Dig Up Some Dirt
Throughout my “how to grow” pages here, in The Perfect Vegetable Garden, I have repeatedly promoted the soil mixture I use for planting my veggies. I’ve arrived at my formula through years of trial and error. It’s just the garden’s dirt plus a few extras – mixed together to ensure a happy home for my crops.
When I dig my tomato holes, which are about a foot deep, I store the dirt in plastic totes. Since I grow upwards of 4 dozen tomato plants, I generate about 5 full totes of garden dirt – which, in turn, produce 10 totes of 50/50 soil mixture.
Mix It Up
The quality of the dirt lets me know what to combine the garden dirt with. Should I use a quality potting mix? Or, can I be successful using inexpensive garden soil?
If the soil is mostly red clay – which makes the water drain very poorly – I add 50% potting mix. Potting mix opens up the clay-laden earth and allows better drainage – adding a healthy dose of plant food. I also use potting mix exclusively for my indoor container garden. I want a growing medium that feeds my plants longer and does not introduce unwanted pests and diseases.
A soil that has been worked for a couple of years in a garden is more loamy and brownish – and, contains a fairly good dose of nutrients. Hence, I can just enhance it by using 50% garden soil. Garden soil is formulated for outdoor gardening – both in-ground and containers – but, it should not be used for indoor container plants.
In either case, be it potting mix or garden soil, I am partial to using Miracle Gro. Their products have always given me a higher harvest yield.
Miracle Gro’s potting mix will feed plants for up to 6 months and their garden soil products will feed my veggies for up to 3 months. A 50/50 mix will basically cut these times in half – but I routinely side dress with a granular fertilizer so, it’s not an issue.
Even when I need plant food, Miracle Gro is my go-to source 99% of the time.
The Final Touch
To every 5-gallon bucket full of 50/50 mix, blend in a couple of tablespoons of granular 10-10-10 fertilizer. Adding much more than that can actually damage young plants by burning the roots. This slow release fertilizer will aid the veggies in their early stages of growth.
FYI: Fertilizer is rated by the percentages of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potash/potassium (K). For instance, a 40 lb bag of 10-10-10 fertilizer has 10% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 10% potash. In other words, each 40 lb bag contains 4 pounds of each nutrient – the remaining bag weight is composed of inert ingredients as filler – unless the content label shows additional nutrients have been added. Nitrogen and phosphorus are essential for growth and photosynthesis of the plant, itself. Potash is important to plants for flowering and fruiting.
Every couple of weeks, I get out my Scott’s Broadcast Spreader and run it through the garden giving all my plants additional doses of 10-10-10 fertilizer until they start to flower and fruit. Then, they need more potash than nitrogen and my plan switches to feeding them 0-0-60 fertilizer – no nitrogen, no phosphorus – just 60% potash – which really gets the crops humming so I can harvest some great veggies. Sometimes, it is hard to find 0-0-60 fertilizer unless you go to a local feed and grain store but, as long as the fertilizer has a higher percentage of potash, it will still aid flowering and fruiting.
Personally, I keep a generous supply of Easy Peasy 0-0-60 fertilizer on hand. It is 100% all natural potassium and is great for enhancing plant health and disease resistance. You can use this product for any of your flowering plants – vegetables, trees, shrubs – you name it! The more you buy, the better the price.
A Parting Thought
You are definitely a diehard gardener when you know exactly how many bags of fertilizer you can load into your car! My car can hold 14 bags of fertilizer – my van tops out with 39 bags. Needless to say, hauling that many bags of fertilizer at one time has made me very adept at using my side mirrors!
What is your favorite dirt mixture for planting veggies? Leave some thoughts or questions below or email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim, the Lifelong Gardener