How to Choose the Right Soil
Here’s an in-depth guide on choosing the proper soil for your fairy garden. Depending on where you live and what type of plants you’re expecting to cultivate, the combination of these elements will ultimately determine the composition of soil you’ll be using.
Before we dig into soil, let’s talk about watering.
With any plant, water drainage is an important factor in long-term survival. Stagnant water will eventually drown your plants. Think of the roots as the plant’s lifeline. Not only do the roots absorb water, but they also take in air and surrounding nutrients.
Plants need a healthy balance of nutrients, moisture, and sunlight. If you’ve placed your garden in a pot, finding adequate light won’t be an issue. After placing your plants and fairy house, however, it won’t be easy to replace the soil if it goes bad. Take time in the beginning to make sure you’ve chosen the proper soil and your container has a few holes for draining.
Unless you live in a very arid part of the country, water can remain in soil for several days. While you might want to wake up and water your plants every day, it may not be necessary. Just as your stomach feels full when you drink too much liquid, it’s the same for plants.
There’s only so much water a plant can take in before it becomes overloaded and begins to rot. As long as you can place about an inch of your finger in the soil and feel moisture, then your plant is happy with water. You can find more information on watering in our article “How often should I water my fairy garden?”.
Soil Choice Based on the Container
If you’re just starting out with your garden, you may want to begin with a single clay (terra cotta) pot. You can always expand your garden at a later time or gift that container to a friend. Clay pots range in size and design. Thankfully, they’re on the cheap side. You can walk away with a single, basic pot for under a dollar.
The next step up would be a raised bed. Keep in mind that the larger the bed, the heavier it will be and more difficult to reposition. The reason that we’re mentioning this is that when you water, the drainage will exit through the bottom and onto the surrounding ground. If you have a decorative concrete, you’ll want to make sure the water will drain toward an in-ground drain or the edge of the lawn. Nutrients from the soil and minerals in the water will remain on the ground and stain the surface.
Let’s separate these two containers based on your ability to actively move them.
If you can easily pick up the container, then let’s consider this a small container. For this option, let’s go ahead and use premium potting mix as the soil. Its composition is ideal for small containers and promotes the steady movement of water.
Take a look at the ingredients of your bag of potting mix. We recommend choosing a brand with organic compounds and not synthetic ones. Ingredients you’ll want to look for are perlite, vermiculite, peat moss, and bark. The perlite and vermiculite keep the soil from becoming too compact and helps the water to spread out evenly. This is integral for your plant’s long term survival.
Don’t skimp on quality. Saving a few dollars on soil may result in time and money spent replacing plants soon after planting. You can forgo the options with additional fertilizers. They can always be added at a later time if your plants are looking peaked.
Potting soil should last about a full season, depending on the frequency of watering. If you’re finding that you need to water every few days, it should probably be changed out along with your annuals. You can take this opportunity to upgrade your container and move your fairy garden into a bigger environment.
Now let us consider our large container. This would be a box or raised bed that we can’t move on our own. You’re not going to want to fill this entirely with potting soil. What you’ll be looking for is garden soil. This meant to act as an additive to native soil.
Bring some of the soil that currently exists in your in-ground garden or surrounding property and fill the container halfway. Fill to the top with garden soil. It is imperative that you mix the two materials thoroughly. When you have a good mixture, you can begin placing your plants and houses.
Our Soil Goal
The role of the garden soil is to bring your native soil closer to the composition of potting soil. What you have sitting in the ground is more than likely too compact and would inhibit the flow of water and nutrients. Some garden soil will contain humus or compost. These are two beneficial additives that will prolong the survival of your plants but aren’t imperative.
Since this container is larger and contains about 50% of your local soil, you can get away with not having to replace the contents each year. You’ll still want to move the top 3-6 inches every few months or so to aid in the flow of water. If individual plants don’t make it, replace them as you would a plant in your garden: loosen the potting soil around the base of the roots, replace the plant, blend in with the surrounding soil.
Keep an eye on your plants and make sure they’re growing. Signs that soil is too thick (or not a healthy mix) is impeded plant growth and poor water flow. Our goal is to provide a healthy and long-lasting environment for our plants. While soil may not last for more than a season, plants can last for many years if taken care of properly.
Looking to build a fairy garden metropolis? Your garden might be the answer! Read more about building your fairy garden in an existing garden.