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Potting Soils Needn't Be Confusing to Buy

Choosing a potting soil can be confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Here are some key terms you might see at the garden center.

  • An all-purpose potting mix has composted bark, peat moss or peat humus added to loamy soil. Gardeners usually add ingredients to customize mixes.
  • Ready-to-use premium mix has similar material but in different proportions. More bark and peat and less soil make it lighter. Perlite and vermiculite give it better drainage and aeration. Many contain a wetting agent for uniform water distribution.
  • A professional mix has the same materials as the premium types. But it's more finely processed. It works well for starting seeds or transplanting delicate seedlings.
  • Plant-specific mixes are used when you have a certain plant in mind with special requirements. Orchids, African violets and cacti are a few of the special mixes available.

(Bob Westerfield is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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