pH level around 5.5. That is, acidic soils.

In general, it useful for:

  • Azaleas.
  • Rhododendrons
  • Camellias
  • Gardenias.
  • Hydrangeas.

This type of soil is made up of peat, vegetable compost, organic fertilizer and perlite.

C. Cactus substrate

In this case it is a preparation with peat, sand and nutrients, which allow good circulation of air, water and fertilizer, in addition to perfect drainage.

D. Substrate for orchids

It is a base prepared with crushed pine bark and coconut fiber.

Actually, there are different varieties of substrate depending on the species of orchid you are going to grow.

For example, the Cymbidium orchid needs a substrate that retains moisture well, while the Phalaenopsis or one that belongs to the genus of epiphytes will only need pine bark.

Do you already know what land to use for your plants?

With these tips it will be easier for you to know what type of substrate your plants need.

But if you still have doubts, you can contact us by clicking here.

We will give you all the information you need.

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