Customize Soil Mixes

We all know that plants have different preferences for where they rest their “feet” (roots). Some plants preferred very dry medium, like rosemary and lavenders, while others thrived in moist but well drained mixes . Generally, plants do not tolerate having their roots soaked all the time. Thus, it is important to know how to customize soil mixes or at the very least, how to adjust ready mixes for different plants’ needs.

Seasoned gardener, Guanster Guan, shared his soil formula for dry loving plants which need very well drained soil. By this, he meant that water need to drain out very fast, it does not sit in the soil. His ratio is 1:1:1 of the following :

  1. LECA balls (small ones)
  2. Rice Husks
  3. Baba Organic Vege mix (suitable for edibles)
Customize soil mixes for different plants needs

Ratio 1:1:1 of leca balls, rice husk and vege soil mix or other organic compost

Customize soil mixes

Close up look at Guanster 1:1:1 ratio for non-water retaining soil

Guanster also advised gardeners to adjust this ratio according to the garden’s environment. For example, if  the garden is located in a high rise where it is dry and windy,  to add more vege mix (or other good quality compost) so that the medium do not dried up too fast.

Customize soil mixes

Baba Vege Soil Mix (Organic) or other good quality brands

On the other hand, if the garden’s location is humid, where the air flow is bad and stale, it is advisable to add more LECA balls which allow aeration for the roots.

For soil mixes that contained compost, perlite (volcano ash that had been dried in 1200C heat), cocochip etc, his ratio advice is not more than 30%  of each because this media will become acidic over time. Plants such as lavender and rosemary which preferred alkaline PH do not thrived in acidic soil.

On super soil mix for most other plants, his preferred formula are these with lecca

Customize soil mix

Plants which preferred more moisture – Naturegro Compost and Garden Formula Potting Mix

For edibles, add in Baba Vegemix (picture is third one from the top) for a potent formula. Another gardener, Ooi Shirley, enjoyed good harvest with this Baba Vegemix for most of her plants. Jaimie Lim used Garden potting mix for seeds and rosemary plants. Guanster used Baba vegemix to germinate seeds.

For succulent n cactus, Guanster’s formula is Baba cacti/succulent mix , volcano sand and lecca at the ratio of 1 : 1: 2

Soil for cacti and succulent

Customize soil mix for cacti and succulent

Cacti and succulent soil

Ratio 1:1:2 of Baba cacti, Volcano sand and lecca

Mix thoroughly and remove any coarse particles.

cacti and succulent soil mix

Cacti and succulent soil customize and mixed thoroughly

On burnt soil, Guanster advised this will break down into a powdery form over a year. This prevent aeration and thus choked plants’ roots. He preferred to use dried rice husks (non carbonated) which break down into plant food instead.

On volcanic soil, he felt that as it has a sticky texture, it is best to mix with volcanic sand rather than compost. Or volcanic sand with compost.

Guanster stressed that this is his preferred soil formula that he hopes to share with fellow gardeners.

Don’t have to follow 100% ! “. 🙂

There are more than one way to garden and customize soil mixes. Most seasoned gardeners have their own formulas. It is important to understand the WHY’s and use this information as a guideline for available options only.

Regarding feeding, his advice is reduce dosage and increase frequencies. Plants suffer shock when gardeners do the opposite, that is feed once a month but increased dosage than recommended. This applied to every fertilizer.

How to check plants health when buying from nurseries –

  1. Check the base of the stems (especially for rosemary and lavender). DO NOT buy if the lowermost stems are black or browning. This indicate roots rot already. Plants in this condition will die soon.
  2. Check the color of the leaves. Stressed plants showed distress in leaves as well, for example, brown and discolored leaves.
  3. Check the soil for fungus or algae.

Most of local nurseries plants came from Cameron Highlands or other parts of Malaysia. The reasons why most of these plants suffered stress are the following :

  1. Weather – our local weather is hot compared to the plants’ growing environments in Cameron Highlands.
  2. Transportation and time – Plants from orchards in cooler Cameron Highlands are packed in a) peat based media to retain as much moisture as possible during their long journey to Singapore. However, this media is not suitable for humid Singapore. b) The plants are also wrapped in plastic and packed in boxes, to prevent spill in the cargo. This increased the heat stress on the plants. 3) Long queues at customs put these plants in extreme stress conditions when they finally reached our nurseries.

Knowing how to customize soil or media for different plants’ needs increased the survival rate for these plants. For rosemary and lavender, as we found out in earlier posts, Guanster also gave the same advice, that is change the media from nurseries’ coco peat base to very well draining media. He preferred formula is 1:1:1  (lecca, rice husks and vege mix). Other gardeners from the above 2 hyperlinks, have other formulas.

Less severely stressed plants can be treated. Once media is changed to a more suitable type, these plants’ are slowly acclimatized.  First placed plants in partial sunlight or filtered bright area (afternoon sun). The best is 4 to 5 hours of morning sun. Water as prescribed to the plants’ needs.

 

 

ROSEMARY – GROW THEM WELL

Rosemary is one of my “must- have” herb in my garden, but its one of the hardest herb to cultivate in our weather.

Home grown Rosemary plants to drool over! If only I have one sunny spot to grew this well at home as this herb loved the sun!

How to multiply rosemary from cuttings

Steve Teh’s healthy and thriving 6 years old Rosemary

How to care for rosemary

Steve Teh’s Rosemary is 6 years old with his Bay Leaf plant (Nov 10 2015)

Without any sunny spot to grow, your rosemary probably will look like mine :

Rosemary and Curl leaf parsley love sun

Rosemary and curly leaf parsley from seeds – not looking very healthy without the sun. Brought outdoors into my compost pots.

My second trial with rosemary cuttings from Terence Low (NakedGreens group) ‘s plants was more rewarding.

Mar01 2016 - 11 days to root in tap water! Woody stems can still root!

March 01 2016 – 11 days to root in tap water! Woody stems can still root!

Jack Yam, a member in our Facebook gardening group (SG Farming in Apartments), perfected the rooting method for rosemary, and had a pictorial tutorial on how to root them.

This is what he said –

  1. Trimmed away the leaves from mid to bottom of the stem
  2. Support the cutting so that only 1 cm of the roots’ end is in water
  3. Cutting root better in bright sunlit area
  4. Rooting rosemary cutting

    Roots showed in 7 days!Cutting root better in bright sunlit area.

    Rooting rosemary cutting

    Healthy roots are white color

Rooting rosemary cutting

Oct 03 2016 – Rooting rosemary cutting in mosquitoes safe method! Use what you have around the house too!

Rosemary rooting

Jaimie Lim‘s rosemary rooted in 5 days (tap water). Her cutting was a green stem from her own plant. 🙂

As our rosemary plants were in the outdoor gardens without shelter from rain, a customized soil mix was prepared to allow rain to drain out as fast as possible. 🙂

April 22 2016 - Rosemary cuttings can survived rain storms if the soil is prepped well to prevent water log.

April 22 2016 – Rosemary cuttings can survived rain storms if the soil is prepped well to prevent water log.

Rosemary from cutting

May 30 2016 – Grown outdoors and thriving! I generally let rain water these pots unless its a dry spell 🙂

Rosemary plant care information

July 12 2016 – Rosemary in outdoor garden, thrived in spite of being rained on etc One plant eaten by snail or stolen again!

Propagate rosemary cutting

October 25 2016 – update on rosemary cutting ! 🙂

Grow rosemary plant from cutting

Jan 27 2017 – After a week of heavy rainfall

The trick is mixing the soil, to be less soil! 😀 More sand, more pebbles, only 30% soil, the rain/ water must flush out as quickly as it arrived. How to get the soil mix right? Play with your mixes – Mix and match your soil one lazy afternoon, dip in a pail of water n see if it drained in one minute! 😀 Add more pebbles etc if they do not drain well. Lastly, the base of the pot is best lined with pebbles or rocks to aid draining as well.

Other gardeners also generously shared tips on how to propagate and keep rosemary plants thriving for years.  So my thanks to all of them for sharing.

Sthh Sthh from Plant Community Singapore shared how to root Rosemary from store bought herbs :

How to grow rosemary from cutting using store bought herbs

Oct 8 2015 – Used most of the leaves for cooking then use the stem for rooting

How to grow rosemary from cutting

2-4 weeks to see roots. Tap water used only. Once roots appeared, transfer to net pot with nutrients solution (Can use Lushgro A+B solution for leafy vegetables)

Sthh Sthh used his own mix of nutrient solution too.

His recipe is : NPK 21-21-21, a dash of epsom salt, and a teaspoon of seachem flourish trace minerals into 3 litre of water. EC about 2000. (I am clueless here as well, not being familiar to commercial fertilizers! )

Rosemary propagation

Rosemary Propagation – Only roots come in contact with nutrients solution

 

Rooting rosemary

Rosemary ‘s stem stayed dry in net pot while roots are in nutrients solution

 

Rooting Rosemary

Rosemary rooting pots suspended above nutrients solution

 

How to grow rosemary from cutting

Rosemary transferred to pot (Sthh Sthh’s post in Oct 2015)

STHH STHH also shared how he watered and adjust the soil media needed for a dry loving plant like rosemary and even lavender! Deep Water Soak Treatment

How to water rosemary plant

April 25 2016 –  When the soil become dry, STHH immersed the whole pot in a basin of water. Green Culture Singapore’s post.

STHH STHH – How I water my rosemary and thyme, very deeply. Entire pot is submersed in a basin of water. Then pot is lifted to drain.

If water does not completely drain in less than 1minute, your medium is too dense for rosemary or thyme. Time to add some grit. Many options are available – sand, pebbles, perlite, whatever that aid good drainage.

If your water does not soak deep into the soil, the roots of the plants will stay close to the surface, and if so, you cannot skip watering your plants every couple days, which also increases humidity, which is a killer for rosemary and lavenders here in SG.

Deep watering helps plants to establish better roots, and watering will be required only once a week, or twice a week when it gets hot. For suspected fungal infection, or for aeration of soil, you can add a little hydrogen peroxide.

How to water rosemary plants

STHH – The water must drain out in less than 1 minute, also to gauge whether soil used is suitable

And that is how STHH keep his rosemary plants so well. Please remember to only water these plants when the soil is dry.

lavender plants care

This is how dry Sthh Sthh’s soil gets before he water the soil !!!

Agnes Yang on Feb 8 2016 shared how she root her rosemary cutting (from a live plant) –

Propagate Rosemary

Feb 8 2016 – Agnes Yang’s Rosemary rooted in half strength seaweed liquid feed, 7 – 10 days to see roots.

How to multiply rosemary plants

February 9 2016 – Recycled plastic bottle to root Rosemary stems 🙂

How to grow rosemary from cutting

This is her seaweed feed from Sydney. Half strength used only.

Ms. Yang used a syringe to draw a small amount of this and she also said, ”  I’m using diluted seaweed solution. Cheaper than rooting hormones and works well as continuous support even after potting through watering with it”.

How to grow rosemary from cutting

Likely an equivalent type is available in Singapore 🙂

As rosemary is fussy about wet soil, these are the recommended soil mix recipes :

Steve Teh (Plant Community Singapore, Dec 8 2015) – Compost: perlite: coarse sand: rice husk. The ratio is 3:1:1:1.  Some limestone powder added in the mix for higher alkaline level. If  rice husk is not available, then add more sand and perlite. Coarse sand is from nursery and not the beach as the latter contained salt. If beach sand is used, it need to be washed first to rid of salt.

Veronica Yuen (SG Farming in Apartments, Jan 2016) – ” It require good drainage, use 50% perlite, 25% compost, 25%potting mix. Water once or twice a week.”

Terence Low, Naked Greens – 1:1 top soil and other part perlite, pumice or sand will do.

Guanster Guan ‘s soil mix formula, please click on the hyperlink.

All in agreement that Rosemary are sun lovers 🙂 Just don’t love them too much with the watering! 🙂

How to plant rosemary cutting

Steve Teh’s rosemary sought the sun aggressively!

Rosemary plants needs

Chef Donny Tan’s rosemary plants at his doorstep

Rosemary add an aromatic bite to salad and is not only used in roasting meat 🙂

 

How to grow Rosemary in Singapore

Chef Donny Tan create an aromatic and beautiful tomato salad with rosemary

Life’s simple pleasures from the freshest home grown herbs at doorstep!

After overcoming the challenges of growing rosemary, there is only happiness and satisfaction during harvest.

Grow Rosemary from cutting

Herbs for the kitchen, grown in own compost.