Choosing the Right Growing Media: Soil for your Plants

Buying an indoor plant can be fun and a real stress buster. But you need to know the basics before choosing your plant to ensure that it remains healthy and grows well in your home environment.

What is Growing Media for Plants?

Growing media or Compost is the soil-like material that is potted in for growing plants. More often we use the term soil for it, but it is more accurately the Compost or the Growing Media for the plant. Perfect for adding nutrients and breaking up heavy soil, it is often referred to as black gold. The best compost will have the perfect level of nutrients, a medium-crumbly texture and good structure. Composts are made up of a combination of soil (loam), decomposed organic matter, aggregates such as sand and grit, and fertilizers and sometimes peat also.

Types of Composts

There are different types of Composts which are discussed below for their features and benefits:

1. Soil or loam-based Compost

The loam in this type of compost is sterilized to get rid of weeds, pests and diseases. This means that the gardener will face fewer problems than they would with a non-sterilized soil-based growing medium. This is a compost that contains a certain proportion of sterilized soil, together with some of the natural materials in multipurpose composts and a range of essential plant nutrients. Loam is the name given to soils that are balanced mixtures of mineral components of different sizes: clay, sand and silt. They also have an organic matter component. These soils are the best soils for gardeners. They combine the best qualities of different soil types and are great for plant growth.
Benefits: The loam helps to avoid fluctuations in water and nutrient content in the growing medium. Since the soil part of the media is stable, this can be especially useful in situations where plants are placed for long term, over one year.

Best for: trees, shrubs and perennial climbers.

2. Multipurpose or All-purpose Compost

This compost can be used in several areas of your home / garden, from beds and borders, to pots, containers and hanging baskets. It is lightweight type all-purpose compost that is available with or without peat. It is made from natural materials such as coir, bark, and composted wood fibre, most also contain enough fertilizer to feed plants for few weeks. They come in a different mix of ingredients, for example, some contain varying plant foods that will feed your plants anywhere from 6 weeks, up to 6 months – others will limit the amount of watering you need to do, by absorbing water then storing and releasing it as and when the plant requires.
Benefits: This Organic All – Purpose compost is 100% natural, so is perfect for your plants and gentle on nature.

Best for: Annual flowering house plants. This is also the best choice if you are planting small patio pots, hanging baskets, herbs, leafy salads and flowering bedding plants.

3. House Plant compost

This compost is acceptable for many houseplants (but not all), mostly, for moisture-loving plants. Introduce some extra grit, sand or perlite if the plant is grown in a shady location. This will improve the drainage and aeration of the soil while reducing the chance of root rot from over-watering. Bulbs & Herbs can be placed in houseplant Compost. For bulbs, introduce some extra grit and perlite to improve drainage and aeration. Fertilization is not needed for the first six weeks due to the stored nutrients in the soil. Similar to multipurpose compost, the majority of types contain peat and a range of essential plant nutrients.
Benefits: Formulated to meet the needs of most house plants, this offers a quick and easy solution if you do not know the needs of your plant.

Best for: most indoor plants, except for those with special needs such as orchids and cacti.

4. Seed and cutting compost

Seedlings are tiny and delicate and therefore need a light compost that they can push through as they emerge from their seed. Anything too heavy will smother the seedlings before they have had the chance to surface. A seed compost will encourage your seeds to germinate and grow, during the early stages. It promote the formation of strong root systems, and can usually be used for cuttings too – although you should always check the requirements of the species, before planting.
Benefits: It is free-draining to prevent rotting and its fine texture means that every tiny seed is in contact with the compost, aiding germination.

Best for: As the name suggests, this is the best choice for sowing seeds and taking cuttings. It is good for sowing seeds, taking cuttings, potting up young seedlings.

5. Specialist Composts

Growing specialist plants can be difficult as they all have specific needs. Specialist composts are formulated for specific plant groups. This range of composts takes the guesswork out of making your mixes for plants that demand very particular conditions.
Benefits: Specialist composts have been developed which are designed to give them all they need to thrive and to make it easier for you to grow and care for. They also build plant immunity and strengthen the plant’s resilience at the same time, which means they will be able to withstand pests, disease and stress too.
Best for: Orchids, cacti and succulents, carnivorous plants.

6. Ericaceous (Acidic) Compost

The meaning of the word ‘ericaceous’ relates to the definition of plants in the Ericaceae family. Plants that are in the Ericaceae family are known for the fact that they can only grow in acidic soil. This means that these acid-loving plants would need acidic compost to sustain growth. The compost here is acting as a growing medium to supplement the growth of the plant. After planting, remember to use a fertilizer for acid-loving plants when those in the compost have been used up.
Benefits: Specially formulated to provide a balanced nutritional profile for acid-loving plants, Ericaceous compost is a great way to compensate for alkaline soil conditions to benefit your plants, while also feeding and nurturing them, regulating moisture and providing effective top dressing.
Best for: Azaleas, blue hydrangeas and some ferns.

Requirement of other materials depending on need:

Plant species differ considerably in their need for water and nutrients, and therefore need different kinds of growing media to provide the best growing conditions. The horticulture industry uses thousands of different growing media mixes.
Some materials are often mixed with compost to lighten or aerate it or to help increase drainage. Generally, these mediums are mixed together rather than used alone, as each usually provides its function. Let us understand some of them that can be mixed depending on requirement:

1. Vermiculite and perlite

Perlite is made from minerals that are heated till they expand and become light and porous. Vermiculite is a silicate mineral that also expands and has similar properties to perlite. Both increase drainage while retaining and holding water well, then releasing it slowly back into the compost. They are excellent aerators and can be used in various combinations with other mediums. They are often mixed with compost, or used to cover seeds to keep them moist. They can also be washed and stored for later use.

2. Gravel and grit

They both prevent the occurrence of soggy compost. Adding gravel creates a reservoir that water can drain into. And smaller grit particles are often mixed with composts to increase drainage, providing ideal conditions for succulents and other drought-lovers.

3. Sand

Horticultural sand for plants serve a basic purpose – improves soil drainage. This is critical for healthy plant growth. If soil is poorly drained, it becomes saturated. Roots that are deprived of oxygen soon die.
Horticulture sand is often used in combination with compost to create the free-draining conditions, succulents and other drought-loving plants need. It is better to always use washed, sterilized, fine-grade sand, as builder’s sand contains too much lime for most houseplants.

4. Peat moss

Sphagnum peat moss has a coarse texture but is lightweight and sterile. It promotes adequate aeration and holds water well. However, it is usually difficult to moisten on its own and is best used with other mediums. It can be placed on the surface of compost to help create the moist conditions enjoyed by some plants, such as ferns. It is also included in the growing medium for carnivorous plants and a few other species that like wet conditions.

The Bottom Line

Choosing the right compost is essential to get the most out of your plants. But, the ingredients that make up different composts can vary substantially. Additionally, always use fresh compost when repotting, do not use old / used compost from other plants, as this will lack nutrients and could also harbor hidden diseases or pests. We hope that this article will make an impact on the reader’s mind in a way so that one can choose the right compost and other materials for their plant.
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Know Your Home Air

Gas heating systems, leaking chimneys, fire places emits carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and other harmful pollutants. Plastics and common household cleaners, paints, paint thinner often placed under the kitchen sink, release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), when used and stored. Overheating of non-stick cookware releases toxic fumes. Pesticides we use in and around the home also release various chemical and semi-volatile compounds.


Harmful effects
Carbon monoxide causes headache, dizziness and fatigue. These often cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, nausea, and can also damage the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Fine particles are produced during all kinds of combustion which lead to acute and chronic effects to respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

Pet dander and hair, carpet, rugs, upholstery furniture are main source of dust mites, fungus, and bacteria. A dirty filter of air conditioners acts as a reservoir for dirt, dust and other airborne contaminants that are continuously circulated back into your breathing air. Secondhand smoke from cigarettes, other tobacco products and mosquito coil emits VOC’s and formaldehyde and various particulate matters. CO2 released from our lungs is exhaled in the air which pollutes the air if the place is too crowded or there is less ventilation.


Harmful effects
All these can trigger coughing, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, dry mouth, vomiting,
digestive tract problems, depression, allergy and asthma attacks, and other respiratory illness.

Shower, faucets and other water sources are main cause of humidity and mold. Bathroom cleaners and personal care products like toothpaste, soaps, facial tissues, detergent, fabric softeners, air fresheners, deodorizers, hair sprays, disinfectants, are full of VOC’s and chemicals which emits harmful pollutants.


Harmful effects
Mold can cause allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory ailments. VOC’s and toxic chemicals released in the bathroom can causes eye, nose, and throat irritation, nausea and respiratory problems. All these products release harmful pollutants while they are used also when they are stored.

A bedroom contains many sources of indoor air pollution. Mattress, pillow and blankets, soft toys, are the reservoirs of dust mites, fungi and bacteria. Furniture, carpets, paints and beauty product like hairspray, nail polishes, perfumes, deodorants etc off gas VOC, formaldehyde and toxic gases into the air.


Harmful effects
These pollutants make the air unhealthy which leads to allergy, asthma attacks, dizziness, headache, fatigue and other respiratory ailments.

Second-hand smoke
Second hand Smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning of tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars or pipes and the smoke exhaled by smokers. Secondhand smoke is also called environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). Passive smoking can lead to coughing, excess phlegm, and chest discomfort. NCI (National Cancer Institute) also notes that spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), cervical cancer, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight, nasal sinus cancer, decreased lung function, exacerbation of cystic fibrosis, and negative cognitive and behavioral effects in children have been linked to ETS. Secondhand smoke exposure commonly occurs indoors, particularly in homes and cars. Secondhand smoke can move between rooms of a home and between apartment units.

Guest Bathroom

Central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices
The air filter in your HVAC system is the front line of defense against poor indoor air quality. A typical central heating and cooling system circulates over 1,000 cubic feet per minute of air through the filter. This means the entire air volume in your house passes through the filter multiple times every day. A dirty filter, however, can actually make indoor air quality worse by acting as a reservoir for dirt, dust and other airborne contaminants that are continuously circulated back into your breathing air. In addition to driving up your utility bill, a clogged air filter will allow all that dust and debris that should be filtered out to be re-circulated back into your home. This can cause chronic allergies and especially be dangerous for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions.

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