(Planting media | Growing conditions) Of planting media and growing conditions

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This post might be slightly useful for people who are new to growing plants (perhaps moreso herbs and edible plants).

I’ve noticed that people new to growing plants will commonly ask a few questions: what type of media should I use? How much should I water? How often should I fertilize the plants?

I shall just deal briefly with growing media today.

There are many types of growing media, broadly divided into two types: water-retaining, and non-water-retaining.

For the first category, in growing herbs, the most common I’ve seen people using are Tref potting mix, compost, Indonesian burnt earth (IBE); peat and such like.

Compost | Source: Google Image.

For the second, common draining media include perlite, vermiculite, IBE, volcanic sand, coco husks/chips, river sand etc.

Vermiculite | Source: Aquarium Sand

It isn’t really what type of media you buy. Not totally, at least. It is understanding the growing conditions of your garden, and tweaking the media you buy to suit your growing conditions, and the type of plant you want to grow.

For example, a person who has land is able to grow mints (for example) in 100% of poor quality IBE and water the plants twice a day without the mints suffering from intense waterlogging problems, even if they are plants which much prefer moisture to dryness. However, for apartment dwellers who perhaps get only four to five hours of sun a day, a much looser and aerated soil mix is definitely needed. In this case, for myself, I use 50% of Tref potting mix, and 50% of volcanic sand mixed thoroughly for good aeration. I can water my plants twice a day without worrying about waterlogging. Another person who perhaps only receives bright shade for his plants might need an even more aerated mix, with perhaps 35% of water-retaining mix with 65% of aerated mix.

So, to really know what mix to use, it is part trial-and-error, and part knowing that it’s not exactly what media you use, but how you use them to find a combination which works in your growing environment.

Of course, if you are growing carnivorous plants, you should use media which contain absolutely no minerals, and aerate them as you would for other types of plants, especially since you will be able to control watering and the amount of moisture retained with a better aerated mix.

It is really a lot easier to create a more aerated mix and to water more frequently (or to use a water tray) than to have an overly moisture retaining mix and have to deal with root rot.

I will attempt to write about the different types of growing media in slightly more detail in my next post.

(Planting media) Volcanic sand


Ever since Green Culture Singapore member sixhunter introduced me to this particular type of gravel-like planting media, I haven’t touched anything like perlite, vermiculite, or even the higher quality Indonesian burnt earth (IBE) at all. The volcanic sand from World Farm looks like coarse gravel, and is slightly dusty.

Before using the volcanic sand, it is preferable if you do one level of sifting, to separate the finer gravels from the much coarser ones. You may use it unwashed on ornamental or edible plants without any problems. However, I soak and wash the fine gravels over two days if I want to use them on my carnivorous plants, because CPs are a lot more finnicky in terms of their growing conditions and demands.

I have found it best to line the bottom of the pot with a layer of coarse gravel to improve drainage, and then mix up the subsequent layers with whatever organic planting media along with the fine gravels. This ensures that your media retains moisture but dries out easily so waterlogging doesn’t become a problem.

So far, my edible plants love this particular mix of volcanic sand from World Farm along with Tref potting soil/mix from Far East Flora. My mints are thriving on the moist but not too wet mix; and my carnivorous plants are much easier to handle because I’m able to control the amount of water that remains in the media with a mix of volcanic gravel and Horti moss (peat moss).

They contain no minerals so for edibles or ornamental plants, you’d need to add in fifty percent of organic media; for CPs, the lack of minerals is just fine.

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