Monday, October 26, 2009

Potting soil

One of you asked how I make homemade potting soil. I've written about this before, but even I can't find it on my blog, so I'll write it again and put it at the beginning of the title, so people can find it later.
In recent weeks I have put flower bulbs in 24 pots, 3-5 per pot. Lots of potting! This could be very expensive if I bought commercial potting soil -- or bought my own pots. Thank you to all who donated pots to me.

To make the soil I fill two large lasagna containers, one with compost and one with good garden soil. I put them in the kitchen oven, turn it to 250 degrees and leave it on for 2-3 hours. I did it last Wednesday while Fred and I taught our afternoon class. "Ugh," he said as he walked into the house. But the day was warm so we could leave open the windows both Wednesday and Thursday. By Thursday evening the odor was
completely gone.

Then I put the baked contents into a large bag and add about the same volume each (2-3 6" pots-worth) of sand and vermiculite. Stirring it together takes remarkably little time, primarily by "tossing" the bag, while leaving it on the cellar floor. Two such concoctions filled my 24 flower pots. I needed another (not all of it) for potting up the spider plants babies.
This year's tomato blight was blamed by many on some infected potting soil that was widely used for tomato seedlings, mass raised and shipped to many garden center outlets nationwide. Since both sand and vermiculite are sterile, I had no trouble. It's MUCH cheaper than commercial mix, of course. I've used commercial seedlings mixes before for starting spring seeds, but I tried using my own for about half this past spring with no obvious failures. Maybe I can give up on buying commercial growing mixes altogether.
I greatly enjoy having flowers to stare at and give away all winter long. I don't feel evangelistic about this as I do about home gardening and abstaining from power machinery, but flowers brings me innocent pleasure, as they have for many people over human history (and probably before). Innocent pleasures are not something to be taken lightly in this troubled world.

Happy potting!


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