Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Custom Soil Mix

Last week I potted up my veggie seedlings. The peppers, lemon cuke, eggplant, cantaloupe and basil went into large glazed containers. They'll live in the greenhouse for the summer, where I hope the extra heat will boost crops. Using so many containers requires quite a bit of potting soil, and the quality of the soil is especially important for container plants.

I learned from the bonsai community years ago that mixing your own potting soil is cost effective and far more convenient than purchasing heavy bags of the right blend. The bonsai experts in my area recommend equal parts peat moss, Turface and chicken grit. Now that I'm focusing on vegetables, fruits and herbs, my soil mix has evolved to include plenty of sifted compost, rich in nitrogen from chicken manure.

Turface is a soil amendment that keeps soil loose and aerated. It stores and releases moisture and nutrients and helps produce a deep root structure. Red chicken grit is made from granite and helps promote good drainage. (White chicken grit is made of oyster shells and increases calcium in the chicken's diet.)

I blend my soil mixes in a wheelbarrow. It's easy to adjust the blend for the needs of various plants. For example, too much nitrogen in the pepper containers will grow lush leaves and little fruit, so I cut back on the compost. On the other hand, cantaloupe plants love the compost, so I gave it to them straight. I keep plastic tubs of Turface, chicken grit and peat moss in my potting area. Our compost gets sifted out back and wheeled up the hill as needed.

There is no need to purchase bags of special potting soil from the garden center. Just mix your own!

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