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Soil Recipe for Container Planting

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Spring is here. Seedlings are started or are going to be bought soon. Frost free date is only a handful of weeks away. If you are planting in containers, the question arises ... What soil mix do I use? At Nobska Farms, we have developed an organic mix that gives good and consistent results. We're passing the recipe along for your use and as a basis for further experimentation.

The recipe is in two parts: the bulk soil recipe and the nutrient charge. A five gallon bucket makes for a convenient measuring container for the soil mix.

Soil mix:

  • 7 1/2 gal loam or top soil
  • 2 1/2 gal peat
  • 2 1/2 compost
  • 2 1/2 perlite
  • 1 qt nutrient charge (see below)
  • ... mix together thoroughly with enough water to moisten

Nutrient charge:

  • 7 1/2 cps bone meal
  • 7 1/2 cps dolomitic limestone
  • 5 cps kelp meal
  • 5 cps blood meal
  • ... mix together thoroughly and keep dry

For a single chili plant, choose a container that is 3-5 gal. We plant up to three chili plants in a 10 gal container. Dig a hole for the chili plant and put in about a teaspoon of plant starter fertilizer. (We use organic Whitney Farms Smart Start, but there are many others.) Scratch in about a tablespoon of bone meal on the surface after the chili plant is planted. Be sure to leave enough space in the container for mulch, up to about 5 inches. We principally use straw or seaweed for mulch. Many other types of mulch are fine. The key is to prevent the hot sun from striking the surface of soil in the container. Water only when the soil a few inches deep is dry. The mulch will significantly reduce your water needs and virtually eliminate weeds.

More about watering? Watch the leaves. When they wilt, it's time to water. If the leaves look Ok in the morning and are wilted in the hot sun later in the afternoon, delay watering. Chili plants conserve water on a hot afternoon and pull water out of their leaves. If the leaves are full again in the morning, don't water, yet. If they are wilted in the morning, water heavily. The leaves are your water indicator. By being stingy with the water, you will encourage the plant to send roots deep and give it strength against dry conditions. Furthermore, if you like hot chili peppers, being stingy with water stresses the plants, and stressed plants produce pods with higher concentrations of capsaicin, and higher concentrations of capsaicin makes ... well, hotter chili peppers. That's a good thing, right?

In addition to chili peppers, this container soil recipe would be excellent for tomatoes and eggplant. Might also give it a try for container growing of other vegetables including squash, cucumber, and strawberries. With a trellis, or at least a set of string upon which to climb, you can also grow peas and beans in containers.

Happy growing for 2014!



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