L.A. at Home

Design, Architecture, Gardens,
Southern California Living

« Previous Post | L.A. at Home Home | Next Post »

The dirt on dirt: Do you know what's in yours?

November 7, 2009 |  5:02 am

What's in those bags of soil we buy at garden centers? Scotts, the company that makes soils under the Miracle-Gro, EarthGro and SuperSoil brands, uses discarded grape skins and seeds from Napa Valley, rice hulls from Stockton, even pecan and walnut shells. Other brands might contain bat guano, chicken manure, Canadian peat moss, Sri Lankan coconut coir or Norwegian kelp meal.

Susan Carpenter, who writes The Realist Idealist column on green home improvement and sustainable living, looks into bagged soil and how it's made for her latest report. It's a follow-up to her experience this summer, when Carpenter grew some beautiful chard in raised beds filled with store-bought soil -- then discovered her leafy greens were abnormally high in lead. For this latest column, she and colleague Don Kelsen also produced a video from their visit to one of the California facilities where bagged soil is made. Read Carpenter's findings, and then if you're eager to test your soil, click here.

For some gardeners, the bagged stuff just can't compare with homemade compost. The problem, of course, is that compost takes time and patience. For so many households, those food scraps are more likely to land in a garbage bag than a worm tray. Earlier this week Emily Green reported on San Francisco's new mandatory food-scrap recycling program and why our neighbors up north have pulled ahead of L.A. in the quest to divert trash from landfills. You can read that column by clicking here and see the archive of Green's weekly column on sustainable landscaping, The Dry Garden, by clicking here

Ask three experts for their recipe for the perfect potting mix, and you'll get three answers. That's what Ilsa Setziol did, and the three recommendations for the ultimate potted-plant dirt are revealed here.

-- Craig Nakano

Photo illustration credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times