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I’m  so thrilled to invite my Soil Science teacher Dr. Anna Paltseva to join us today for a nerdy conversation about soil science and drainage. I took her Soil Science 101 class virtually with the NYBG this year and learned so much. I look at soil and the earth differently after this course. What we learned is way too much to cover in one episode, so today Dr Paltseva and I hone in on drainage for houseplants: why it’s important, the science behind it and how we can achieve it for our houseplants.  I think one of my top 5 proudest moments over the 95 episode span of BAGR is the “lightbulb moment” we have in this conversation while discussing capillary action. But I’ll let you hear it in your own time in the midst of the episode.

If you want more: I made a super nerdy youtube video companion to this episode. I show you some visuals to further explain what we discussed in our interview and show you the experiments I did for my presentation on drainage.

Speaking of the NYBG, they have created an incredible virtual resource for you in this moment of social distancing: the NYBG At Home center. Since the Garden’s gates are temporarily closed, they’ve opened their virtual gates to you! They’ve compiled videos, plant guides, virtual events for your free entertainment and education and my favorite aspect of the NYBG at Home is their online courses! Plant Friends… these courses aren’t free, but they are so worth it. I got so much out of my soil science class, I will never pot a plant the same again, and this intro to plant science class is transforming the way I look at my balcony garden and plants. Check everything they have to offer at



In this episode we learn:

  • Anna's childhood that inspired her to become a Soil Scientist
  • Why fresh produce literally tastes better in Italy (hint… it has to do with the soil)
  • What is the difference between soil and dirt
  • Differences between outdoor and indoor soil
  • Why indoor houseplant soil needs to be aerated
  • The purpose of aeration
  • Ways to help your soil that has become “hydrophobic”
  • The “recipe” for soil
  • How Sand, Silt and Clay drain at different rates and how that affects your soil
  • What is “capillary action” and why bottom watering is best
  • What is adhesion and cohesion in relation to capillary action
  • Can you overwater a plant using the bottom watering method?
  • What is the Perched Water Table
  • How Maria has changed her plant care practices after learning about the Perched Water Table
  • How do plants absorb minerals through roots and soil


Mentioned in the episode:

Bloom and Grow Youtube Show on Drainage


Thank you to this week's episode sponsor:

Espoma Organics: for responsibly made, fabulous indoor and outdoor organic soils, fertilizers, pest control sprays and more visit to find your local dealer or check out my amazon storefront of my favorite Espoma products here.


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Youtube: Anna Paltseva


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