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Ask Erik: RAW! - All Mixed Up on Dirt Featured

It's always nice to see someone gardening high up. It's always nice to see someone gardening high up.


I’m newer to growing, but it seems like everyone from experts to other newbies has a different opinion on what the best soil mix is.
I’m going to grow a few plants on my balcony this season in 5 gallon pots, it’s a sunny location and the garden is up high, out of harm’s way.
What’s a good soil mix-I don’t like mixing my own. I also don’t mind if it isn’t totally organic.  I’m looking for “low maintenance” (I like to kick back in the summer, lol), decent yields and high quality.


Everyone’s Got One..

For sure, there are as many opinions out there on soils as there are growers. It can be a little confusing, especially if you just want to keep it simple.

The Dirt Bags at the Hydro Shop

There are some pretty good “ready to use” out of the bag grow mixes available to you.  You’ll find these at your local hydroponics shop, but like a good cake mix, be prepared to pay - someone has already done the work and made the mess, so you don’t have to.

Just Say “No”

Avoid the mixes from the grocery store or building centre, especially pre-fertilized and “water retaining” formulas that use harsh fertilizers and synthetic polymers.  Fine for ornamentals, but I don’t recommend a lot of these types for growing anything that will eventually wind up in your body.

Choices Affect Yields

If you are results orientated, you might look for a more lightly pre-charged fertilizer content, whether organic or not in your chosen mix.  It’s much easier to feed with liquid fertilizers and supplements when you water, which you will have to do anyways on a sunny balcony - even daily when it’s hot!

Using liquid ferts over slow release organic components puts you more into the driver’s seat, so you can better address the needs of your garden as they change with the season or the weather.  For example, in a cool wet spring, those organic pre-charged nutes in your pre-mixed soil may go anaerobic - in short the oxygen starved conditions will breed diseases ruining your garden before it ever really gets growing, let alone delivering the nutrients your plants will need for healthy yields of high quality.

And The Living is Easy...

If you like to water and fertilize more frequently to push plants, add some perlite or sand to your mix to provide more pore space in the soil for better drainage and for the roots to breathe easier.  For reduced soil watering requirements, increase peat or organic matter contents (along with some dolomite lime) or you can even line the inside and bottom of the pot with water absorbent rockwool - this will act as a sponge, helping to hold water and nutrients in reserve.

Wick it Up

A wicking system is easy, reliable and cheap; look it up on the web. This will keep things watered for you when you head out camping on those sunny long weekends. Just don’t go with lots of organic nutrients in a wick system because the reservoir can get contaminated easily in the heat as it sits. Finally, try and keep your water and nutrients out of direct sunlight.

Good luck, and post us a few pics at harvest ;)



Erik Biksa


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Choose your dirtbags carefully.
Last modified on Monday, 09 July 2012 17:58

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