At the heart of every beautiful garden and attractive landscaping is the soil—rich and healthy soil—and our Long Island plant experts here at Decker’s Nursery are here to help. When you visit our retail garden center or online your, count on finding the highest quality potting soil/potting mix, soil amendments, black mulch, and much more. Questions? Call 631-261-1148!

Healthy Soil

Healthy soil is crucial when growing healthy plants, and it must contain the right organisms to transform minerals and other matter into nutrients that plants can consume. Healthy soil can also store the water it absorbs, available for use during dryer periods. As described by the USDA, “Organic matter and living organisms provide the foundation for soil to function properly, allowing it to take in, store and deliver water to plants, among many other benefits.” In other words, soil that’s healthy is actually living soil. 

Soil amendments, plant food, and more can play a key role in providing the soil with what it needs to nourish the plants in your garden while mulch can play an important part in protecting your plants. Here are more specifics. 

Types of Soil

Different types of soils exist, based upon the minerals it contains and in what proportion to one another. Each of the three main types—sand, silt, and clay—come from rocks that have been broken down through rain, wind, animals and more over the millennia, but they have significant size differences. 

  • Sand is the coarsest, largest, and driest material of the three; when rubbing it between your fingers, sand will feel gritty.
  • Silt, which is somewhat smaller than sand and has the consistency of dry flour.
  • Clay has exceptionally fine particles that, when touched, can feel wet and sticky.

The amount of each of these types of materials in your soil will determine its overall composition and texture.

The smaller the particles, the wetter they are; conversely, the larger, the dryer. The wetter your soil (such as with clay-heavy soil), the more difficult it can be to work with and plants in them can struggle to get enough oxygen. That said, clay soil typically contains plenty of plant nutrients, which is a plus. Sandy soil, on the other hand, tends to have too few nutrients with the water draining too quickly. What’s important is finding the right soil mix for your needs.

Importance of Balancing Your Soil

Most of the plants in a typical garden grow best in loam, which is well-balanced soil of 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay. That said, this isn’t the optimal soil mixture for all plants, so what’s most important is to consider what kinds of plants you have or intend to grow; find out what kind of soil they prefer (ask our experts!); and balance your soil appropriately with the right fertilizers.

The good news: today’s products, ranging from organic potting soil to rose fertilizers—and from succulent soil to plant food and more—are more specialized than they were in the past. This means that you can fine-tune your soil much more effectively once you understand your soil type and what your specific plants need.

Best Potting Soil/Potting Mix

All-purpose potting soil/potting mix is designed to be good for most of the container plants you’ll grow, inside and out. Depending upon the brand, it may or may not slowly release fertilizers to feed the plants. 

When a product is labeled as “organic potting soil,” this indicates that it doesn’t contain any chemicals, including pesticides. The natural ingredients can range from composts to manures, along with other types of natural matter. A regular product (not labeled as “organic”) can include processed materials. These are often added to improve aeration and drainage. 

Here’s an example of an all-purpose potting mix that’s organic: Espoma Organic Potting Mix for All Potted Plants. An example of a much more nuanced product is Espoma Rose Tone, specifically mixed for one type of flower.

Benefits of Mulch

Early gardeners would loosely spread soil, leaves or straw around the roots of crops they’d recently planted as protection—today’s products are able to do this even more effectively. Mulch can help to prevent weed seeds from taking hold; manage soil temperatures; retain moisture; lower compaction of the soil; and, if organic, add nutrients. Mulch also helps to prevent soil erosion, providing all of these benefits and more while making your yard and gardens look great. 

A Look at Soil Amendments

As the name implies, soil amendments “amend” the soil, altering its state to make improvements. In fact, if amendments aren’t added to the soil, what you plant in it will almost certainly not grow as you’d hoped. Although soil amendments are often confused with fertilizer—which is used to add nutrients to the soil—they’re not the same thing.

When soil amendments are properly used, roots of your plants can penetrate the soil more effectively; the state of water infiltration improves; and soil is amended in ways that can allow the plants to take in nutrients from the soil and the fertilizer products you use.

Home Gardeners

The years 2020 and 2021 have been like no other with people in the United States gardening during spring and summer of 2020 in record numbers. Initially, many people did this because they were at home more than ever before (including people who worked remotely during part of the pandemic) and, for some, growing vegetables added to their food supply. 

As 2020 came to a close, we wondered how much this activity would continue in future years— and, in late 2020, the Axiom Marketing 2021 Gardening Insight Survey showed how people who planted and cared for gardens in 2020 overwhelmingly felt that they were successful in their accomplishments. In fact, 82 percent of them responded that way. So, it’s not surprising that 86 percent of gardeners planned to continue this activity in the future. The most common reason given: they enjoy creating a beautiful outdoor space.

Long Island Potting Mix, Soil Amendments, Black Mulch, and More

Whether you’re new to gardening or looking to switch the products you use, we’re happy to help you find exactly what you need to create that beautiful outdoor space. Our extensive retail garden center has what you need to solve your gardening challenges and to grow beautiful plants. Stop by our nursery to browse our products and to discuss what’s best for your needs or choose what you need from our online store. Our professionals can advise you on how to grow healthy plants and answer your questions. You can also contact us online or by calling 631-261-1148.

Frequently Asked Questions

Potting Soil, Mulch & Amendments FAQs

  • What is potting soil? What’s the difference between that and a potting mix?

    Both products are used when you’re growing plants in containers, such as pots or planter beds. Potting soil can be organic, perhaps made from bark, compost, and moss, or also contain processed minerals that help with drainage and soil aeration. What’s interesting is that potting soil can contain soil but it doesn’t have to. 

    Like potting soil, organic mixes will contain only natural ingredients while non-organic products may contain processed minerals. The difference: potting mixes will not contain any soil. This eliminates the possibility of harmful fungi growing in it.

  • Is black mulch good for gardens?

    Yes. It’s good for your soil, which means it’s good for your flowers, shrubs, and more. This type of mulch adds moisture and nutrients to the soil and helps to slow down evaporation under the sun’s heat. This helps to preserve a healthy, moist environment for plants. 

  • What is the best plant food to buy?

    It depends upon what you need. All purpose plant food, such as an excellent product by Schultz, can be used in multiple ways. Other times, you’ll want a more targeted product. If you grow roses, for example, Espoma offers a rose fertilizer called Rose Tone that is recommended by professional rosarians. This organic fertilizer helps them to grow their beautiful blooms. If you grow orchids, Espoma makes an excellent flower fertilizer for them. Violets? They’ve got just the right plant food as well as the ideal succulent soil for cacti and more. Another great brand is SUPERthrive. Ask our experts for what you need!