What is a growing medium for plants?

growing medium soil garden plants

QUESTION: What is a growing medium for plants? I see these words mentioned all the time in articles about how to grow plants when I look them up. Is it like dirt, or what? – Paisley O

GARDENING CHANNEL REPLIES: A growing medium for plants is anything placed within a pot that provides support and allows nutrients, water, and air to reach the plant through the roots.

Growing mediums should also encourage a stronger root system. Anything you place within a growing container with the intent of helping a plant to grow would be known as a growing medium.

When choosing a growing medium, be sure to consider the weight of the medium, how well it retains water, if the medium is acidic or alkaline, if the medium is porous which allows for air to flow through it, and also how well it drains.

What you need in a growing medium may change based upon what you’re growing, so be sure to understand the growing conditions of your plants when selecting a growing medium.

Keep in mind, there are a variety of growing mediums to choose from. Here are some of the most common growing mediums:

compost ingredients

1. Compost

Compost is a great growing medium because you may purchase it or make your own. If prepared at the right temperature, it shouldn’t have any weeds growing within it. This makes gardening a little easier as you should have fewer weeds to combat throughout the growing season.

Also, compost is known for being rich in nutrients. If you’d like a sustainable growing medium to utilize around your home, compost may be a good fit. However, it needs to be completely finished compost. If you still see vegetables and individual pieces that you can recognize, like in the photo above, it isn’t finished yet. It should look like rich, crumbly soil when it’s actually finished, more like what is in the hands of the person in the photo.

coco coir in bucket

2. Coco Coir

Coco coir is an environmentally friendly growing medium as it uses a once wasted by-product of coconuts to grow more plants. Coco coir is the fibrous portion of the outer husk of a coconut.

This growing medium is known for aerating soil and retaining water. Plus, it’s difficult for fungal diseases to form in this type of medium. If you’d like to encourage healthier plants and provide them with an evenly damp growing area, coco coir could be what you need.

bag of vermiculite

3. Vermiculite

Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral that looks like glossy flakes. It’s a great product when used with another option on this list.

In most cases, vermiculite should make up approximately 50% of the total growing medium in any planter. This ingredient is known for being lightweight, and is great for retaining both moisture and nutrients.

growing medium indoor plants

4. Bark

Bark is a growing medium people sometimes overlook. Yet, it makes for a wonderful growing medium for plants that prefer a dryer growing location.

If you use bark as a growing medium, understand that you may be able to use it longer than some other growing mediums due to its durability. This medium takes longer to decompose. Bark is great for drainage and aeration. It’s also known to store carbon.

using perlite in the garden

5. Perlite

Perlite is crushed volcanic rock. This growing medium is another option that should be mixed with other ingredients on this list. You should ensure perlite makes up approximately 50% of the growing mixture.

When using this option in your container garden, understand it’s another lightweight growing medium that’s wonderful at retaining oxygen.

6. Soil

Soil is the most common growing medium around any garden. The reason being is it’s affordable and easy to amend to create an ideal growing environment with ease.

Plus, soil is sustainable, can be well-draining if amended properly, and is excellent at retaining nutrients. If you’re working on a budget and need a quality growing location, consider amending your soil for a budget-friendly growing medium.

peat moss garden

7. Peat Moss

Our last growing medium to discuss is peat moss. This is a material that forms when moss and other plants break down in a moss bog. People are getting away from this type of growing medium as there are other options which are more environmentally friendly.

Basically, peat moss is great for use as a growing medium because it stores water, is acidic, and sterile. However, this product must be mined which causes harm to the bogs where it’s located. This brings obvious harm and disruption to the plants and animals that live in these locations.

You now have a general understanding of what a growing medium is, what you should consider when selecting a growing medium, and what the most common options are.

Which growing medium you use will depend upon the growing conditions your plants need. Once you match the growing medium with the growing conditions, your plants should be off to a wonderful start.

Learn More About Growing Mediums




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