Can You Use Ground or Garden Soil in Pots?

fertile soil Container gardening offers a versatile and accessible way to grow plants, whether you have limited outdoor space or want to cultivate a variety of plants indoors. One of the key factors in successful container gardening is choosing the right soil.

While ground soil or garden soil might seem like convenient options, using them in pots can present challenges and drawbacks. In this article, we'll explore the considerations and alternatives to using ground or garden soil in pots.

Understanding the Differences Between Ground Soil and Potting Mix

Ground soil, also known as garden soil, is the natural soil found in your outdoor garden. It typically contains a mixture of sand, silt, clay, organic matter, and microorganisms. Potting mix, on the other hand, is specifically formulated for container gardening. It often consists of a blend of peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, and other additives to promote drainage and aeration.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Ground Soil in Pots


  • Availability and Cost-Effectiveness: Ground soil is readily available in your garden, making it a cost-effective option for filling pots.
  • Natural Soil Structure and Microbial Activity: Ground soil contains a diverse array of microorganisms and organic matter, which can benefit plant growth.


  • Poor Drainage and Compaction: Ground soil tends to retain water and may become compacted in containers, leading to root rot and poor plant growth.
  • Risk of Pests, Diseases, and Weed Seeds: Garden soil may harbor pests, diseases, and weed seeds that can negatively impact the health of your plants.
  • Nutrient Imbalance and pH Issues: Ground soil may have imbalanced nutrient levels or an unsuitable pH for certain plants, requiring additional amendments.

Pros and Cons of Using Garden Soil in Pots


  • Similar to Ground Soil: Garden soil shares many of the same advantages as ground soil, including availability and cost-effectiveness.
  • Cost-Effective Option for Large Containers: For large containers, using garden soil may be more practical and economical than purchasing large quantities of potting mix.


  • Compaction and Drainage Issues: Like ground soil, garden soil may suffer from compaction and drainage problems when used in pots.
  • Risk of Pests, Diseases, and Weed Seeds: Garden soil carries the same risks of pests, diseases, and weed seeds as ground soil.
  • Nutrient Imbalance and pH Issues: Garden soil may require amendments to correct nutrient imbalances or adjust pH levels for optimal plant growth.

Best Practices for Using Ground or Garden Soil in Pots

If you decide to use ground or garden soil in pots, follow these best practices:

  • Soil Amendment and Improvement: Incorporate organic matter, such as compost or aged manure, to improve soil structure and fertility.
  • Monitoring Moisture Levels: Pay close attention to moisture levels in the soil and adjust watering accordingly to prevent waterlogged conditions.
  • Regular Soil Testing: Test the soil periodically for nutrient levels and pH, and make necessary adjustments using amendments or fertilizers.

Alternatives to Ground or Garden Soil for Container Gardening

While ground and garden soil have their benefits, consider using alternatives such as commercial potting mixes or homemade blends tailored for container gardening. These mixes are specifically designed to provide the proper balance of drainage, aeration, and nutrients for container plants.

While ground or garden soil may seem like convenient options for filling pots, they come with drawbacks that can affect plant health and growth. Consider using alternatives such as potting mixes or homemade blends formulated for container gardening to ensure the success of your container plants.

Stay tuned for more tips and tricks for successful vegetable gardening, and check out the Food Independence Summit to explore the home-grown food movement!

How to Tell When Your Broccoli is Ready to Harvest

fertile soil for broccoliBroccoli, a nutritious and versatile vegetable, is a favorite among gardeners for its delicious taste and health benefits. Whether you're growing broccoli in your backyard garden or cultivating it in a community plot, knowing when to harvest this cruciferous vegetable is crucial for optimal flavor and texture. In this guide, we'll explore the various stages of broccoli growth and provide tips on identifying signs of readiness for harvest.

Understanding Broccoli Growth Stages

Broccoli undergoes several distinct growth stages before it's ready for harvest:

  • Germination and Seedling Stage: This is the initial phase when broccoli seeds sprout and develop into seedlings.
  • Vegetative Growth Stage: During this period, the broccoli plant focuses on leaf and stem development, preparing to produce its characteristic florets.
  • Head Formation Stage: As the plant matures, a central head begins to form. This head is composed of tightly packed clusters of flower buds, which will eventually become the edible portion of the broccoli.
  • Harvesting Stage: This is the stage when the broccoli head is mature and ready for harvest. Timing is crucial to ensure the best flavor and texture.

Factors Influencing Broccoli Growth and Harvest Time

  • Climate and Weather Conditions: Broccoli grows best in cool weather conditions, with temperatures ranging between 60°F and 70°F. Extreme heat or cold can affect the plant's growth and development.
  • Variety of Broccoli: Different broccoli varieties have varying maturity dates. Some varieties mature earlier than others, so it's essential to select a variety that suits your climate and growing season.
  • Soil Quality and Fertility: Broccoli thrives in well-drained, fertile soil with adequate organic matter. Soil pH should ideally be between 6.0 and 7.0 for optimal growth.
  • Pest and Disease Management: Pests such as aphids, caterpillars, and cabbage worms can damage broccoli plants and affect their growth. Regular monitoring and appropriate pest management strategies are essential to ensure healthy plants.

Signs Your Broccoli is Ready for Harvest

To determine if your broccoli is ready for harvest, look for the following signs:

  • Head Size and Appearance: The broccoli head should be firm, dense, and compact, with tightly packed florets. Avoid harvesting heads with loose or open florets, as this indicates over-maturity.
  • Color and Texture: A vibrant green color indicates freshness and optimal flavor. The head should feel firm to the touch, without any soft spots or yellowing.
  • Side Shoot Development: After harvesting the main head, check for the development of side shoots. These smaller heads can be harvested later for additional yield.

how to tell when broccoli is ready for harvest

Harvesting Techniques

When harvesting broccoli, follow these techniques for the best results:

  • Tools Needed: Use sharp garden shears or a knife for harvesting.
  • Proper Harvesting Procedure: Cut the main head at a slight angle, leaving several inches of stem attached to the plant. This encourages the development of side shoots for future harvests.
  • Handling and Storing: After harvesting, rinse the broccoli under cold water to remove any debris. Trim the stem if necessary and store the broccoli in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Troubleshooting Common Harvesting Issues

If you encounter any issues during the harvesting process, consider the following troubleshooting tips:

  • Premature Flowering or Bolting: Ensure consistent watering and provide shade during hot weather to prevent premature flowering or bolting.
  • Yellowing or Browning of Florets: Yellowing or browning of florets may indicate over-maturity or nutrient deficiencies. Harvest broccoli heads before they become overripe, and amend the soil with compost or fertilizer as needed.
  • Pest and Disease Damage: Monitor plants regularly for signs of pests or disease. Remove affected leaves or use organic pest control methods to manage infestations.
  • Dealing with Unexpected Weather Conditions: Protect broccoli plants from extreme weather conditions by providing adequate shelter or covering them with row covers during cold snaps or heavy rains.

By paying attention to these factors and signs, you can ensure a bountiful harvest of delicious and nutritious broccoli from your garden. Stay tuned for more tips and tricks for successful vegetable gardening, and check out the Food Independence Summit to explore the home-grown food movement!

how to control cabbage worms

How to Control Those Pesky Cabbage Worms

Cabbage worms are a common nuisance for home gardeners, wreaking havoc on cabbage, broccoli, kale, and other cruciferous vegetables. These pests, which include cabbage loopers and imported cabbage worms, can quickly decimate your crops if left unchecked. However, with a few simple strategies, you can effectively control cabbage worms and protect your harvest.

Here's how:

Identifying Cabbage Worms

Cabbage worms are the larvae of small white butterflies known as cabbage moths. These pests lay their eggs on the leaves of cabbage plants, where the larvae hatch and begin feeding. You can identify cabbage worms by their green color, segmented bodies, and voracious appetite for cabbage leaves. Look for

  • small holes in the leaves
  • dark droppings (frass)
  • chewed edges

as signs of cabbage worm infestation.

Managing Cabbage Worms


One of the simplest and most effective methods for controlling cabbage worms is to hand pick them off your plants. Check your cabbage plants regularly and remove any worms you find by hand. Be sure to dispose of them in a bucket of soapy water or squash them to prevent them from returning to your garden.

Row Covers

Prevent cabbage moths from laying their eggs on your plants by covering them with floating row covers. These lightweight fabrics allow sunlight, water, and air to reach your plants while keeping pests at bay. Be sure to secure the edges of the row covers tightly to prevent moths from gaining access to your crops.

Natural Predators

Encourage natural predators like birds, parasitic wasps, and predatory insects to help control cabbage worms in your garden. Planting flowers such as dill, fennel, and yarrow can attract these beneficial insects to your garden, providing natural pest control.

Biological Controls

Consider introducing biological controls such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally occurring bacterium that targets cabbage worms specifically. Bt is available in various formulations, including sprays and dusts, and is safe to use around pets and beneficial insects.

Companion Planting

Planting aromatic herbs and flowers like thyme, mint, and marigolds around your cabbage plants can help deter cabbage moths and mask the scent of your crops, making them less attractive to pests.

Crop Rotation

Rotate your crops annually to disrupt the life cycle of cabbage worms and reduce the likelihood of infestation. Avoid planting cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables in the same location year after year to prevent the buildup of pests and diseases in the soil.

By implementing these strategies, you can effectively control cabbage worms and protect your cabbage crops from damage. Remember to monitor your plants regularly for signs of infestation and take action promptly to prevent further damage. With a little effort and vigilance, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of healthy and pest-free cabbage from your garden.

how to grow cabbage

Is There a Trick to Growing Cabbage?


Growing cabbage in your home garden can be a rewarding experience, but it does come with its challenges. With a few tricks up your sleeve, you can grow healthy and delicious cabbage with relative ease. 

Growing Tips

  • Choose the Right Variety: There are different types of cabbage, including green, red, and savoy varieties. Choose a variety that suits your climate and preferences.
  • Planting Time: Cabbage is a cool-season crop that thrives in temperatures between 45°F and 75°F. Plant seeds or seedlings in early spring for a spring harvest or late summer for a fall harvest.
  • Sunlight and Soil: Cabbage prefers full sun and well-drained, fertile soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. Amend the soil with compost or aged manure before planting to improve fertility.
  • Spacing: Cabbage plants need room to grow, so space them at least 12-18 inches apart in rows with 2-3 feet between rows. Bucket gardening won’t work for cabbage!
  • Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Water deeply and regularly, especially during dry spells, to promote healthy growth.
  • Fertilization: Cabbage is a heavy feeder, so apply a balanced fertilizer or compost tea every few weeks to provide essential nutrients. Keep in mind your compost browns and greens for the right amount of nutrients.

Harvesting Tips

  • Timing: Cabbage is ready to harvest when the heads feel firm and solid to the touch. Most varieties take 70-100 days to mature, depending on the growing conditions and variety.
  • Cutting Technique: Use a sharp knife to cut the cabbage heads at the base of the plant, leaving a few outer leaves attached to protect the head during storage.
  • Early Harvest: If you prefer smaller heads or want to stagger your harvest, you can cut the outer leaves of the cabbage plant when they reach a usable size, allowing the inner leaves to continue growing.
  • Storage: Store harvested cabbage heads in the refrigerator or a cool, dark place for up to a few weeks. Remove any damaged or wilted leaves before storing to prevent rot.

Use It or Preserve It: Fresh cabbage can be used in a variety of dishes, from salads and slaws to soups and stir-fries. You can also preserve cabbage by fermenting it into sauerkraut or kimchi for long-term storage.

Is There a Trick to Growing Cabbage?

Cabbage Companion Plants


Carrots are excellent companion plants for cabbage as they have different root depths, minimizing competition for nutrients. Additionally, the strong scent of carrots may deter cabbage pests like carrot rust flies.


Onions help deter cabbage pests such as aphids and cabbage worms with their pungent odor. Planting onions around cabbage can also improve soil health and deter weeds.


Dill attracts beneficial insects like predatory wasps, which prey on cabbage pests such as cabbage loopers and aphids. Planting dill near cabbage can help reduce pest infestations and improve overall plant health.

Growing cabbage requires patience and attention to detail, but the rewards are well worth the effort. With these tips in mind, you'll be well on your way to enjoying homegrown cabbage straight from your garden. Stay tuned for more gardening tips from the experts at Food Independence.

Happy gardening!