Creek County Master Gardener: Knowing Your Dirt

Kathy Berryhill
Creek County Master Gardener

Mark your calendars for the MG Plant & Yard Sale May 6th at the Creek County Courthouse parking lot.  Hours are 7:30-11 AM but plants usually sell out so plan to come early for the best selection!

Gardeners are all noticing that plant prices are at an all-time high this year. Carefully selecting healthy plants is important to help your garden dollars go further. But many other factors contribute to a pleasing garden or flowerbed. The foundation of any garden is good soil.    

Dirt must contain the proper nutrients for plants to thrive.  The nutrients must be easily available to the plant’s roots so loose, well-drained soil is beneficial.  Healthy plants fight off insects and disease.  If the dirt is too sandy and porous, the nutrients won’t stay in the soil. If the dirt is too compact and heavy, the nutrients won’t be released.   A great way to know what’s in your soil is to have a soil sample tested by the Creek County Extension Office. Soil can then be improved based on the results.  OKState Fact Sheet L-249 explains the process.

Spring planting can be an overwhelming task but there are surefire ways to achieve stunning results. 

What’s the best way to have fabulous flower pots each year?   Replace the soil in the container.  That’s right.  Dump out last year’s soil and replace it with a reputable potting soil that is perfectly balanced with nutrients.   To make this task easier on the budget, follow the sales to get the best price.  Buying larger quantities usually drops the price as well.  Digging out the old soil in pots may contain surprises.  Not only are most of the old nutrients used up, but much of the old soil is tightly compacted and full of old roots.   As for the old dirt from the containers?  It still has some value, so spread it around the yard to supplement the soil and fill in low spots.

The best way to have fabulous flower pots each year? Dump out last year’s soil and replace it with reputable potting soil.

To enhance the soil in gardens or flowerbeds the process is a little more involved.  For this soil, use the “Teel Mix” (named after the gardening friend who shared the recipe).  Combine 1 bag each of the following:  Mushroom compost, peat compost, cotton burr compost and cow manure compost.  As each of these products have already been stabilized and will not chemically burn plant roots, this mix goes directly into ground.  The entire bed doesn’t need to be replaced, but as you plant, remove the old dirt and replace it with the Teel Mix.  One of the ingredients in this mix, peat compost, is in short supply.  If it can be found, it will likely be very expensive.  Substitutes for this include coconut coir, pine needles or wood fiber. 

Give your plants a good base this year, follow up with proper care and your results should be great!

Happy gardening!