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For Container Crop Production

Media – Medium?

„ Media is plural of medium

„ Also called culture medium. Bacteriology. a liquid
or solidified nutrient material suitable for the
cultivation of microorganisms
„ An optical medium is material through which
electromagnetic waves propagate
„ surrounding objects, conditions, or influences; or the
surrounding environment; "fish require an aqueous
„ the element that is the natural habitat of an organism
„ In horticulture it is short for planting medium
Choosing Artificial Soil Media
„ Synonyms: growing media, planting media, soil
media, soilless mix, mix
„ More important to choose a reliable supplier that
provides consistent quality.
„ Most plants can grow well on a well designed
greenhouse mix
„ Use specialized mixes for plugs, and special
need crops (e.g. pH & zonal geraniums)
„ Mineral soil is not used as the drainage is too
poor in containers less than 12 inches deep. It is
also heavier than artificial soil media
Physical Properties
„ Blended organic and mineral components
that are 10-20% solid and 80-90% pore
„ Must provide physical support as well as a
hold nutrients, water and provide oxygen to
the roots.
„ Should maintain optimal pH range for plant
Common components of artificial
growing media
„ Organic matter 30-60%
„ Peat moss, bark, coir (coco peat)
„ Inorganic
„ vermiculite, perlite, pumice, expanded polystyrene
(foam balls no longer used as they float)
„ The selections are made on what is available and
economically viable as good mixes can be made with
a variety of components
„ When mixing your own attention to quality of inputs is
a must as they can vary (that is why many pay for
reputable commercial mix)
The current Cornell Mix
„ 3 – 3.8 Cubic Ft. compressed bales of peat
„ 2 - 6 cu ft bags of vermiculite
„ 20 pounds dolomitic limestone
„ 6 pounds 11-5-11 fertilizer
„ This makes approximately 1.2 cubic yards of
soilless mix.
Texture and Use
„ Texture = particle size
„ Coarse → Large Particle Size→ more pore
space → More Drainage
„ Fine → Small Particle Size → less pore space
→ less drainage
„ Use coarse mixes in larger containers and
Finer for smaller containers like plugs. Still
trying to maximize porosity
Container Size and Drainage
„ In addition to porosity of mix the size of the
pot will also affect drainage of water
„ The taller the pot the better the drainage.
„ Gravity has a greater influence on a taller
column of water than a shorter column – as
there is a fight between capillary attraction of
the water to the soil particles and gravity.
Prepping mixes (moisture)
„ Moisture levels of the medium before filling
pots will affect pore spaces
„ Media is shipped as dry as possible to
minimize shipping costs
„ Wetting agents are used - particularly in peat
based products – because the dryer peat
becomes the slower it is to absorb moisture
(coco peat is much better when dry)
Prepping mixes (moisture)
„ Optimal moisture is achieved when added to
media the night before – allows capillary
action help achieve more uniformity of
moisture in the mix
„ Soil moisture test – form a ball in your hand –
it should hold its shape but break apart easily
if poked.
Shrinkage & Compaction
„ Peat based products are notorious for
shrinking as they dry (20-30% shrinkage)
which means the media pulls away from the
sides and water can run around the edge of
the pot.
„ Compaction from overhead watering can
cause reduced pore space
„ Hand compaction when filling pots will reduce
pore space
Filling containers
„ Ideally fill pot and brush off – a mix with ideal
moisture levels will have the ideal pore space
„ When repotting plugs or up-potting minimize
pressing action (compression) – while still
removing large air pockets that will dry out
plant roots.
„ Don’t stack plug trays or pots.
„ Compact growing media will dry out slowly
and could cause root rots – promotes algae
growth and root rot diseases (like pythium)
Chemical Properties
„ Most commercial mixes have a starter charge
which means they add low levels of nutrients
often in water soluble form to the mix before
packaging. Usually last 7-10 days – but the
amount provided can be adjusted to the type
of crop
„ pH of the mix should be 6-7
„ High buffer capacity (ability to moderate pH
and nutrient levels) best.
Media Biology
„ Any media containing organic matter has the
potential to be collonized by nonpathogenic
and pathogenic microorganisms
„ Nonpathogenic mold is more common on
bark based media
„ Slime mold is a problem but is very rare in
greenhouse commercial mixes.
„ Some nonpathogenic microorganisms from
composted bark are beneficial as they crowd
out pathogenic microorganisms.
Sterilization Pasteurization and
naturally clean
„ Sterilization occurs at water’s boiling point
„ Pasteurization 160-180 which tends to kill
harmful microorganisms and retain beneficial
„ Products like perlite and vermiculite are
puffed mineral products that use extremely
high temps to “pop” and are therefore clean if
handled properly.
Handling Media
„ Store unused media in a protected area out
of sunlight.
„ Wetting agents may become less effective
with time and even wrapped bales of media
slowly dry out.
„ Reuse season old media by either recharging
with wetting agent or mixing with new media
in a 10:90 ratio up to 25:75 depending on the
condition of the older media. (worse condition
should have a lower ratio.