May 26, 2010
Hello! How are you all this week? Did you know that Memorial Day weekend is one of the biggest gardening weekends of the year? Garden centers are going to be stocked with the freshest and biggest selection of plants in preparation for the gardening madness that they are expecting. So here is a little tip – if you plan on buying plants for this weekend, visit your local independent garden center on Thursday or Friday morning to get the best selection. I’ve been haunting my local garden center all week – this year we are inundated with last minute requests for potted containers to decorate homes for Memorial Day. So I’ve been spending lots of time playing with different color and plant combinations and making some fun containers.
Last week I was asked how I grow such abundant herb containers and I wanted to share one of the Ladybug secrets – we make our own potting soil. We are not fans of peat moss as a gardening agent, and almost all commercial potting soils use it as a primary ingredient. Peat moss is troublesome for several reasons – it is a rapidly depleting natural resource that is slow to renew and we are not fans of this environmental cost. It is also very finicky and once it dries out it is very difficult to re-wet. If you have ever added lots of peat moss to your soil and then felt like you could never water your plants enough then chances are the peat dried out in the soil and created an impenetrable barrier to moisture. In our experience with clients, peat moss based potting soils are one of the leading causes of container plants failing. With any type of gardening, always pay attention to the soil you are inviting your plants to live in.
Here is our recipe for potting soil for container annuals and herbs.
We use our homemade compost and buy the rest of the ingredients. Perlite and vermiculite are added to improve drainage and coconut coir is an excellent substitute for peat. You can find the bricks of coconut coir in many garden centers, or check your local hydroponic shop – they will most certainly have it. The most time consuming part of this is waiting for the coconut coir brick to reconstitute. If I know I am making a bunch of potting soil I’ll start soaking the coconut coir the night before to be ready to go in the morning. Each brick reconstitutes to about 2 gallons of dry material.
Then you simply add the rest of the ingredients. The ratio depends on what you are planting in the soil. I tend to use equal parts coconut coir and compost mixed with a third of the amount of vermiculite, perlite and worm castings. If I am potting succulents I use very little compost. Otherwise this is a good starting point. The point is to just try it out and see how your plants respond. This was a messy process…so I could not take photos of the mixing. Just get in there and get your hands dirty and mix all the ingredients together! Make sure to crumble up any bits of coconut coir and you are good to go!
I planted up my Thai basil with the potting soil I made today. I have to take full blame for the spindly little seedlings in the photos. I know they will fill up and create huge basil plants, but don’t they look so gawky!
I also potted up some more salad greens around my dill…as the season heats up and the lettuces bolt, the dill will fill the entire container. I’ll then remove the lettuce and enjoy the dill!
I wanted to end this week’s post with a quick camera phone shot of a bouquet I created from my flower garden. As I was heading over to give this to a dear friend who is not feeling well I was struck with gratitude for the bounty of life and garden. I remembered planting the peony bulbs years ago and being so excited to one day be able to harvest armfuls of peonies to give away and enjoy. That day has finally arrived and it reminded me, again, why I love to garden.
Gardening is hope and looking to the future while tending to the present. It is care taking and nurturing and knowing that what you put in comes back. It is also fleeting and cyclical and filled with the knowledge that as you enjoy this moment, it is coming to an end. But it is also knowing that after the peonies come the hydrangeas. Happy gardening dear ones…may your blooms be bountiful and your bounty be nourishing!
Caroline Finnegan owns Ladybug Landscaping, a full service organic landscaping company. based in CT. She is a NOFA accredited landcare professional and when not designing gardens can be found rearranging her furniture or out at a flea market finding new goodies. She almost always has dirt under her nails.