By Jacki Andre
Image source: Jacki Andre
If you’ve been gardening for a while, you’ve likely heard that you shouldn’t use garden soil in containers or as a seed-starting medium.
But garden soil is free and it’s right there for the taking. So, what’s wrong with using it? The short answer is that soil used in any kind or size of container should be light, fluffy and specially formulated to provide optimal growing conditions. Specifically:
- Garden soil, particularly if there is clay in it, may not drain well. Seeds and young delicate roots are prone to rot in excessively wet soil. Further, when soil is wet all the time, its oxygen gets used up, and microorganisms that require oxygen die. The lack of beneficial microorganisms opens the door for anaerobic bacteria and pathogenic fungi to move in and kill off your plants.
- At the same time, soil in containers needs to retain some moisture since plants can’t grow without it. If your garden soil is sandy, it may have difficulty retaining moisture.
- Loose soil provides good aeration, so that roots have room to breathe and grow. When packed into a pot, garden soil may hinder air flow.
- Garden soil can contain weed seeds, which will be annoying to deal with; it also may contain pathogens, which are more serious as they are potentially lethal to your plants.
Still, garden soil is free, right? And sometimes it’s fun to experiment and try something you’ve never done.
If you’re up for it, you can make your own organic potting mix out of garden soil. To do it, you will need to sterilize the soil and gather some things to amend it with.
Sterilizing Garden Soil