Safe soil for the flower pot and vegetable garden
Compound soils are produced by blending different types of soil and peat and adding other fertilizer products. Soils are sold both in bulk and in packaged form. All soil products have to have a product description, where certain information has to be displayed.
Soil supplied in bulk can contain peat and mineral soil and it is fertilized and/or lime has been added. The limitations for the use of composting soil sold in bulk are determined by the raw materials. Packaged potting soil is intended for flowers on balconies and indoors. Packaged compound soils contain peat, mineral soil and possibly compost. In addition, there are specialised growing media on the market intended for orchids and bonsai trees, for example.
It is worth discussing the soil type with the sales staff. It is for example not permitted to use soil intended for landscaping as garden soil for the vegetable garden. Landscaping soil can contain sewage sludge and therefore there might be detrimental organic elements in it. In addition, landscaping soil is coarser than garden soil and can therefore handle the weight of the machinery used in park work better.
It is especially important to know which raw materials are used in soils sold in bulk. When you make your decision to purchase, demand that you be shown the product description. It will inform you whether the soil is meant for garden soil, landscaping or for growing conifers. Also check what the soil looks like: Is there refuse or broken glass in it, does it smell good and what does it feel like in your hand. Check immediately the soil heap you have bought, before the supplier of the goods leaves. Afterwards it will be much more difficult to prove that the quality of the product was poor at the moment of arrival.
In the product description of the soil, information is given on the type and trade name, qualities, usage, composition, manufacturer and importer of the fertilizer product. The business operator has to be in Evira’s register. During the first week of May at the latest, a list of registered operators will be published on Evira’s Internet pages, if the operator has given permission to publish their information. The operators have to perform the self-monitoring of their products with the help of Evira’s laboratory or other laboratories approved by Evira.
Evira’s monitoring is focused on the problems and deficiencies and the potential risk factors pertaining to the raw materials and manufacture found in the operations or self-monitoring by the operator. Evira monitors the safe usage of the product by determining the levels of salmonella and bacterium coli and the prevalence of fungal diseases in the soil products which cause root rots and they also analyse the concentrations of harmful metals such as mercury and cadmium. In addition, contaminants, such as glass, plastics, metals, bone pieces and plant parts such as living roots are determined in the product. The number of weed seeds in the products is determined by a cultivation test.
In 2006 four batches of soil sold in bulk were prohibited from being marketed due to the hygienic quality. In packaged soils there is a problem with variations in nutrient levels. Nitrogen deficiency is often due to over aged packaged soil, so it is worth studying the markings on the packaging. Monitoring reports can be found on Evira’s Internet pages (only in Finnish).
For additional information, please contact:
Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira
Senior Officer ArjaVuorinen tel. 020 77 25240, Feed and Fertilizer Control
Ecotoxicologist Liisa Maunuksela tel. 020 77 25263, Chemistry and Toxicology
The e-mail addresses are in the format: firstname.lastname@example.org