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Why Does My Amended Container Soil Become Compacted?

By: Jessie Keith

Why Does My Amended Container Soil Become Compacted?

“Why does the soil in my container garden compact super tight? I use garden soil mixed with potting mix and perlite.” Question from Nell of Salem, Indiana

Answer: It sounds like your soil ratios are off, and your in-ground soil is high in clay. If you have not added the right amount of Black Gold amendment or potting soil to clay-rich ground soil, then compaction can be a problem. This is because clay-rich soil has very small particles and becomes compacted very easily. When you add organic matter, such as the peat moss and aged bark found in our potting soil, it lifts the soil, making it more porous and aerated, while allowing it to hold water better. Mineral ingredients, like perlite, also increase aeration and drainage.

You have two options. Either fill your containers with nothing but potting mix–we recommend either Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix or Black Gold Natural & Organic Raised Bed & Potting Mix–or mix your ground soil with more organic amendments. We would recommend adding a 1:3 ratio of ground soil to Black Gold Garden Compost Blend with added Black Gold Perlite to maintain porosity. (Click here for more tips for amending clay-rich soil and click here to learn more about succeeding with container gardening.)

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

About Jessie Keith


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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