Homemade Grow Medium

Homemade conifer grow mediums

Homemade grow medium in your pots doesn’t have to be a laborious activity, therefore this might be more enjoyable if the nutrients in the medium could last more than 2 years.

After doing some research, I came across a conifer bark-based medium mix that will last up to 3 years.

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5:1:1 mix of pine bark:humus:perlite

Mixing these ingredients together into a 5 Gal. Bucket (Pail) to mix this grow medium mixture by hand or with Playtex Gloves if your hands are sensitive.

Homemade conifer bark-based grow medium ingredients
Homemade conifer bark-based grow medium ingredients

Humus based mediums

Humus based soils break down quickly – within a single growing season. When you use them, you have to hope the container size and plant mass is enough to compensate for the collapse toward the end of summer. Hopefully, your roots have spread throughout the container and the planting has matured. This will show that the plant is able to use the water from compacted soils quickly enough to avoid root rot. Rootings should be healthy enough that they actually become a part of the structure of the soil and function as aids to the soils ability to hold air. For maximum vitality when using these soils, plants should be bare-rooted every year.

It is possible to use peat, but harvesting it has been outlawed due to a near extinction. I don’t recommend using it, since it takes millions of years for the Earth to create this delicate material in the peat bogs and just a few years to run it toward extinction.

Conifer bark-based mediums

Homemade conifer bark-based mediums break down at a rate around 1/4 that of humus soils. Gardeners can guarantee that the roots will become a part of the soil structure without much concern for root rot. This will ensure that your irrigation practices are reasonable. 5:1:1 mix of pine bark:humus:perlite is a good example of this type of medium. People using it with very good results. In terms of fertilizing the medium, there is literally no need to add fertilizer to this mix. Perlite and humus may contain a small amounts of fertilizer, so researching your ingredients to see find fertilizer is a good practice.

You should expect at least 2 years of service from homemade soils, as opposed to 1 from those based on humus. Your trees should have some attention paid to their roots every two(2) years – 3 years maximum. “Servicing” requires you to prune the roots. You will be able to prune your roots twice (once every 2 years) with this type of medium.

Below shows an example of how a tree looked after adding this conifer bark-based grow medium.

Fig tree with homemade conifer bark-based grow medium
Fig tree with homemade conifer bark-based grow medium


The Thing with Two Heads

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movie poster
movie poster

No, this isn’t the art of making a two-headed freak as in the movie classic, The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant / The Thing with Two Heads (Midnite Movies Double Feature). This is about transplanting the fig tree from a pot into the ground.

When your fig tree is coming out of Winter storage around the end of March (around the latitude of NJ), observe the tips of the branches. You’ll notice that they stayed green all Winter season. There is an indicator that tells you when it’s time to plant your fig tree outside. This is when leaves begin to break out from those green tips or just before. This is the ideal time to plant the tree and minimizes shock to the leaves.

Here are some basic instructions on transplanting:

  1. When a fig tree grows, it has roots that love to travel along the surface of the soil just under your grass and in fact, can raid flower beds. So, don’t grow it where it will damage other plants, unless you understand this risk and like things grown together.
  2. If your climate is not 100% suitable for growing out in the yard, you may choose to grow it next to your house. The house gives off enough heat radiation to warm the tree.
  3. Once you’ve chosen the ideal spot 12-20 feet away from other fig trees, soak the area well with water if it hasn’t rained lately. This holds up the soil while you’re digging and attracts the roots when they’re growing out.
    Setting the distance
    Setting the distance

    Dig the hole

  4. Dig a hole using this general guideline: 12 inches wide for every 1 inch width of tree trunk. The depth should be the same depth of your root ball plus an additional 4 inches. In the photo examples, the trunk was only about 1/2″ in diameter. I made the hole 12″ in diameter, although I could certainly have made it 6″ (use your best judgement). My brother Joe asked me what is root ball and if it was a disease you can catch. NO! You won’t catch “root ball” nor will you get “root balls”.
    cutting the sod with edging shovel
    Cutting a circle to the depth of grass roots with a shovel
    Removing the sod
    Removing the sod

    Start Digging

    Digging hole with spade shovel
    Digging hole with spade shovel
    Setting the depth
    Setting the depth


  5. To remove the tree from the pot, carefully hold the fig tree by the base of the trunk. Tilt it over and hit the sides and bottom of the nursery pot with your hand to loosen the soil inside.
    pounding the pot
    Hitting the sides and bottom of the pot with my hand.
  6. Remove the root ball from the pot.

    loosening the roots
    Loosening grow medium from around the roots
  7. Place it into the hole you just dug and loosen the soil around the roots.
  8. Add potting soil around the root ball and then fill in the rest to top it off at the top. The soil will compress when it’s watered. I use organic potting soil rather than the dirt that I dug up. The reason is that it’s sterile, full of nutrients and has natural fertilizer.

    →If the tree is falling over, drive a stake into the ground next to it and then tie it to the tree. I reach for an old cotton rag or towel and then cut 1 inch strips of fabric off of it to use for tying the the stake to the tree. Over time, the fabric degrades and falls off. I like the fabric because it’s soft and doesn’t scratch the tree.

    FoxFarm organic potting soil
    The organic potting soil I used
    transplanting tree into soil
    Soil Filled Into Hole
  9. Now that the tree is planted, add mulch. It doesn’t matter what kind of mulch. I like to use Natural Cedar Mulch. Be sure to mold it into a bowl shape or like building a bird’s nest around the tree with your hands. It will funnel the water toward the roots.

    →I only use mulch for the first year I plant the tree. The following year I just apply a fresh layer of soil and leave it alone.

    Shaping the mulch
    Shaping the mulch
  10. Now water the tree. I gave the tree a thorough soaking by placing a hose there and letting a trickle of water run for an hour. Don’t soak it like this every time you water it thereafter, otherwise the roots could rot.

You’re Done!