Selection and Preparation of Potting Mixtures

One of the most important reasons for the poor quality of the plants produced in many nurseries is the poor quality of the potting mixture. Much more attention needs to be paid to its selection and preparation. It is necessary to find out what kinds of soil, sand and compost are available locally. While it is convenient to use soil from nearby sources, it may often be necessary to go further away to obtain more suitable material.

An ideal potting mixture has the following characteristics:

-light weight,


-easily available,

-fertile and retains nutrient well,

-a pH between 4.5 and 6.0,

-well drained, but retains sufficient moisture

-Sufficiently cohesive to maintain the root ball after removal of the polythene.

-Free from disease and other insect pests.

At present, it is a common practice to use the forest top soil with sand. Although it improves drainage and aeration, increases the weight of the mixture, reduces moisture retention capacity and the cohesiveness of the root ball. Addition of well decomposed compost would have an immediate and very beneficial effect on the quality of plants raised. It improves aeration, fertility and the ability to retain nutrients. It helps the root ball to hold together when the polythene is removed.

Nurseries should select appropriate mixtures depending on the availability of sand and compost and on the texture of the soil. The composition of good mixture is furnished below:

331For general use
321For slightly infertile
121Soils with too much of clay
301For soils that are too sandy
310For soils with slightly too much clay

Top soil used for potting mixture, must be cleaned by sieving to remove roots, stones and lumps before transporting it to the nursery. The work must be done in the dry season. Sand will usually be collected from a river, and must be passed through a fine sieve before being used. It should not contain a lot of slit. The ingredients are thoroughly mixed together by piling them on the ground in small lots, one on top of the other.

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