The earth, its mixtures and substrates


If there is something important in any crop, be it ornamental or productive, it is the soil. The soil represents the most important and influential medium for the correct development of plants. Today we talk at length about substrates and their characteristics, the importance and conditions of conservation of the substrates that we buy packed in plastic. Sit down for 5 minutes to read it placidly to end the day. 🙂


It is a very essential element in gardening, surely the one that most conditions the growing of the plant. It is true that water also conditions and I have seen them so brackish and calcareous that everything that was planted died, even the grass seeds did not germinate. Good, but they are exceptional cases that must be treated with other methods.

On the earth, an infinity of very complex physical-chemical processes take place, the plants, insects and microorganisms that live in it take advantage of them. The one that interests us the most is ion exchange , the most direct consequence of which is the fertility of the earth. It is not easy to define or divide this element, but let us bear in mind that it is the physical environment in which plants, through their roots, perform various functions: holding and absorbing elements.

We have an organic fraction, organic matter, OM, more or less degraded in humus, humic acids, fulvic acids that are the fertile part, the rest of the earth, it is said, is a mere physical support but when we reach the clays we will see that It is not entirely true, they also intervene in ion exchange, water retention and elements that will be released depending on the needs of the plants.

The earth is the only element of a garden that cannot be changed , although it can be improved , made amendments or digging certain areas where to put something special. It can be an expensive execution and it is very dirty, if there is no dust, there is mud, but it is always lazy, and much more when we already have plants, even from a planter or a flowerpot.

Irrigation or plants can be changed, substituted or eliminated what does not work, that is why the soil must be of the best quality for the garden pots or planters, which we want, it is independent if the container is large or small, it is It is necessary to become aware that it is worth buying or using land of the best quality, always somewhat more expensive but always more profitable and above all rewarding.

How many times have I seen bogs with grooves 30 or 40 cm deep after a heavy rain, slabs of clay impossible to dig, clays from excavations of deep layers completely waterproof and smelly that are sold as first-class land.

Balanced soil mixtures are ideal, either acidic or alkaline, depending on the area in which we live, as long as the water is appropriate for the type of plant we want to grow. And each teacher has his own booklet, so the mix is ​​something special for each one and his or her experience.

The important, fundamental thing, as we saw in “The water”  , is that it is well drained, loose, that it does not become caked, for this we must substitute clay soil for sand, either from the river or from the beach, washed quarry sand, expensive and their extraction for ecological reasons is prohibited. Sand mixed with clay is the best substrate for lawns with organic matter, which retains moisture.




Peats, substrates and preparations for sale. Not all are the best or the worst, well, maybe some are, although storage also influences : broken bag, rain and fermentation or assured rot.

Substrates prepared and packed in plastic always, and I mean ALWAYS, must be in a shady area and very well aerated . What would be the reason? It is difficult for the fermentation of these preparations to be complete, so a second uncontrolled fermentation begins with heat and under anaerobic conditions, absence of oxygen, since it is closed, which is undesirable. These torn bags with mold should be rejected as they will be a source of future infections.

Remember, from high school, that the speed doubles every 10ºC in chemical reactions. As chemical reactions take place in organic matter, if we increase the temperature the organic matter decomposes faster in warm areas than in cool areas . In Andalusian and Levantine areas you can be replenishing OM every year, which is not the case in the north.

There are two aspects regarding the cause of the destruction of organic matter: humidity and temperature , regardless of which is more certain or which is more right: bags in the sun and with excess humidity should be rejected, as we do with the ‘super’ packaged products.


CLAY : it is a plastic element arranged in parallel layers and chemical ions Al 3+  or Fe 3+, Mg 2+ , Fe 2+   and other Li, Cr, Mn, Ni, Cu or Zn. It is these cations that react with elements and retain them, being demanded by the roots, yes, always in the presence of water and organic matter.

When the clays are in the presence of excess water they swell and produce the dreaded waterlogging of our pots.

THE TURBS: these are elements that come from a fermentation low in oxygen and high humidity , which gives them their characteristic composition, very high in carbon, high C / N ratio (bind), more than half. Black peat is not recommended in gardening due to its excess of mineral salts, this is the peat that is used in Scotland for the production of whiskey.

The blond peat is the most used in gardening , it retains water and aerates other types of soil. These mobs are quite stable so they are widely used by professionals since it is easy to supply the fertilizer in irrigation, fertigation (binding), without the problems created by other substrates with the possibility of intoxication or loss of fertilizer due to retention.

Peat field

Peats can retain up to 10 times their weight in water, so be careful with irrigation , without oxygen the root rots, it is preferable to water 3 times little than one intensely and flood the peat over one or two weeks and above. put the flowerpot inside a flowerpot.

THE SANDS: they serve to drain. They prevent mixtures from caking. Two important river sands with which caution must be exercised as their crystals heat leaves and stems and burn them. There were several failures in the top dressing of soccer fields in Spain. What you say for one will be valid for the other, the beach one.

The river sand is usually composed of silicates, the beach of carbonates from the shells. Do you remember that in the last storm in Galicia a beach was filled with clams? Well, with the waves they will end up forming part of the sand on the beach.



Before humanity took over the beaches there grew lilies, today protected, thistles, Limonium also known as sea lavender, the well-known sea fennel, Crithmum maritimum , rosemary (Ros = dew, marinus = marine, officinalis) all kinds of Juniperus , well junipers rot wood, La Sabina is called the port of Formentera, well junipers, known in Menorca like “Ginebró” where Provine name gin or gin, as to flavor alcohol distillate is used, fermented or not, from the seeds of this plant. It seems that the first name comes from a stomach remedy, aqua juniperi . I think I remember that gin comes from Holland.

Behind these sandy beaches, and attached to them, there are usually dunes where the mastic or mata predominates, Pistacia lentiscus , first cousin of the pistachio, Pistacia vera and a third canary from which the essence of turpentine is obtained, and of course the pines of various species to whose shelter various spontaneous lawns scamper.

The famous taray remains, Tamarix (pentandra, gallica and others, up to 120), poorly known as tamarind since the latter is the Tamarindus indica , date from India, imported by the Arabs and known among them as tamir. We will talk about the taray. The name of the best magician in the world, Don Juan Tamariz, comes from him, and the Tambre river and others like Tamara, but it will be another day.

As you can see, there are a multitude of plants in the sand, it is a good element that we should not flee from in our mixtures, for example Saintpaulia loves it since with organic matter from any substrate it has water without being wet in the neck, area that unites the plant with the root.

The mastic is a coastal plant that grows in sandy soils


SUBSTRATES: substrates are understood as an inhomogeneous mixture of products: compost, peat, perlite, river sand, fine-grained volcanic stone, bark and other various products that are mixed by industrialists for immediate use or to mix with other soils, such as the garden one.

There are fertilized substrates, caution with packaging time and humidity , nitrogen dissolves easily, for cacti, orchids or roses. I insist again: what works in the north may not work in the south and conversely, practice is the best advisor and these lands, being good, are better if we mix them with other products that make them ideal for our terrace, home. or garden, that is to say to our surroundings.

Mixes are also made for the garden, it can even be planted in the container as they are well prepared with good drainage, which makes them useful for a small garden on the terrace without the need for cultivation benches. There is no need to worry about seedbeds as small plants are already sold at an affordable price and in season.

That you are good at cabbages, gardenias and other kinds of crops.

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