At Smith’s Gardentown, our cashiers are trained to ask a couple of questions as you are checking out (in addition to the usual polite conversation): “Do you have compost to plant these with? Do you have enough potting soil? How about your mulch?”
We ask these questions not just because we want to sell you more things (of course, we want to!), but because without these items, you are unlikely to have a successful gardening experience. Sure, the plants you have selected are beautiful — but we both want them to stay beautiful, and without good quality compost, potting soil (for pots and containers) and mulch for flower beds, your plants may not thrive!
So here are the reasons you should plan all these things into your budget:
COMPOST — Organic matter that has decomposed until it looks like good, rich soil. Our native soils are mostly heavy clay (and in some instances, salty sand). Our soil and water are alkaline and very low in the nutrients plants need. Mixing compost half-and-half with the soil in your yard will loosen the clay, add fertility, increase healthy microbial activity and make plants’ roots develop faster. In fact, compost can correct almost any problem with your soil.
You can buy good compost in bags, make your own compost pile or obtain bulk compost from the City of Wichita Falls. It is always worth the effort and money!
POTTING MIX — Anyone can put anything in a bag and call it potting mix or potting soil, but there are HUGE differences. If you are planting in containers, you must have good quality potting mix that will wick moisture evenly to plant roots. Good potting mix should contain Canadian sphagnum peat moss or shredded coco fiber You also want a soil with good microbial activity (mycorrhizae) for good root growth. All the cheap potting mixes AND the best-known national brand (its initials are Miracle Gro) are terrible choices. They usually contain a lot of ground up bark, and if they have peat moss at all, it is the lowest grade moss and it is anaerobic, meaning it has no microbial activity. But is is cheaper.
The most expensive thing you can do is put your nice plants in poor soil You may end up replacing them because they won’t be able to withstand our extreme weather conditions without a good root system.
MULCH — This is usually some type of wood chips or bark that is put on top of the soil after you finish planting. Mulch is the best thing you can do to keep weeds from sprouting in your flower beds and around trees. In the summer, it will reduce your water bill by slowing evaporation from the soil. In the winter, it acts as a blanket to protect roots from frost. As it decomposes, it will add fertility to your soil.
Good mulch also gives your planting project a finished look until the plants grow to fill all the spaces.
Mulch should be applied about 3 inches deep uniformly over the soil, and it will need to be refreshed if some of it gets scratched away by animals, or as some of it decomposes.
NOTE: We do not recommend using rocks or ground up rubber for mulch in our climate. Instead of keeping soils cool in the summer, they will heat it up. And since they don’t decompose, they add no nutrients. And when you change your mind and want a different look, they are very hard to remove.
So these questions we ask are designed to help you out — give it some thought before deciding you don’t need these products.