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Making your Growing Media Last

Many gardening books will advise that you replace the growing media in your containers every year. However, if you have ever tried doing this, you’ll agree it isn’t so practical in a small space. It is messy work and can be rather costly. This week, we will discuss how to make your growing media last by making the right choices and reusing it where possible.

Making your Growing Media Last: Reuse

When it comes to reusing your growing media, there are to things that you must consider. The first is the structure of your growing media and the second is the nutrients.

Replenishing Nutrients

After a year in a container, the plant food in most growing media will be coming to an end. This means more nutrients must be added if you wish for it to grow again. You can add all-purpose organic fertiliser such as chicken manure pellets (for leafy veg) or fish and bone for other crops. Once replanted, you will need to keep the nutrients topped up with a liquid feed. For example, tomato feed is great for fruiting crops.

Maintaining the Structure

The structure of the growing media is just as important. However, it may be harder to grasp. S good quality, new growing media should have a good structure with plenty of gaps for air. However, pieces of organic matter in the media will slowly decompose as time passes. As they get smaller, the growing media can “collapse”, making the gaps smaller. This means less air and less aeration for roots.

Testing the Structure

The best way to test the structure is to water it, grab a handful and squeeze it between your fingers. If it is nice and crumbly, then it should still have plenty of air gaps. If it forms a wet sludge, however, it is likely that the air gaps have filled with water. This means it will be difficult for the roots to get the necessary air. Without this, they will suffocate.

Improving “Collapsed” Media

There is still a chance you can improve any collapsed media. The easiest way of doing this is by mixing in new media until it starts to feel crumbly again. Alternatively, you could add small quantities of biochar or you can use composted bark.

Sand as an addition is more confusing. To some, adding it to growing media will improve drainage. To others, it may block the air gaps. This depends on the media, so be sure to do your research before adding any sand.

The Importance of Starting with the Right Media

Some types of growing media seem to hold their structure over time much better than others. So, what you choose to start with can have a big effect. For example, peat often turns sludgy after only one season. Some green waste composts are quick to collapse too, but this can be more variable. Green waste is a renewable resource that is often locally available.

Composted Bark

Composted bark is a great option. It can last a few years, with very little amendment. It’s worth a try if you haven’t given it a chance before. You are likely to see a huge improvement.

Other Choices

As composted bark may not be available everywhere, you can seek alternatives. You could try using coir as a base to see how that does. Coir is made from coconut fibre and is a by-product of coconut farming. It’s not the most environmentally friendly due to shipping, but it is much more sustainable than peat.

Coir Convenience

Coir is quite convenient for city growers, or even those who don’t wish to lug heavy bags of growing media. This is because it can be bought in lightweight, compressed bricks. They then expand to three times their size when combined with water. If you choose to try Coir, it is important to add nutrients as these are rather low. Companies that sell coir bricks will often advise on what and how much fertiliser is needed. Worm compost is often a nice addition if you have any.

Over to You

What is your experience from reusing growing media over the years? Perhaps it’s time to make some improvements? Whatever plans you next have for your growing media or other landscaping needs, Ladybrook is here. Get in touch to learn more about our wonderful range of plant life for all of your gardening requirements.

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