#109 Are you sure you are using the best succulent soil mix?

Hey look my garden is uncovered again!
So a few days ago I worked on removing the shade cloth over my plants, and as you
can see everything is directly exposed to sunlight… and because of that I now
have to prepare working on my landscapes which I would be starting to do later
this month, at the end of the month. Unfortunately I have to wait until then
because I have lots of stuff that I need to do in preparation for any ground
work, any landscape work, and that has mostly to do with moving around some
plants, and deconstructing my planter box. To that end I went and bought these
raised planter beds from Bunnings. As you can see these are quite, quite deep. Good enough for certain types of plants, and… I guess it would drain well. All of the water
would be flowing out of the legs. So what I’m going to do is to fill this up with
soil and transfer all of my ground cover the plants up used to be in that planter
over there and plant them inside these raised planters. And of course that means
that I would need to spend a bit of time preparing my soil, so in this episode
we’re going to talk about my soil mix and what’s the best type of soil for
these plants. Like most things in life there’s no
silver bullet, no miracle cure, no panacea, no one-size-fits-all solution, there’s no
best of the best. Everything is so subjective. There’s only
the best for your situation and that’s the first thing I would like to stress
when thinking about your soil mix. We have this thing in photography that the
best camera is the one that you have with you. There’s no use having the top-of-the-line camera if you don’t bring it around anyway. What works for me may not necessarily work for you. Especially if we have different climates, and different types of plants, and we
water differently. There’s a lot of variables involved here. So unless you do everything the same way that I do, and you live in a climate that’s exactly the
same as mine, and even so if you have the exact same types of plants and the
exact same maturity of plants, basically if you reduce, remove all variables then
sure, why not? Copy what I do. But failing all of that, most likely, then you’ll have to think about how each variable works. And play around with it. So this video is
going to be all about that. So reiterating the first point, your choice
of soil mix should be reflective of your circumstances, your situation. Like I said
earlier you would have to consider your climate which in turn influences what
type of plants would grow in your area and apart from that you would also need
to take note of your location, the amount and quality of sunlight that you get, the
average temperature range which is of course these are all part of your
climate. You’ll also have to check the availability, your access to certain
types of materials which you would be using to aggregate with your soil. That’s if
you do not use pre-made soil mixes. And apart from that you would have to
consider the needs of the plant. This varies from climate to climate and of
course the genera and even the species of plants. To some extent you would even
need to consider the type of container that you’re using, where you’re planting
them. Say you’re using raised beds or pots or even doing the same as I –
planting them in the ground. All of those are variables that you have to consider.
And one thing that people often overlook is your financial capability because
this ultimately dictates whether or not you’re able to afford all of those
exotic materials. So basically your soil mix is a compromise of
all of those factors. So again what I think is best might not necessarily be
the best for you. This might be a very controversial topic for some. A lot of
people swear by different types of materials. I’m not going to start a PC
versus Mac debate. *cough* PC master-race. So what we have to do here is to inspect
each variable and see how they interact with others. When considering your soil
there’s a few factors that you have to keep in mind. The first one would be the
components, which in turn is closely tied to water retention and nutrients, and
lastly the soil pH. So for the components part of this, this is one of the things
that’s very hotly debated in various forums online, and as I’ve been saying
people swear by various materials. Some swear by pumice, some swear by scoria, others would be recommending vermiculite, perlite, whatever. So to expand on that
let’s look at typical components used for soil mixes. A typical soil mix is
composed of organic and inorganic materials. For the organic part this is
usually easy. We are just referring to the soil part
of the composition. We might see this come in various names such as loam soil,
topsoil, garden soil, potting mix. It largely depends on your location, because, say for instance here in Australia. We only call them garden soil or at least
that’s what garden centers label them. And garden soil I think would be
the equivalent of what the US would call topsoil, and essentially topsoil like the
name implies is the soil at the top layer in the ground, and loam is typically a
composition where there’s an equal mix equal parts of sand compost and whatever.
I think there’s an equal distribution basically. But all those technical parts
aside I’m just going to consider topsoil or garden soil as the same thing. So
basically if I just went down to my garden, grab some handful off the top,
then this would be the garden soil or the topsoil. Other possible organic stuff
that I’ve heard people use would be charred rice hull, which you might
encounter being called as carbonized. Which basically means burning it just
charring it turning it to ash or charcoal. If you use fresh materials
such as wood chips or twigs or whatever. Then they tend to be more acidic as they
decompose and we’re going to discuss that later. But basically you would want
a fairly neutral soil, maybe even slightly acidic. But for the most part
you do not have to worry about that. Because most of the soil available is
neutral to slightly acidic. Which is perfect. And as for the in organics these are the components of the soil which do not decompose or rot and typically these
are minerals, rocks basically. And there’s a lot of contention, a lot of debate around this side so let’s just list some of them. We would have scoria, pumice, river pebbles, perlite, vermiculite, and sand. There would be many others very
similar to this such as zeolite, crushed marble, all sorts of stuff. I can’t
remember them off the top of my head. But basically all of these fall into one of
a few categories of aggregates. The first category of aggregates is what I would like to call vesiculated rock. These are basically rocks that have lots of
air pockets between them. Good examples of this would be scoria, pumice, any type of volcanic rock. For all intents and purposes they’re all the same, only they have a varying percentage of air pockets by density, by volume. In my case I usually use scoria. Scoria has lots of air pockets
inside of it. But if you compare it to pumice, pumice would have lots more
air gaps and they’re so light that they tend to float sometimes. Compared to
scoria which is more dense due to less having less amount of air pockets. So
again that first category would be vesiculated rocks or rocks with bubbles,
air pockets inside of them. The next category would be rocks without air pockets. Under that you could consider river pebbles, crushed rock, maybe chips,
marble chips, whatever, granite, sandstone, limestone, anything basically. As long as
they are not porous. They do not have those air pockets air bubbles inside of
them then… this would be the next category. I think
you might even have to consider sand as part of this. They’re all basically the
same it’s just a matter of the grade of the material. So I guess there’s just two
if you place them into very general categories. It would be vesiculated versus
non-vesiculated. If you take any of these rocks, and mix them into your soil mix. This would allow you to break apart your soil. Especially if it’s sandy or
clayey. And right away mixing pebbles would create lots of air pockets between the
soil. If you use enough of these pebbles regardless of whether it’s vesiculated
or non-vesiculated then you would end up with a very well draining mix, a very
loose mix, and it all boils down into how much of these materials you should use.
Whether you could afford them. Whether you could easily source them, and that should be a huge factor in your decision. So when picking what to use, the first
thing that should come into your mind is its availability. So there’s no point
trying to source something that’s really hard to come by. Because by then that
means that they would be a lot more expensive. Whether that would be the base
price itself or the cost of transporting them to your location. So I really
recommend starting with something that’s locally available. Now I’m lucky that
SoilWorx, where I get my all of my pebbles from, they are close by. I could
just drive over or even have them deliver so it’s really convenient for me.
Which is why I stuck with them. Now a close second consideration would be the price and it’s closely tied to availability. Because of course there’s
the supply versus demand problem. Some materials would be a lot cheaper
compared to the others. An example would be scoria. I think in my location scoria is really cheap. It might not be the same in other places. If you try
sourcing the same amount of scoria and perlite by volume then you would find
that the perlite costs a lot more compared to scoria. Again that’s based on
my location. I’m not sure how things are in your area. There’s no way for me to
know so you have to do these comparisons yourself. Now taking those first two
decisions, which is the availability versus price. This gives you a rough idea
of the quantity that you could work with. And this has to match with your purpose.
In my case I plant in the ground and in pots, and in planters. Which means that I need… I require a huge amount. If you’re solely
doing this in pots then you would need less materials than I. Which means that
you might get away with using more expensive materials. Maybe only need a
few bags of them. In my case a few bags wouldn’t cut it. I need entire trucks of it. Another factor that should be part of your
decision is the drainage. Drainage and water retention. This part is closely tied with your climate and your watering routine. If you live in a similar climate as I where it does not rain every day. It’s fairly dry on
average although we do get the occasional heavy downpours. Basically not
tropical – temperate. Then you could get away with a slightly moisture retentive mix. But if you live closer to the tropics, where it’s constantly humid. It’s almost always wet. There’s a lot of rain, lots of rainfall then you would want
something that retains less moisture and drains a lot more easily and that decision again ties back to the first two of the availability and price. If you
want to decrease the moisture retention and increase the drainage. Then you will
have to include a lot more of the inorganic materials into your soil mix.
Regardless of what you decide to use in my case it is scoria, because it’s easily
available here. The one thing that you have to do is the wet clump test.
Basically take your soil mix soak it in water, take a clump and make sure it just
crumbles. Because if it sticks together then it’s no good because it means that
the next time you drench your soil there’s little drainage. Your drainage is
not as efficient and your plants would be wet longer than they should be.
Let’s go ahead and do that test. This is my usual mix based on soil and scoria. I start with 1:1 ratio, then adjust from there. Some soil can be hydrophobic, they don’t drain well. Fix this by adding more pebbles to loosen it more. Now here’s an example of something less
ideal. There’s not much inorganic materials in this sample. This sample is composed of just regular soil from my garden. It is a bit sandy and fine, with a tendency to clump as mud. Very fine sand is no good, it tends to repel water. Making it quite hydrophobic. The inner layer does not soak through. The clump remains intact. It does not
break down by itself this is no good. Out of curiosity I decided to go out and
grab a bag of vermiculite and a bag of perlite. Just to be able to compare
against my scoria mix. Going back to those considerations. I mentioned availability and price. These two are readily available. I can find them in most of the shops. As for the price tag, each of these bags cost about eight or
nine dollars and that’s only for five liters. Quite small. With scoria, for the
same price I could get about, twenty liters I think. Which is about four times this amount. So I don’t think these are cost-effective. But we’ll see what they look like. The “wind test”. The perlite is too light… Perlite tends to float due to its low density. I tried a 1:1 composition just for comparison. But others typically use less perlite and mix with other aggregates… Which in my opinion is a waste of perlite… At such low amounts, you might as well just skip it altogether… I find it really hard mixing it evenly with the soil. The parts without perlite tend to clump. This probably explains why people mix perlite with coarse sand. Like perlite, its density is low enough that it can float on water. It is slightly denser that it does not fly away with a light breeze. I felt it was slightly easier to mix than perlite, but it is still not even. Comparing those three mixes you will see
right off the bat the differences between the three. With the perlite mix they still clump a bit but unlike the… the base soil that I have which really
clumps, at least it breaks it down a little bit. Only problem here is that the
product particles, each grain, they tend to float and they tend to fly away with a little bit of breeze. So it might be problematic if I use it in the ground. It
might be something you could use if you’re going to use it in pots. But
unfortunately it’s not for me. I see more or less the same thing with
vermiculite. Only the vermiculite does not fly as easily compared to the perlite. It’s a bit denser, a bit heavier. Compared to the base soil it breaks it
down a little. It can get clumpy at times, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Comparing the two I think I would prefer vermiculite over perlite, and all things
the same they are being sold at the same price here. Now you would argue that
perlite and vermiculite are not supposed to be used by themselves you would have
to mix them with other materials such as peat, coir, pumice, other rocks, but again, that defeats the point cause in my case I’m
going for a larger quantity and having that sort of mix would make it more
expensive since I would have to grab a lot more materials you know. I like to
keep it really simple. I just have two components in my mix it’s just a regular
soil and scoria, and for my use, for my requirements, they satisfy the wet clump
test and they’re easy to source. I also find them to be very cost effective
cause scoria, I could get a lot more scoria for the same price as one small
bag of the vermiculite and perlite and even if you consider looking at premium
pre-made cactus and succulent potting mix, then I think here they sell those
for $12 a bag. Twenty five or twenty liter bag. For $12 I could buy a bag of
regular soil for about $2.50 to maybe $5, and scoria and to still end up
being cheaper than the premium mix so this is why I tend to mix my own rather
than go with pre-made ones. The other thing that the pre-made ones are
good for is that they already contain some nutrients, some fertilizers, and this
might be another argument in itself. We’re going to discuss that in the next
episode – fertilizers. But the thing is succulents do not need as much nutrients
in the first place anyway. Especially if you’re starting with a
rich soil base like I am. It’s your regular top soil, compost… mix.
Lawn mix. So it’s rich enough that I would even use it for my vegetables. In fact that’s what we’re doing here. So my method in all of this
is that I take a rich soil base and mix it with scoria and that’s it.
So my take in all of this is that you should focus on something that you could
sustain, something sustainable, something that you could easily source, and something that would not break the bank. At least that’s my priorities. I need to
be cost efficient since I’m using a huge quantity of soil. Things might be
different in your circumstances, and it’s not right of me to impose my method on you, and this is something that you have to… dig, deep down, reach inside
yourself and see what your priorities are, what your requirements are. In order for you to determine what’s the best soil
mix all you have to do is determine what your conditions are, what your
requirements are, and match them with the materials that’s available. How much you
spend is entirely up to you. But it pays to know what the options are. Be wise
about your soil mix. And I’ll leave you with that in the next episode we are
going to talk about fertilizers and I’ll see you then, bye. calm I have a flan shop and there is a
video section right there I push updates once in a while so make
sure to check back from time to time and finally follow me on Instagram that’s at
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