Potting Mix

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

Our weather has been so unstable (SNOW last weekend) I finally got to transplant my tomatoes and peppers to the garden today - and I noticed something that surprised me.

I start seeds indoors in Jiffy Mix, then transplant up to 3" x 3" x 3" cells full of MiracleGro Potting Mix, then from there the plants go in the garden. This year I was almost done transplanting into the 3" cells and I started to run low on Potting Mix - I didn't have quite enough to finish. Not wanting to buy another bag, I mixed a couple of shovelfuls of soil from my garden with what Potting Mix I had, about 50/50, and finished transplanting the last flat which was pepper seedlings.

My garden soil is good, I've been building it with compost for years, but it's clay-ey and there's nothing special about it. That flat that has half-soil is much heavier of course, and it even sprouted a few tiny weeds from seeds that were in the soil - but the seedlings in the mixture did much better than those raised in straight MiracleGro Potting Mix!

This sure isn't a commercial for MiracleGro, but I wonder why that would be. I also wonder if this effect is specific to peppers or if it would work with tomatoes and other plants also. It's got me thinking about filling my flats with half Planting Mix, half soil in future years - that would be a lot cheaper, and if it works better ........

The pepper plant on the left was raised in straight Potting Mix, the one on the right in the 50/50 blend. They're the same variety of pepper and all the ones raised in the 50/50 blend are about 50% larger, greener, and healthier than those raised in the straight stuff. What do you think?

Thumbnail by Ozark
Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

i get that also . I am thinking soil microbes , natural element absorbing

Provo, UT(Zone 5a)

good for u ozark ..
i too have pretty good garden/flower bed soils..ive ammended them
for yrs now.. and will continue too..:)
i learned alot from tapla (al) on container forum.. important thing
to consider is drainage,no stagnant area in soil..potted or not..
i add 1/3 of my really well broke compost when i pot up my tomatoes in
gal containers.then they go into the garden.. they love that compost..
good for U !!!!!!!!

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

interesting, Ozark!

Sugarland, TX(Zone 9a)

I am in Sugar Land, TX and learning about how to amend the soil. Learning a lot from you folks. The soil is only phosphate and I have added a lot of mulch to break it down. Any help will be appreciated. Making progress - slow. I just bought a rotating composter and cant wait to see the results.
Great site great help. :))

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Go down to Timber Solutions soil Yard on S. Gessner at the Beltway, and get yourself a load of double-grind pine bark from Jimmy Quinn. I usually sift out the chunks larger than a 50-cent piece, and use anything that falls through 1/2" hardware cloth. You can set the larger chunks aside and use as mulch in your flower beds, or, you can run them through a wood chipper and grind them down to toss back into your veggie beds.

Be advised that all pine bark fines are NOT created equal, and I searched long and hard down here (almost 6 months, and was about to give up...) to find the right stuff, so if you have any questions, just ask away...

You can get a lot of filler for not a lot of $$, and mix this into your garden soil, along with some sharp sand (called torpedo sand or builder's sand down here...).

The double grind pine bark fines will add structure to your soil, and keep it from collapsing on itself and compressing down.I It also allows air pockets in the soil, and provides excellent aeration for your plant roots.

I use the finer dust particles, and up to about the nickel-sized slivers, in a container potting mix for some veggies I grow in containers. In fact, this weekend I re-purposed some old pine bark mix with some new compost to sow carrots and kale in containers. I checked today, and everything is up already. Carrots usually take 21 days!

I enjoy working with the pine bark fines because the medium is "clean" on your hands. Also, when incorporating it into my raised beds in quantity, the cost savings works for my garden budget. Finally, the benefit to the plants of the air pockets, the fast drainage, and the structural support to the raised bed mix makes me love it more and more.

I'll be ordering probably another 1/2 yard in the next few weeks to fill a couple more beds.

Holler if you need help.

Below are two pics of my pine bark fines. The first picture is of the larger slivers after sifting. I can grind these further, hit them with the sharp edge of the shovel to break them down (the RIGHT stuff slivers like an almond and snaps easily -- not a lot of reedy, shreddy pieces), or chuck them into plant beds, or use as mulch.

The second pic is what I end up with after sifting through 1/2 hardward cloth to mix up my container potting mix. It actually resembles Miracle Grow Potting mix, but goes a lot further than a $13 bag of MG! It is moist, and holds moisture very well. It also drains fast.

Here's a link to the raised bed formula Al (Tapla) over in the Soils and Composting thread came up with for me.

I never did add the Turface or MVP stuff (too $$). My beds are in their second year, and I've only had about 1/2" shrinkage. I'll be adding bagged composted manure, some mushroom compost and a little bit more garden soil to top them off for the winter garden that's revving up!

Sheesh! It's almost time to sow tomato seeds (December 20th) for the springtime, and I haven't even planted the onions or garlic yet, LOL!!




Thumbnail by Gymgirl Thumbnail by Gymgirl
Provo, UT(Zone 5a)

i to am glad to be using pine bark fines in my gardening uses..
right now im using a small/medium grind in my potted plants..
but when i emptied my tropicals out a month ago to overwinter inside..
i put all that wonderful mix in my flower beds..
i agree linda..the plantings benifit alot from it..
i dig in under in spring with coir..and all my tropicals love it..:)
i find with my potted plants..all tropicals.. benifit greatly from the
mix i make.. plus..its no where as heavy as other potting mixes..
great for drainage,good for the plant roots..so many things !!!

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)


I forgot to post the addy for Timber Solutions:
14022 S. Gessner Road
Missouri City, Tx. 77489
Jimmy Quinn: 281-208-2373

Ozark, MO(Zone 6a)

Linda, there's a Texas County near me here in southwest Missouri. The county seat is Houston - population 2081, so your place is a little bigger. I've never heard, but I bet the MO town and county must have been founded by a homesick Texan, huh?

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

In my area , Ace Hardware sells Kambark pine mulch which is a wondetful small chopped bark. I also think my plants love it.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

The key to the pine bark fines that I use is that it is the actual pine bark, not made from the heart of the tree.

Subsequently, there are no reedy, fibrous pieces of wood in the mix. Also, no sticks or huge solid chunks. The larger chunks of the "right stuff," resemble a thick piece of layered slate. If you hit one of these "chunks" with the edge of your shovel, the whole piece would crack into slivers, like almonds. You could further snap these slivers crisply between your fingers.

The "wrong stuff" looks like thick, solid chunks of mulch that, when hit, would just stay a solid chunk. Also, it doesn't not sliver, nor can you snap the pieces between your fingers like a crisp cookie...

Just be sure to use the "right stuff" in your raised bed mix...

This message was edited Nov 26, 2013 11:07 AM

Sugarland, TX(Zone 9a)

Gymgirl - that is a lot of super info. I have been gardening for years and will send some pics. Retired and went back to work - so little time. You have even explained what is good and bad DGPBM. Thanks.
This is my first response since joining DG. Regards

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Glad it helped! I've learned so much from so many here in Dave's garden. It is a wonderful place!


Sugarland, TX(Zone 9a)

I am glued to this site on long flights and learning a lot. Jimmy does not have DGB but I did get the wire net and will assemble a good screen. I am certain I will find the DGB eventually.

Did I also see that you grow capsicum. Are they the red and yellow variety? Is this the right time to start them. I need to invest some time in getting set up right. Will write again.

Picked some seeds from California - Cal poppies and learning to grow them they came up 100%. Too leggy -my fault.

I have some beautiful - 4 to 5 colors - cannas I do not want to throw away and some hardy plumes of day lilies as well as ferns I want to trade or give away - let me know if interested. Regards. J

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Did Jimmy say he was getting some in soon? He does carry it as "double grind pine".

Ask him again.

If he's not getting any soon enough, Wayne's Landscaping on Hwy 288S at the Beltway carries a similar product I have used. Again, ask for "double grind pine".

Sugarland, TX(Zone 9a)

Jimmy did not think he was getting DG Pine soon - maybe March of 14. Will check the new location - have an additional location with Living Earth off Beltway 8 - should get something soon. Thanks.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)


Just be sure to compare the product for not too many sticks, sheddy pieces, and/or thick, woody chunks that don't snap cleanly.

Be sure there's a good ratio of "dust" particles to larger pieces (dime to half-dollar size pieces). The "dust" becomes the "dirt" in the mix.

Finally, compare the price/yard.



Sugarland, TX(Zone 9a)

Do you use this for growing seeds also or do you amend with other stuff?l J

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

You can sieve the "dust" and any smaller-than-dime-size particles through some hardware cloth to make a nice seed starter! I've mixed this with some recycled, sterilized Miracle Grow potting mix, just to stretch the mix and get me through seed starting.

Here's a link to my sterilization process for recycling old MG potting mixes. Works really well!



Sugarland, TX(Zone 9a)

Thanks again - have all the answers.
Once seeded I have good sucess, however I am not sure how often to water. Once the seedlings come out, particularly in this season when there is danger of frost for a couple of months - and the seedlings are under cover of plastic: do they need watering or the evaporation within is enough to keep the moisture?

I water them every 3 days or so and want to get to a longer duration.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

The PBFs offer excellent water drainage and aeration. Plant roots love it!

If you need increased water retention, play with the ratios of peat or vermiculite until you get the retention you want/need.

Your seedlings under cover are outdoors or indoors? I start all my seeds indoors under fluorescent lighting. I just put together a portable, pvc light kit that sits on my kitchen table. It cost $15 in supplies (not including the two side-x-side shop lights I already), and comes apart for storage in the off season.

here's the link to what I made and how. I used 1/2" pvc.

This video is of the basic frame that mhpgardener made.


I borrowed from the example below, and incorporated my light fixture. I simply screwed 2 two-bulb fluorescent lights side-x-side to a lightweight sheet of plyboard and suspended it from mhpgardener's light stand (above video). Mhpgardener's four-bulb light fixture was $60. My two side-x-side lights were $20... check the video below at 3:41. This guy talked WAAAAY too much, but he had a good idea for suspending the light kit, LOL! His is a three-part series, and he used three 2-bulb kits side-x-side, so he could turn his trays either way.



Sugarland, TX(Zone 9a)

Yes this is a lot of very good information and I am just starting to set up some arrangement in the garage to enable some of this growing arrangement. Jamshed

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