Container Garden Chronicles: Choosing the right soil

Container Garden ChroniclesA few weeks ago, a co-worker brought in several tomato, pepper and basil plants her husband had started from seed. I jumped all over that, of course — the cherry tomatoes her husband grows taste like candy.

But I knew I’d need to re-pot them. And because I’d mooched off Leigh when I started my (now dead) seeds in a few egg cartons, I knew I’d have to buy soil.

So I headed to the home improvement store after work last week to explore my options. It was drizzling, and the soil was outside, so I was motivated to make a pick and get going. But among the piles (and piles!) of bags of soil, there were a lot of options.

Moisture control. With six months of plant food. With three months of plant food. Top soil. Potting soil. Organic. For flowers and vegetables. And so on.

Being a novice gardener, I really didn’t know what I was looking for. I figured organic would be best, since I was growing food I planned to eat — but the one organic bag I saw wasn’t labeled for containers. And none of the “potting soil” bags were labeled as organic, or even as safe for vegetables.

In the end, I chose a brand-name bag labeled for moisture control and already mixed with fertilizer. When I reached the check out, I asked the cashier if it was OK for growing food.

“Oh yeah,” she replied, scanning the barcode and announcing my $11.10 total.

“At least, I hope so,” she added, briefly hesitating. “That’s what I use at home.”

So, she didn’t inspire the greatest confidence. But I brought home the soil and, the next night, made an enormous mess in my kitchen re-potting my two tomato plants. I’m sure I’ll have to do it again as they grow — but for now, they’re set.

My question to you, fellow gardeners, is how do you choose the soil you use for your gardens? Do you mix in your own fertilizer? (My mom said she does, just to be safe.) Do you choose different soil for your food vs. your flowers? For containers vs. plants in the ground?

Leave me a comment and let me know.

Sarah Chain

I'm an avid reader and book lover living and working in downtown York. Follow me on Twitter at @sarahEchain.

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3 Responses

  1. Bethany Fehlinger says:

    Not to bash on your choices (as it is hard to get this stuff otherwise) but more than likely you bought Monsanto-tied soil. I am not one to go out there screaming about Monsanto, but I hear it a lot from farm coworkers. You can do a Google search as to why, but here is one link:

    I am going to check out that new green store downtown, in the hopes they have non-Monsanto based soil.

  2. Sarah Chain says:

    Yeah, I should have known better than to expect a wide selection of organics from a big box store. I might look elsewhere when I re-pot my plants again.

  3. Bethany Fehlinger says:

    Yea. I really didn’t know much until last year, when I started at Goldfinch for my CSA. The farm family were really insightful and loved to talk about all these things. I had never known the difference, except for watching a few documentaries (Food Inc. being one.) It is so frustrating not being able to go into a store and get what I want.
    But I do love the York community for that reason. Many are willing to help me get a bag, and there are many small places that will either order it for you and lead you in the right direction, if they don’t already know the pulse of the community. I am addicted to this city now! lol

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