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spacer Potting Soil

Part of the thread:
Potting Soil Conversation (Thread) 

If You Mix Your Own
Printer version of these 'recipes'

As a house plant grower who prefers to compound his or her own 
soils rather than rely upon commercial mixes-- and if you have 
the facilities, it is much less expensive that way and more fun
-- you will need all or many of the following ingredients:

1. Loam
Let this be the best quality topsoil you can obtain.  Soil from
a rich vegetable garden, cultivated field, or fertile meadow 
is fine.  Soil that has grown good corn is good.

2. Sand
This must be coarse and free of all fine silty particles. 
That from a river or sand bank is usually better than sea 
sand although the latter may be used provided it is coarse 
and provided it has been well washed to free it from all 
traces of salt. City dwellers can obtain coarse sand from 
pet shops dealing in aquarium supplies.

3. Perlite
This substitute for sand in potting mixes is used by professional 
and amateur growers of indoor plants. It has the virtues of 
weighing very much less than sand and of having porous particles. 
Perlite is a pulverized volcanic rock.

4. Broken crock, broken brick
Use these when you want your soil to be especially porous and 
gritty, when mixing soil for cactuses, for example. You have 
special need for such material if your loam is heavy and consists 
of all fine particles. Crocks are simply pieces of common unglazed 
earthen flower pots. Break them to sizes ranging from that of a 
pinhead to that of a pea. Broken brick is an adequate substitute. 
Smash it to the same sizes. Use old, soft, porous bricks rather 
than hard vitrified ones. Sandstone, smashed to the sizes 
suggested for broken brick, is equally satisfactory.

5. Leaf mold
Leaf mold is compost that results from the decay of leaves only. 
The best is made from the leaves on nonevergreen trees and shrubs. 
Oak and beech  leaves produce particularly good grades.  Leaf mold 
may be made by piling leaves outdoors in a shaded, sheltered place 
for a year or two, turning them occasionally to hasten uniform 
decay, or by stacking them in one of the several types of bins 
or pits that gardeners use for making compost. 

If you search woodland areas you will usually find accumulations 
of natural leaf mold in hollows and other locations where leaves 
gather. Scrape away the undecayed surface layer and gather the 
partially decayed material beneath. Leaf mold should be decomposed 
to such an extent that it is easy to rub it through a sieve having 
a half-inch or three-quarter-inch mesh, but not rotted so much that 
all evidence of the veining and structure of the leaves is lost. 
It should be flaky rather than powdery. Substitutes for leaf mold 
are peat moss and humus.

6.  Peat Moss
Peat moss is a substitute for leaf mold. For some plants--azaleas, 
heathers and other acid-soil plants, for example--it is better 
than leaf mold. It’s sold in bales and packages of various sizes 
and should be finely broken before being added to the soil.

7. Humus
Commercial humus of good quality is a light, fluffy black organic 
matter formed by the natural decay of vegetation under water. 
It is less satisfactory than peat moss or leaf mold for mixing 
with heavy (clayey) loam but it may be used with advantage with 
light loam.

8.  Dried Manure
This is a very highly desirable ingredient of many soil mixtures. 
The best is obtained by drying fresh manure in the sun or in a 
shed and crumbling it until the pieces range from the size of 
peas to the size of half walnuts.  If you cannot do this, 
substitute commercial dried cow manure.

9.  Bone Meal
One of the safest fertilizers to add to potting soil is bone meal. 
I know of no plants that do not respond favorably to it; so far as 
I know none are harmed by it.

10.  Wood Ashes
Provided they have not been rained upon or in other ways wetted, 
wood ashes are most excellent to add to potting soils for many plants. 
They supply much-needed potash. Ashes that have been kept dry and 
retain their potash content are sold as unleached wood ashes.

11.  Charcoal
Soils that contain a large proportion of organic matter (leaf mold, 
peat moss or humus) are apt to become sour as a result of repeated 
watering. Broken charcoal added to them does much to prevent this. 
Chop the charcoal into pieces ranging from that of a pea to that 
of a peanut.

Preparing Soil Mixtures

The bulk ingredients you use in soil mixtures--loam, leaf mold, 
sand, etc., should be moist but not water soaked at mixing time. 
If the loam is so wet that it sticks to shovel and fingers it is 
unsatisfactory--let it dry somewhat before mixing.  If the com-
ponents are too dry correct this by sprinkling with water oc-
casionally during the mixing process. The objective is a mixture 
that is agreeably moist, not dry enough to be dusty, not wet 
enough to make your fingers muddy.

Don’t sift the loam unless the soil is for seed sowing, trans-
planting tiny seedlings, or potting newly rooted cuttings. Then 
it may be passed through a half-inch or three-quarter-inch mesh. 
For ordinary potting, break the loam with the fingers or chop 
it with a spade--leaving it as coarse as may conveniently be 
packed about the roots of the plants that are to be handled. 
In this way the valuable fibrous material is left in the soil 
instead of being removed.  Mix the ingredients thoroughly.

Because loams, sands, and leaf molds differ somewhat, it is 
not possible to state exactly the proportions in which they 
should be mixed for any specific purpose.  If your loam is 
heavy and on the clayey side, more sand will be needed than 
if you begin with a light, sandy loam.  More leaf mold, peat 
moss, or humus is needed if the loam is poor in organic matter 
than if it is black and rich.  The mixtures suggested are 
based on the use of a fertile loam of medium lightness and 
humus content.  Modify the proportions of the ingredients 
used under other circumstances.  Choose the mixture best 
suited to your purposes.

Recipes For Soil Mixtures

1 peck = 8 quarts
1 bushel = 4 pecks
1 bushel = 32 quarts 

When “1 part” = a three-pound coffee can, that would be 3 quarts.


All ingredients should pass through a half-inch mesh.  Rub the loam 
and leaf mold through, so that as much of their fibrous parts as 
possible are retained.

Seed Soil No. 1.  
A mixture for the seeds of the great majority of plants.
Loam one part, 
leaf mold, peat moss or humus one part, 
coarse sand or perlite one part.

Seed Soil No. 2.  
A mixture suitable for cacti and other succulents.  
Loam one part, 
leaf mold, peat moss, or humus one part, 
coarse sand or perlite four parts, 
crocks, broken brick or crushed sandstone (passed through a 
  1/4 inch sieve and with fine dust removed) four parts.

Seed Soil No. 3.  
A mixture suitable for plants that require a woodsy, humusy soil 
such as begonias, gloxinias and African violets.   
Loam one part, 
leaf mold, peat moss, or humus two parts, 
sand or perlite one part,
crocks, crushed sandstone or broken brick (passed through a 
  1/4-inch sieve and with all fine dust removed) 1/4 part, 
charcoal (through a 1/4-inch sieve) 1/4 part.


Soil for the first transplanting of seedlings should be similar to 
that recommended for seeds of the same plants except that it may 
be coarser and may have a little fertilizer added.  If it passes 
through a three-quarter inch mesh it is fine enough.  Add half a 
pint of bone meal and a pint of dried sheep manure (or two quarts 
of dried cow manure) to each bushel.


Cuttings rooted in sand, perlite, vermiculite, or other well aerated 
media need a loose, porous soil at their first potting.  Use the 
same type of mixture that the plant is known to favor at later pot-
tings but leave out all fertilizers and double or triple the pro-
portions of sand or perlite used.  Pass all ingredients through a 
half-inch sieve.


Don’t make the mixture finer than necessary to permit packing it 
about the roots. Within reason, the coarser the soil the better. 
When potting into large pots or tubs you will be able to use coarser 
material than for smaller receptacles.

Potting Soil No. 1.  
A general purpose mixture suitable for most strong rooted plants 
such as geraniums, chrysanthemums, fuchsias, palms, snake plants, 
and English ivy.  
Loam four parts
Leaf mold, peat moss, or humus two parts,
Dried cow manure one part (or one-third as much dried sheep manure),
Coarse sand or perlite two parts 
 (this may be replaced in part by chopped crock, brick or sandstone)
Bone Meal a pint to each bushel
Wood Ashes two quarts to each bushel
Complete garden fertilizer half a pint to each bushel

When “1 part” = a three-pound coffee can, that would be 3 quarts.
The formula above would be nine parts total, or 27 quarts, when 
dried cow manure is used, or .87 pint bone meal, 1.7 quart ashes

Potting Soil No. 2.  
A woodsy mixture for plants that need a soil having a high organic 
content.  These include Begonias, African Violets, Gloxinias and Ferns.  
Loam two parts
Leaf mold, peat moss, or humus two-and-a-half parts
Coarse sand or Perlite half a part
Broken crock, brick or sandstone one part,
Charcoal half a part
Dried cow manure one part
Bone meal a pint to each bushel

Potting Soil No. 3.  
A mixture for succulent plants such as cactuses. 
Loam two parts,
Leaf mold, peat moss or humus two parts,
coarse sand or perlite two parts,
broken crocks, bricks, or sandstone two parts,
bone meal a pint to each bushel,
lime a pint to each bushel,
wood ashes two quarts to each bushel.

For strong growing kinds such as century plants and aloes, 
add 1/10 part of
bulk of dried cow manure.

Potting Soil No. 4.  
For acid soil plants such as heathers, azaleas, camellias and gardenias.  
Loam two parts,
leaf mold or humus one part,
peat moss two parts,
coarse sand two parts,
dried cow manure one part

Potting Soil No. 5.  
For forcing bulbs and plants such as daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, 
spireas, and fuchsias.  
Loam four parts
leaf mold, peat moss, or humus two parts,
coarse sand or perlite three parts,
bone meal a pint to each bushel..

My compost amounts to a potting soil already, minus the 
sand/grit/perlite, since it has quite a bit of clay loam, leaves, 
manure, and deteriorated bone and wood in it.  I use it as substitute 
for some of the ingredients in the above formulas, by art and ex-
perience on proportion, and according to which other ingredients I 
have on hand, but never leave out the grit component, since the 
compost is almost entirely lacking in that.  I have occasionally 
used pure compost as potting soil, and the plants seemed to do fine. 
I should run an experiment some time, when I have a lot of bedding
plants of the same kind, as I did with begonias this spring, with 
different soils and compost, treating them all the same, and see 
how they do.


N = Nitrogen, P = Phosphorous, K = Potassium (potash)

Nitrogen is essential for vigorous leaf growth and tends to increase 
fruit set. Sources of Nitrogen are: Bloodmeal, Bone Meal, Cottonseed 
Meal, Manure, and Activated Sludge.

Phosphorous is essential for strong root systems and bright flowers. 
It can increase fruit development and seed yield. Sources of Phos-
phorous are Activated Sludge, Bloodmeal, Bone Meal, Cottonseed Meal, 
and Rock Phosphate.

Potassium is essential for cell division and strong stems. It helps 
fight diseases, improves quality of fruit, and decreases water 
requirement of plants. Sources of Potassium are: Greensand, Manure, 
Compost, and Wood Ashes.

Trace Elements needed for strong, healthy plants are: 
Boron, Calcium, Cobalt, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Magnesium, Molybenum, 
Sulfur, Tin, Zinc. Sources are: Oyster Shell Flour, Leaf Mold, 
Seaweed, Phosphate Rock, and Compost.

AMMONIUM SULFATE: 21% N, 24% Sulfur. 
Application Rate: 4 lbs. per 3" sawdust covering 100 sq. ft.

BLOODMEAL: 12% N, 3% P. Application Rate: Sprinkle on damp soil 
or water after application.

CASCADE SOIL AID: Ground, composted bark with N added. 
For acid-loving plants, mix with equal parts of sand or soil.

CHICKEN MANURE: 2-2-1. Application Rate: Variable.

GREENSAND: 1.5% P and 5% K. Helps soil absorb and hold water.
Application Rate: 25 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.

LEAF MOLD: 5% N. Encourages good root growth.

BLACK GOLD: 50% earthworm castings, 25% peat, and 25% Prelate. 
Rich and fine textured.

BONE MEAL: 4-21-1. Application Rate: 10 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.

CHARCOAL: Absorbs and holds N until plant can use it. Absorbs odors.
Purifies the mixture.

COTTONSEED MEAL: 7-3-2. Rated second only to manure as a source of N
Application Rate: 5 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.

JIFFY - MIX PLUS: Sterilized, pre-mixed, potting medium of sphagnum, 
moss, and vermiculite.

LIME (DOLOMITE): Rich in magnesium. Can be used to raise pH of soil.
Application Rate: 5 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. every 3-4 years.

OYSTER SHELL FLOUR: An excellent source of calcium and trace elements.

ORCHID BARK: A medium for growing some types of orchids. 
Available in fine, medium, or coarse grades.

PERLITE: A silica derivative - no nutritive value. 
Keeps the soil aerated and retains some water. Sterilized.

PHOSPHATE ROCK: 65% P plus many minerals and trace elements. 
Application Rate: 10 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. every 3-5 years.

STEER MANURE: 5-5-2 Builds soil rapidly. 
Application Rate: Variable.

MILLED SPHAGNUM: Excellent source of organic matter. 
Holds moisture well.

PEAT MOSS: Loosens heavy soils, binds light soils, retains water. 
Application Rate: 1 part peat to 2 parts soil.

PUMICE: Provides soil aeration and keeps soil from compacting.

VERMICULITE: Sterilized expanded mica. 
Keeps soil aerated, provides water and nutrient-holding capacity.

Love in Christ,
Sibyl Smirl

Organic Fertilizers for Apartment Dwellers 

Store-bought potting soil, no matter how fertile, has almost certainly 
been sterilized, so won't contain any of the funguses, bacteria, worms, 
insects, even living eggs of worms and insects, that make up a living 
soil. This is good, because it means that pot-bound, limited, plants 
won't catch the diseases that are included in the above, much more 
serious for pot plants than for totally natural ones.  It's bad, though, 
because organic fertilizers don't get the "biodegradable" deterioration 
that puts them into usable, soluble forms for the plants.  Ground lime-
stone, for example, needs the acids present in a living soil, even when 
it isn't an "acid" soil, but an averaged-out soil, to become soluble 
ions. Therefore, much of the below depends on having some "life-activity" 
in the soil: may be well to "inoculate" the potting soil with a bit of 
a living soil, trying to get some where there were few to no diseases 
to start with.  Mulches, of course, will pick up molds from the air 
to deteriorate them, and which spores are floating around in the air 
are a matter of chance.

Coffee grounds--beg all you can from your neighbors, as well as your own, 
or beg them from your neighbors anyway if you don't make coffee. They're 
a wonderful mulch, and high-nitrogen, for acid-loving plants such as tom-
atoes. They're _too_ acid for many garden plants, though, so use judiciously 
according to plant desires. Tea leaves are similar, even in the tea bag.

Hair clippings and combings: your own, your dog's, your neighbors' dogs, 
cat hair from the vacuum cleaner, begged sweepings from beauty parlors, 
human or canine. High nitrogen mulch, good for any plants.

Bones from your supper table--push them down deep into the outer soil of 
recently set out plants, or be careful of damaging roots of of more 
established plants.  This is slower-acting than the pulverized bone meal 
(less surface area), but they'll still deteriorate and fertilize, even if 
you dig them up two years later and they don't _look_ much changed, still 
they'll have been leaching slowly into the soil.  Presumably you don't 
have dogs or wild animals roaming your balcony for them to attract.

The "blender tea" that you invented for yourself. This is quick-composting, 
and the fine chopping is good for rapid deterioration. Using the same 
stuff whole as mulch is slower, and with some food is likely to stink 
(but plain leaves and stems won't stink)

The eggshells aforementioned.
Love in Christ,
Sibyl Smirl
Date: Sat, 04 Mar 2006