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.


Many of our customers come to our garden centre and ask us for “soil for the garden”

 The soil, or as we call it substrate, is the basis on which the plants are developed, the area where they settle and develop their roots and from where they get, for most of the time, the nutrients they need, and they are not all the same.

At Viveros Gonzalez we can advise on the different types of substrates that are available to sow seeds or annuals, shrubs, fruit trees, acidophil plants, cactus, garden plants or for the benefit of the whole garden.

 Before making a garden, it is essential to analyze what type of soil already exists and what type of plants will flourish in the same. It must be taken into account the needs of those plants to provide them with the most suitable soil.

Choosing the most suitable substrate will depend largely on the success and good development of the species and therefore of the garden.

Prior to adding the necessary substrate, it is essential to perform certain tasks:

 Preparation of the ground

General steps to follow:

  • First clean up the land or area, clearing and extracting unwanted elements, stumps, garden garbage, roots, rubble, etc... They can be dumped to the recycling plant.
  • Level up the land by building, at the same time, the terrain you want to achieve.
  • Keeping certain plants that because of their importance, you wish to preserve.
  • Find out what already exists on the ground to enable you to know what needs adding or changing.
  •  Finally, provide the necessary substrate layer to enable the growth of healthy plants.




TYPES of substrates you can use.



Clay garden soil or vegetal soil.

Normally used to fill and level the area that will be part of the garden.

It is a hard and heavy type of soil with a great capacity of compaction.

It can be used for planting trees and shrubs of Mediterranean type but it is recommended to mix it with another type of lighter material such as

compost or peat.


Top soil

Top soil is a product derived from the upper layer of the soil which is formed by the decomposition of organic matter that accumulates in it.

It is therefore a very nutrient-rich material and its structure is loose and porous.

Currently top soils are made from animal waste, vegetable waste from pruning or treated urban waste (compost) mixed with the vegetal soil.



Compost is a material made from organic waste, and also waste from sewage.

They are subjected to accelerated and controlled decomposition processes resulting in a product that is rich in organic matter.

Of course, the result and the quality of it will depend on both, the quality of organic matter used as in the quality of the process itself.

Another peculiarity of compost is that it is used as the basis for other organic fertilizers which are also mixed with mineral nutrients.

It contains less organic matter because it undergoes a minor period of decomposition.


Substrates for the garden commercialized in bags.

In garden center’s you can find different types of substrates that are already fully prepared to plant directly into them.


The most commonly used are:


  • Universal substrate:

It is a substrate prepared from a large percentage of organic matter. Its pH tends to be between 6.5-7.5. Each manufacturer uses one or more products in different proportions in order to get a product that perfectly adapts to almost any type of plant.

It is a lightweight composition with high water and nutrient retention capacity.

In it we can sow:

All kinds of indoor plants.
Annuals and perennials
Seedlings for small urban gardens
Plants in pots.

Transplanting into a larger pot.
We would say that it can be used for all those plants whose roots are not so strong or aggressive or as an addition in the case of transplants, because of their high nutrient content.


We may also use it for planting shrubs, but in these cases we recommend to use it together with any other matter to give it a better consistency, as for example top soil, we will give more stability to the floor in a ratio of three parts of substrate and one of top soil.


For larger shrubs or trees that can grow in top soil, add one part of universal substrate to lighten it and give more ease and less compaction to the mix.


  • Substrate for acydophylous plants

It is a substrate with a lower pH; about 5.5 therefore it is the basis for the sowing of plants such as: azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, gardenias, hydrangeas, etc...

This type of soil is normally composed of peat, vegetable compost, compost and perlite.


  • Cactus substrate

In this case it is a prepared with peat, sand and nutrients, that allow good circulation of air, water and fertilizer, as well as a perfect drainage.


  • Substrate for orchids

It is a prepared base with crust of crushed pine and coconut fibre. It will also depend on what kind of Orchid it needs to sustain. For those which develop on the ground as the cymbidium it needs to be more moisture, while the phalaenopsis or those belonging to the epifitas genus will thrive better in pine bark only.


There are also other special substrates such as citrus fruit, Orchard, or for planting seeds, each one of them is developed based on the needs of the plants that will endure, in order to provide them with good growth and development.



There are two types of peat: black and blonde.

  • Black:

More content in nutrients than the blonde

It absorbs and retains water better than the blonde.

It provides less acidity to the Earth. pH 4, 5-7

  • Blonde

More acidic-pH-3, 5-5

Fluffy with great air and water holding capacity.

Poor nutrient content.

Used as a basis for the manufacture of the substrate for acidophilic plants.

Peat in warm areas should not be used alone, since it dries out too much and  does not rehydrate easily again, on the other hand it is a good ally for avoiding flooding due to excessive irrigation.


Washed river sand

It is a product without nutrients or acidity.

Used to bring ease to substrates, facilitating drainage and aeration.

It is also used alone or mixed with compost for lawn top dressing.



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