FAQ Mulches, Soil Amendments, Soils
How much organic material should I have in my ground? We normally recommend adding 4 cu. yds. (or 80 cu. ft) of organic materials per 1000 sq. ft. of area. (This is about 1 1/2" deep on top.) Rototill the material into the ground to a depth of 6". You can use compost, aged manures, sphagnum peat moss or a combination of all three.
How thick should put on mulch? We recommend a 3-4" thick layer when you use cedar bark mulch, or decorative bark around trees, shrubs, and perennials. Don't forget to put Dewitt ProSpun fabric over the ground first. In annuals and vegetable gardens cover the ground with Mini Nuggets Bark Mulch to 1 1/2" thick and then rototill it into the soil at the end of the season to improve your soil structure.
How many bags is that? The easy answer is to check a link below.
If you like to do your own math, then: Multiply the length of the area in feet by the width or the area in feet by the depth desired in inches and divide by 12. This is how many cubic feet you need. Divide this number by 3 to the find number of 3 cu. ft. bags needed. OR Divide by 2 to get the number of 2 cu. ft. bags needed. OR Divide by 20 for the number of our loader buckets needed. OR Divide by 27 to find the number of cubic yards needed. To cover an area 36' long by 10' wide with red cedar mulch 2" deep, it would take 20 of our 3 cu. ft. bags. or 3 buckets with our loader.
What bulk materials are available for pickup at Echter's? We stock four bulk items here. Top Soil Blend, 5-Way Compost, Planter's Mix, and Expanded Shale. If you bring a pickup truck without a shell or an open trailer, we can put 1/2 cu. yd. tractor bucket loads directly into the bed.
Top Soil Blend is a mixture of top soils and compost and forest mulch. Use it for filling low spots or for top dressing. 5-Way Compost is a composted mix of dairy manure, straw, yard waste products, leaves, and brush chips. Rototill this into your existing soil. Planter's Mix is blended by Echter's from Top Soil Blend and 5-Way Compost. Planter's Mix can be used to create in-ground beds without adding additional amendments.
Which is better mulch, rock or bark? It depends on the finished look you want. Both will prevent weeds and conserve moisture if they are spread 2" deep or more. (Be sure to use Weed Barrier, not plastic underneath). Rock is longer lasting and doesn't blow away, but can add reflective heat to the area. Bark can blow away and will decompose over time (though this can be a source of organic material.) Bark gives a softer and more natural appearance.
Why can't I just dig soil out of my garden to use in my containers? It is too heavy without enough drainage for containers. Capillary action pulls excess water out of garden soil to the ground below. The shallower the container, the less it drains from capillary action. In containers you need a mix like Echter's Planter Box Mix which holds moisture, but is porous enough to let air to the roots.
Why can't I just mix sand into my clay soil to improve the drainage? Sand will only bind the clay tighter together. What you need is organic material which expands when watered and contracts as it dries to add spaces of air for the roots.
What is the best mix for houseplants? Houseplants don't dry out as quickly as plants outdoors. They need a mix that drains well. Water holding capacity is not as important. Echter's sells our own blend, Echter's Houseplant Mix which is our best all purpose houseplant mix. Some plants, orchids, bonsai, cacti, and African violets are more specific in their needs. We sell specialty mixes for each of these plants.
What's the best mix for germinating seeds? You need excellent drainage and disease free media. Echter's sells bags of the mix that we use to start our own seedlings in the greenhouse.