What are soil, soil amendments and grow media?

Soil is made of air, water, minerals (sand, silt, clay), decayed plant residue, and organic matter from living and dead organisms. Soil amendments can be defined as anything that is added to a soil to improve the grow conditions by altering the soil's texture, structure, fertility, porosity or other qualities such as pH. The basic premise is that by employing them, pretty much any soil can be made fertile. The type and quantity of amendment that is needed depends on the objective and the soil's base conditions. See the Gowing 101 page for general guidance.

Grow media can be defined as anything that is used to grow plants on. A soil is a grow media, but the term typically refers to materials that do not contain soil, such as perlite, vermiculite, peatmoss, leca, or rock wool. Grow media can be made up of a single source (e.g. rock wool), but are often composed of a variety of products in different proportions. The type, proportion and quantity of media depends on the objective and the grow conditions. For instance, the composition can be adjusted to grow tomatoes, cannabis or lettuce in a specific grow system (e.g. hydroponic or not).

Comparing the value of products

- Soil amendment and grow media products are often sold by the volume but are sometimes offered by weight. Moreover, a variety of units can be used. To help with product comparison, it can be useful to convert price for a same type of unit. Visit the Calculator section to help you with conversions. Specific weights (unit of weight per unit of volume) can be found in the product's description or by visiting the manufacturer's website.

- In the same way, items can be sold in a variety of states (e.g. compressed or not, humid or not). A typical exemple is with peatmoss: a 3.8 cu ft bale of compressed peatmoss (e.g. Premier) can contain up to 4 times the quantity of a 3.8 cu ft bale of less compressed peatmoss (e.g. GolfGreen). To help with product comparison, it can be useful to convert price for a same state (e.g. decompressed).

- Not all products are created equal! For instance peatmoss quality is notoriously different from one manufacturer to the other. Don’t hesitate to look up reviews and ask questions if you need to. One thing that big box stores are really good at is providing feedback from real-life customers. You can for instance compare reviews on peatmoss products by clicking here and here.

- Any product has an environmental cost, and soil amendment or grow media are no exception. For instance the environmental cost of peatmoss can be substantial, which is a main reason we want to offer alternatives such as biochar. Some certifications (e.g. organic, regenerative) can give an indication that the evironmental cost is at least partly born by the product (and ultimately the consumer), and not the society at large.

- Does it matter to you to support the local economy? The benefits of shopping locally cannot be overstated, especially in remote places like the Yukon. By shopping locally, you are directly contributing to your community's well-being. Your money is redistributed here rather than leaking out to a giant chain or conglomerate that has little to care about you or your well-being. It creates and supports good, valuable jobs. And the customer service and personal touch of a local business cannot be matched by a chain. It breathes life and helps creates the identity of your community, it's soul and character! Last, you are encouraging innovation, as local businesses are usually hubs of creativity, adaptation and resilience.

- Locally-sourced products naturally have a much lower carbon footprint than those trucked up the highway. Shopping local for local products can be a great way to limit one’s carbon emissions.