Starter soil comparison

Marigold 2 comp  During the earlier, hectic transplanting period when there were thousands of plants in the basement needing moved from seedling flats to four-packs I ran out of my preferred potting soil, Pro-Mix.  There was no time to go to my usual supplier, and there was snow (It seems long ago that the roads were iffy, doesn’t it?) so instead it was a quick trip to our small town’s local hardware.  It’s the only place nearby that even carries “potting soil” now that other stores have closed so there weren’t a lot of options.  I purchased six bags of All-American Potting Soil, hurried home and transplanted marigolds.  I knew immediately upon opening the bag that this was not a good quality growing medium, but I was desperate and thought it would work for the few weeks until planting out time.  It was very black, VERY heavy with sand and dried out quickly.  A flat filled with it weight 6 times as much as usual, requiring me to use two hands to move it (normally I can carry 2 flats at once) and an extra flat underneath to help support the weight.  I only planted one tray (shown above) and used the rest of the six bags to mix with existing soil in low spots in the gardens after the snow melted.

As I read many blogs describing new gardeners’ sad experiences with dying plants, their fears that they have overwatered or underwatered, or been a “bad parent” to their baby plants, or just didn’t inherit a green thumb worries me.  Had I not been a very experienced gardener, I might not have been able to save the plants shown above.  They are not dead yet, but you can clearly see the bronzed tone to the leaves.  When it came time to set them out, it was almost impossible to move them intact.  The heavy soil fell off the few roots that existed.  Just so you can understand the difference, here’s a tray planted in a quality potting soil…same seedlings, same day, same exact growing conditions…photos taken the same day.  Marigold 1 comp  Happy, bright green foliage and a soil cube dense with roots have given these plants a great start.  It may not be inexperience or lack of a green thumb that causes gardening woes, but a low-quality basic product.  When it comes to potting soil it NEVER pays to purchase the cheapest, or to settle for an inferior product.


About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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9 Responses to Starter soil comparison

  1. Great tip on potting soil. Thanks!


  2. Amazing to see the side by side comparison like that. Thank you for the reminder!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, that’s some difference. I find it’s the same with cooking, bad recipes or poor quality ingredients can lead a person to conclude, incorrectly, that they’re a bad cook.


  4. Reblogged this on elizabethjwalker and commented:
    Rain has come at last! If you’re keen on learning to garden, this is a good site to check out while the weather keeps you indoors. Although this garden is in North America, the weather has been eerily similar to Somerset in Britain so far this year.


  5. bcparkison says:

    Lesson learned.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kit Miracle says:

    Very good point. I noticed the change in bagged potting soil the past few years. I’ve been mixing my own potting soil this spring from the various commercial options. Plus, added goat poop from a neighbor. Works much better.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. L Troost says:

    I often suspected it, but you showed me the truth. I like to mix some vermiculite into my store-bought mix to lighten it, but it’s better to start with the good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Margy says:

    A huge difference. – Margy

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Robin says:

    Thanks! Amazing difference in quality!


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