It’s essential for growing big, healthy plants. If it isn’t taken care of properly, it can ruin a harvest. We all know how important soil is for plants, but what is soil?

What is soil?

The USDA defines soil as, “a natural body comprised of solids (minerals and organic matter), liquid, and gases that occurs on the land surface,” but the soil you get at Cultivate is much more complex than some dirt from the ground.

Different soil brands will experiment with new ingredients, like adding bat guano or ground up seashell. Others combine various mediums together. Peat, coco, perlite and more combine to create a blended soil product with characteristics from each ingredient.

Cultivate sells a variety of soils and mediums that can be used as standalone mediums or amendments. Here’s what you might find inside a bag of soil at Cultivate.

Peat

The result of millions of years of decomposition, peat moss, more commonly just called peat, is a moss that develops in bogs in the northern hemisphere. Canada is one of the top producers of peat moss, having one of the largest conglomerations of peat bogs in the world.

Peat is used in soil mixes mainly for its ability to hold water and nutrients for a very long time. Due to the nature of its composition, peat decomposes very slowly over time, making it very cost-effective for cultivators. However, peat moss is not a renewable material. It takes centuries to develop, making some growers hesitant to support the practice.

Perlite

Perlite is known for its great aeration qualities. A man-made product, perlite is created through superheating volcanic glass to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit (871 Celsius), popping the glass and expanding it to over 10x its original size. This process makes a very lightweight product that looks like popcorn.

Very porous and lightweight, perlite allows water to drain more quickly from your plants. Perlite is great for plants that don’t mind less moisture in the soil, or plants that do well in soil that drains faster than other mediums.

Coco

Coco is the byproduct of the coconut industry and a renewable resource with minimal ecological impact. It comes from the husks of coconuts either decomposed or ground up that are left over from processing the rest of the coconut. The end product is similar to peat in look and structure, but operates differently.

Unable to hold as much water and nutrients as peat, coco provides better aeration for plants. Growers can then feed plants more often which can help them grow more robust. Coco is also high in sodium and potassium.

Organic Ingredients

Other additives aren’t necessarily mediums themselves, but are regularly added to soils for their beneficial, organic properties.

Bat guano is added for its readily available nitrogen, phosphorus and other micronutrients. Kelp meal is dried and milled seaweed that contains a rich amount of Potash, making it an ideal supplement for all plants.

One of the most common (and naturally occurring) organic supplements for soil is earth worm castings. Castings contain a healthy dose of nitrogen that is slowly released into your plants over time. Additionally, earth worm castings carry many other beneficial micronutrients and bacteria.

So, what is soil? It’s a lot of things! But one thing it definitely isn’t, is just dirt. As gardeners, growers and cultivators, it’s important to know what is in your soil, and what can be added to make your soil better. Were there any other popular soil amendments we might have missed? What is soil to you?

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