Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 5, Issue 2
   April 2010
   Potting Soil Basics

Potting soil

Many gardeners consider potting soil to be a conveniently packaged product containing everything a plant needs to flourish. But before grabbing the first bag off the shelf, you might want to check the ingredients, if they are listed.

Most plants grow best in a lightweight medium that provides a balance between moisture and air. Potting soil usually does not contain soil, but rather a blend of materials that may include peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, sand and lime.

Common potting soil components
 Common potting soil components; peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, sand and lime.

Peat moss is the dead material that has decomposed and accumulated in the lower levels of a sphagnum bog. It may be compressed into layers 10 ft. (3m) thick. Most peat moss in North America comes from peat lands in Quebec, New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. There are concerns about the environmental impact of harvesting sphagnum bogs, and in Europe, Britain in particular, the use of this product is strongly discouraged because of native resources depletion.

The Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association, however, claims there is more than 70 times as much growing in Canada every year as is harvested, with harvesting taking place on only one in 6,000 acres of an estimated 270 million acres of peatlands. (http://www.peatmoss.com/pm-efaq.php)

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