In this module we will cover the basics of substrates (potting soil, media - what goes into the container) and how these elements relate to nutrient retention, fertility selection and irrigation practices. There will be specific learning activities in this module that will help you understand the concepts and provide information for the nutrient management plan development process.

Learner Objectives

By participation in the Substrates module, you will be exposed to and be able to do the following at the end of the session:

  1. Understand the concept of a substrate and how it relates to the production of container nursery and greenhouse crops.
  2. Identify the different organic and inorganic components that can make up a substrate and their characteristics.
  3. Differentiate between the physical and chemical characteristics of substrates including porosity and cation and anion exchange capacity.
  4. Recognize how component characteristics in a substrate can impact on water and nutrient retention.
  5. Measure the physical and chemical characteristics of specific substrates and how they impact on nutrient retention and loss in your specific crop production situation.


Fonteno, Dr. W.C., North CarolinaStateUniversity, Dept. of Horticulture - Personal Correspondence

Handreck, K. A. and N. D. Black. 1994. Growing Media for Ornamental Plants and Turf., Randwick, NSW, Australia: University of New South Wales Press.

Reed, D. W. (ed). 1996. Water, Media, and Nutrition for Greenhouse Crops. Batavia, Ill: Ball Publishing.

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The physical properties of substrates govern how air and water move through the substrate, as well as influencing substrate nutrient retention, pH, and biological activity. In this module, you can learn the fundamentals of substrate physical properties and be able to apply this knowledge to any substrate to understand how it influences water and nutrient management. A thorough understanding of these fundamentals will enable you to reason through many complex situations and applications.
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Many of the dynamics in container substarets are a result of biological activities. The goal of this module is to gain understanding of the biological processes within nursery container substrates, and how those processes can influence plant quality and nursery water and nutrient use.

This module introduces the process of composting, discussing the physical and biological factors that affect the composting process and the quality of the end product.

By the end of this module, you will have a better understanding of the composting process which may enable you to make better decisions about creating and utilizing compost in your nursery.