It's kind of boring to talk about soil but we should, because it is fundamental to a garden doing well. For me, soil has always been one of those weirdly elusive aspects to putting together a garden. What makes a good soil? Where do I find it? And more importantly why should I care? Isn't dirt just dirt?
Well, not really--soil actually matters a lot. You can have all of the components of a garden you need--great design, the right plants, the right light (or shade), but if your soil is of poor quality, it's a deal breaker. Consider it your plant's diet. Without getting too technical, Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen are the obvious natural elements needed for plants, and those are supplied by air and water. But then there's the other stuff, which Espoma calls Primary, Secondary, and Trace nutrients. Primary are Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. Secondary are Calcium, Magnesium and Sulfur. Then there are the trace elements like copper, iron, nickel, zinc and manganese among others. There are actually nineteen elements necessary to healthy plant growth. Each contributes to a specific aspect of the health of a plant, whether it is leaf health, root health, or flower/bud health, etc.
Espoma Organic Soil is a great soil company to know about. It has been in the business since 1929, which is way before organic became a buzzword. Since then, they have developed 48 products that are each designed to target and enhance specific plant types organically. As a result, their products are excellent; I specifically like the Holly-tone for acid loving plants, and Rose-tone, which I have noticed works on a variety of plants, not just roses.
Organic is not much pricier, and it's way better for your garden and the environment.
A regular bag 16 quart bag of Miracle grow costs only $2.00 less that the same size soil bag of Espoma Organic soil. And yet it contains toxic pollutants that do not contribute to the longevity of your plants. Miracle grow and other similarly mass-produced soils and fertilizers contains chemicals that are harmful if ingested, so if you have children or pets, you really need to be aware of how you are using non-organic products in your garden. And here is the larger issue: chemicals in your soil leach into public waterways, which are absorbs by other plants, animals, insects and humans--so if you think your little garden doesn't make a difference, it actually does. Here are many reviews of Miracle Grow soil from Consumer affairs and it is not pretty.
Power Liquid Plant food
And incidentally, Espoma just came out with 6 new liquid products that are enhanced with microbes and proteins for your plants that are pre-measured. You literally just flip the cap open and squeeze the bottle and a dose is pre-measured to your watering can. They make them for indoor plants, as well as cacti, violets, and orchids. You can read more about Epsoma's liquid fertilizers here. I have tried them on my indoor plants and they are so much greener!