[PILOT] Condensed Guide to Soil & Containers


Hey everyone. In this two-part series
we’re going to explore the relationship between soil water and container. We
have a lot to cover so let’s get started. Here are the five limiting factors for
plant growth: soil, light, water, nutrients and temperature and humidity. In this
series we’re only concerned about soil and water but we also got to talk about
containers because we can’t talk about containers without talking about its
effects on soil and we can’t talk about soil without talking about its effects
and how it’s affected by water and how containers affect water. I found that
these three are so interconnected that I just called them the trifecta. Hey everyone
my name is Brian and welcome to This is a Plant. So when I was first starting out
on my houseplant journey I really didn’t know what mixes or soils to even
use. So naturally in this situation we Google stuff but the information was
really scattered so I buckled down and consolidated as much information as I
could find and bring that to you. So first things first why do we even need
good soil wild plants grow perfectly fine without these fancy amendments and
stuff and yeah you know what you’d be correct. So, roots need to be able to
breathe they need aeration and they usually get that from earthworms and
other burrowing creatures. But for our plants inside our homes the worms and
aerating bugs won’t survive in our pots. So that’s why we need to keep the soil
as fluffy as possible so oxygen and air can actually reach the roots. Here’s some
terminology and stuff. Bases plus amendments equal potting mix. Think of
basis as your foundation. It’s usually the medium you start off with and its
present in larger quantities than your amendments. And amendments are anything
you add to your base. Amendments alter the behavior of your mix and when both
of these are combined it becomes your potting mix. But technically you can use
potting mix as an amendment to different mixes but you’ll see that in the
overview so let’s move on. Soil and potting mix are often used
interchangeably. Fun fact: potting mixes don’t actually contain any soil in it
but from this point on in this episode when I say soil and talking about
potting mix. The soil and amendments we’lll be covering will be compared on their
water retention, drainage, compaction, pH and nutrient retention.
Water retention is the amount and duration of water held within the soil.
Drainage is the rate of excess water to exit the soil. Compaction is the
compression of soil particles. pH is basically the measure of acidity and
alkalinity of a solution. If you’re a beginner you don’t have to be too
concerned about pH just yet. We’ll be looking into pH in a different video and
nutrient retention is just the amount and duration of nutrients held within
the soil. This will also be covered in a later video.
When I say as is it means you can use this straight out the bag and the
amendments are optional. First up we have potting mix. It might come in different
names like all-purpose mix, indoor potting mix, moisture control
something-something but generally these are pretty much the same. As long as it
has the word potting or container then you’re pretty much good. Do not use
garden soil. Garden soil goes actually in the ground not in your containers. Most
potting mixes are going to use peat or coir as their base. Then they throw in
some perlite or vermiculite or some sand or some pieces of bark to help keep it a
little bit fluffier. Here’s an overview for potting mix when used as is it has
high water retention, moderately fast drainage, compaction over time, neutral pH
and high nutrient retention. As an amendment add to increase water
retention, add to increase nutrient retention. So let’s look at peat first, so
peat is actually just a combination of decayed organic matter. So when you go
and try and find peat it has to have the word peat in it. It can have other words
like sphagnum peat moss, peat moss — except coco peat. Coco peat is not peat,
apparently. So what’s sphagnum? Sphagnum is actually a type of moss that grows in
peat bogs. Peat bogs are just wetlands. So in order to harvest the sphagnum and the
peat underneath, they have to drain the bogs and let it dry and then come in and
take the top layer off which is usually just the sphagnum and then the bottom
layer which is the peat. That’s why it’s usually called sphagnum peat moss. But
they also sell sphagnum moss and is usually just dried so it’s pretty much
just a long shoot of the sphagnum moss. But now you may be
asking yourself what happens to the peat bogs afterwards? Do they just regenerate or
do they come back in a few years? Unfortunately no they’re just gone. So once harvested these wetlands don’t
come back at least not for like hundreds of years and these wetlands are home to
numerous species of frogs insects and birds and other wildlife. And wetlands
also act as natural carbon sinks so they grab co2 from the air and store it down
in their little water holes. The problem isn’t that we’ll run out of peat. The
problem is that clearing of these wetlands release not only the stored
co2 but also methane which is 30 times more potent than co2 as a greenhouse gas.
Draining of these wetlands also release accumulated metals like mercury into the
surrounding environment. Then once drained these dry lands are prone to
peat fires, which release even more greenhouse gases
into the atmosphere. So what’s being done about it?
Restoration projects are trying to replace bogs that were lost and
conservationists are trying to prevent losing anymore. Here’s an overview for
peat. When uses as a base it has high water retention, moderate drainage,
compaction over time, moderately high acidity 3.5 to 4.5 pH, varies by
manufacturer, high nutrient retention. When used as an amendment add to
increase water retention, add to increase acidity, varies by manufacturer, add to
increase nutrient retention, but overall it carries high environmental concerns. The next base we’re gonna look at is
Coir. Coir is made from the fibers extracted from the coconut husk that
surround the hard shell of the coconut many of us are used to seeing. There are
many uses for this fiber like making rope, mats, fillers for mattresses and
pillows, ground covering, brushes and other things. Coir is highly resistant to
compaction but is also nutrient poor and can even compete with roots when used as
the only growing medium. The instructions say to place the coir in 9 gallons
of water which is about 34 liters and it’s supposed to expand to make 18
gallons about 68 liters. So unless you need to use all of that maybe cut it
down to the size you need. So let’s see how this small piece of coir expands
when I place it into some warm water. “The sound and shock waves roll over the men huddled in
the trenches. Never before have they had such a close up view”. Okay it wasn’t that dramatic but. Here’s
an overview for coir when used as a base it has high water
retention, moderate drainage, less compaction overtime, moderate acidity 5.5
to 6.5 pH, varies by manufacturer, but has selective nutrient retention. Used as an
amendment add to increase water retention, add to decrease compaction
overtime, is a renewable resource. Other potting mixes that you’re most likely
going to find is cactus palm and citrus potting mix are great for cacti,
succulents and any desert loving plants here’s an overview for cactus mix. When
used as is it has moderately low water retention, moderate drainage, compaction
over time, a neutral pH and moderate nutrient retention. To use as an
amendment add to decrease water retention, add to increase drainage. Next
is orchid potting mix. These usually contain larger to smaller pieces of bark
and that works best for orchids and bromeliads because they’re epiphytes
and epiphytes are defined as non parasitic plants that just grow in other
plants. Here’s an overview for orchid mix. When used as is it has moderate water
retention, moderately fast drainage, less compaction over time, has a neutral ph
varies by manufacturer, and moderate nutrient retention. As an amendment add
to increase drainage. With any of these potting mixes you could definitely just
use them straight out the bag but if you’re looking for something specific
you might want to use some nment– a-mend-ments. The first amendment we’re
gonna look at is perlite. Perlite is formed when lava is rapidly cooled and
then it turns it to this hard dense rock called obsidian. Then the obsidian is
hydrated usually by groundwater over 100 years. Then that becomes perlite ore and
if you heat this to around 900 Celsius 1700 degrees Fahrenheit it softens and
then causes the water to vaporize and then it expands and then it forms this
fluffy porous perlite. Perlite is also used in many other
applications like filtering out yeast and hop particles from your favorite
beer. Here’s an overview for perlite. When used as is no water retention, fast
drainage, no compaction, neutral pH, no nutrient retention. As an amendment add
to decrease water retention, add to increase drainage, add to decreased
compaction, add to decrease the nutrient retention. So next up we have vermiculite
this is formed from the weathering or natural breakdown or hydrothermal
alteration of phyllosilicates like mica. So just like perlite once it’s heated as
expands the water vaporizes and you get vermiculite. Unlike perlite, vermiculite
actually retains more water due to its physical chemical structure. Now if you
do a google search of vermiculite you might run across something that says
asbestos vermiculite something-something contamination death. So what’s the deal?
Okay from the year 1919 to 1990 a mine near small town in the beautiful state
of Montana– that’s Glacier National Park by the way
–70% of all the vermiculite used in the United States actually came from this
one small mine. But next to this mine was also an asbestos deposit. During the
mining process some of this asbestos got into the vermiculite so there you go but
nowadays horticultural vermiculite is screened and contains no asbestos. Here’s
an overview for vermiculite, when used as is and as high water retention, fast
drainage, no compaction, neutral pH, high nutrient retention. As an amendment add
to increased water retention, add to increase drainage, add to decrease
compaction, add to increase nutrient retention Next amendment is sand. Sand is very
interesting when it’s added to soil. We’ll see sand in action in part 2 of this
series. So for the sake of time this will be short, like very short, because here’s
the overview. Low water retention, moderately slow drainage, no compaction,
neutral pH, no nutrient retention. As an amendment add decrease water retention, add to decrease drainage, add to decrease compaction, and add to decrease nutrient
retention. There are so many other soils and amendments that I didn’t even have a
chance to cover in this video but I will in the later video. Let’s take a look at
that trifecta again. We talked plenty about soil already and remember we were
mainly concerned about water retention, drainage and compaction. Now let’s take a
look at containers. There are only three things to keep in mind about this
category: material, size, and drainage. Material of the containers goes from
porous to non-porous and porous just meaning having minute spaces or tiny
holes through which liquid or air may pass. unglazed terracotta is one example. This material is very forgiving towards beginners and over-waterers since air can
pass through the sides to reach the soil and the roots. Water will also be able to
diffuse through the container which will allow for faster evaporation. Other
materials include ceramics plastics and glass. These are non-porous so air and moisture exchange only happens through the top. If
you’re using wood always use a plastic liner unless you like that deteriorated
look or water everywhere. Be cautious when using metal containers. Keep them
away from heat sources and direct sunlight because they’ll cook your soil
and your roots. Now for the size this is simple. The larger the pot the longer its
going to take to dry. Lastly, drainage holes are highly
encouraged. If there aren’t any drainage holes you can use plastic and just place
it in there or you can drill a hole into it or you can pot up the plant directly
into the container but this is only recommended for advanced users. Now let’s
quickly talk about water. There are only three categories most house plans can
fall under. Number one, soil must be completely dry in between waterings.
Number two soil must be slightly dry in between waterings.
And number three soil must remain moist at all times. if you count aquatic plants then yeah that’s number four. But we’ll talk about that next time. Water is such a
huge topic it’s gonna need its own episode. In part two I’m gonna go in much
more detail about these categories. Alright so now let’s put everything in a
practice. Here I have a Zamioculcas zamifolia, also known as the ZZ plant.
This is hands-down my favorite plant. So now that we know our plant let’s figure
out its water requirements. Its native to the continent of Africa.
Desert biomes don’t rain often but when it does rain it rains a lot and almost
all at once so this plant requires the soil to be completely dry in between
waterings. Let’s choose what pot it’s gonna go in. I
chose the terra cotta pot because it’s all I ha. Terracotta we know is porous
so it’s gonna dry out a little bit faster. This is a six-inch pot so we know
it’s not gonna retain a lot of moisture and it also has a drainage hole so.. So
now let’s choose the soil. I decided to go about 30/80.—–30/70 but anyway you can
go a little bit higher if you want you can even go 50/50 if you want but this
is how I choose it so let’s start. Now we get to play in the dirt.
So I know I threw a lot of information at you guys today and I may have made it
seem like plants are this difficult thing. But they’re really not. More
advanced gardeners will tell you that they kind of knew this information
already but it was like intuitive or instinctive or just second nature and
that’s basically what a green thumb means. But for those of you like me, I
like to learn visually so that’s how I wanted to present it the way it, the way it looks in
my mind. So I hope I didn’t discourage you. That’s the last thing I want to do
because plants are fun. It brings life into your home, you know? So if you
haven’t already, I really encourage you to take up this hobby. In the beginning
you’re just gonna make a few mistakes and that’s okay. You know, when I was
starting out I was always self-conscious that I wasn’t doing it right. That I was
messing up way too much or something. We put off doing something because we’re
afraid of failing. Because if you never start something then you’ll never be
able to fail and I’ve lived like that for so long.
But I got tired of living like that. I was tired of putting my life on hold
because of what other people would say or what they would think or how I’d be
perceived. ‘Cause now I just really want to have fun. I want to do things my way. But
I made a lot of mistakes too. I guess I had a lot of “failures” but
that’s how you learn. In this day and age it seems like everyone has to be perfect
and if you fail then that means you’re not good enough for something. So it’s
normal to be afraid of making mistakes. It kind of makes you stronger–
I wonder if they have a saying about it? But as long as you get back up and try
again, then you’d even surprise yourself. And
those mistakes aren’t as scary as they once seemed. It’s like fuel and it pushes
you to get stronger. It pushes you to work harder. It pushes
you to work smarter. And then you start to feel more confident about yourself
and you realize that the biggest critic of them all was you–you were the voice
holding yourself back all this time. So I guess I’m saying, don’t be afraid to
start something. I know it’s easier said than done
but the more you do it the easier it’ll get. Because just like plants Because just like plants, we all Because just like plants, we all have to start from the bottom. Thanks for watching.
I’ll see you guys in part 2 Hi, I really hope you enjoyed the video.
Hmmm. This video actually took a really long time to make but I really enjoyed
the whole process like a lot, breakdowns and all you know? But it took so long
because I won’t release anything unless it’s quality, if it’s scientifically
sound and if my perfectionist side is at least
satisfied with the results then it’s a go. So I need your help to do that.
So if it’s available to where you are in life right now, consider supporting the
channel on patreon but if money’s tight I get it you know then like the video,
leave a comment, please subscribe and share it with a friend. Anything you do
will be such a big help and I’d really appreciate. it alright
that was my spiel hmmm. Okay I’m gonna go now. Be kind to
yourself and I’ll see you in the next one.

12 thoughts on “[PILOT] Condensed Guide to Soil & Containers

  1. This is so helpful! I've always been afraid I wouldn't be able to grow plants at home for little reasons I might not even know about but this is super clear and inspiring!

  2. I so needed this video. I usually kill everything 😦. I am getting better tho. I can't wait for the water video. 🤗

  3. Great video! Was not only informative, but it was fun and so visual. Keep it up! I learned a lot.

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