Soils and Mulch
Why is soil so important to the gardener? Because it limits the variety of plants that can be grown there. The health of any plant begins in the soil. As a matter of fact, poor soils are one of the most common causes for plant failure. All plants have evolved to perform well in certain types of soil. Cactus, for instance, prefer a soil that drains well. Whereas, aquatic plants prefer a soil that stays moist. Knowing your plants soil requirements will make you a successful gardener.
Types of Soils
Silt particles are smaller than sand but larger than clay. It still feels gritty and is powdery when dry and slippery when wet. It is commonly found in flood plains.
In Search of Loamy Soil
Potting Mix or Potting Soil?
Make Your Own Potting Mix
The following mixes are suggested for growing foliage plants:
- Two parts peat, one part perlite, one part coarse sand.
- Two parts peat, one part coarse sand.
- One part peat, one part coarse sand, one part pine bark.
- One part peat, one part pine bark, one part perlite.
Cornell foliage plant mix:
½ bushel sphagnum peat moss
¼ bushel vermiculite, No. 2
¼ bushel perlite (medium fine)
8 tbsp. ground dolomitic lime
2 tbsp. superphosphate (20% powdered)
3 tbsp. 10-10-10 fertilizer
1 tbsp. iron sulfate
1 tbsp. potassium nitrate
The Benefits of Mulch
Mulch helps to regulate soil temperature resulting in less stress on plants between hot,
dry summer days and freezing winter nights. Mulch allows for less and easier weeding of beds. Organic mulches, as they gradually break down, add nutrients to the soil. Mulching around the base of trees also keeps the lawn mower and weed eater from damaging the bark of trees.
Most importantly, mulching reduces water usage. A mulched area under low-water-use trees with dry land shrubs or perennials can reduce water usage by as much as 50 percent from the water needed to maintain a bluegrass lawn.
Mulching mature trees to their drip line is beneficial as well. For a larger-sized tree this may extend a mulch circle outward from the trunk 20 feet or more, greatly reducing the amount of lawn. Having mulch to that point helps retain moisture in the root area.
(Information courtesy of Missouri Mulch)
Types of Mulch
How Much Do You Need?
(3 cubic foot bag)
Covers 36 square feet 1" deep
Covers 18 square feet 2" deep
Covers 12 square feet 3" deep
Covers 9 square feet 4" deep
(1.5 cubic foot bag)
(1 cubic yard)
Use our handy mulch calculator to determine how much mulch you will need!
Amending Soil Cotton Bur Compost (2 cubic foot bag)
Amending Clay Soil: 4 bags for every 100 square feet (mix in).
New Landscape Beds: Mix 2 bags for every 1 cubic yard of topsoil.
1- 3.8 cubic foot bale covers 50 square feet 1" deep (mix in).
1 - 3.8 cubic foot bale covers 100 square feet 1/2" deep (mix in).
One square yard = 9 square feet.
One cubic yard = 27 cubic feet.