Using the right potting soil is one of the secrets to gardening success. Here’s how make your own potting soil for your containers and pots!
Container gardens are on my mind as the winter chill sets in. Containers are great for a number of reasons, namely that they’re versatile, space-saving, and allow you to be more efficient in your use of resources. Creating your own potting soil for your container garden lets you tailor your mix to the needs of the plants you wish to grow. Plus, I learned long ago that it’s much cheaper to make my own potting mix than it is to buy a pre-made one.
How to Make Potting Soil
I learned long ago that it’s much cheaper to make my own potting soil and store it in an old trash can, rather than pay for several big sacks of potting mix. Plus, I can customize the mix for a variety of different plants.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before creating your own mix:
- When it comes to potting mix, the lighter it is, the better. Loose and porous mixtures not only make a container lighter to move, but they transport water, fertilizer, and air to plant roots more quickly.
- The perfect potting mix does not contain soil or garden dirt. It’s composed of peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, sand, and shredded bark or compost.
- Start with the basic recipe below and then add soil sulfur to lower the pH or lime to raise the pH, according to the needs of your plants. Both additives are sold in 4-pound bags and are found at garden centers. Plants such as lettuce, Russian sage, and marigolds prefer sweet soil with a pH of about 7.5, while others are acid lovers, like ferns, asters, and strawberries. They need a pH of about 5.5 to 6.0. Here’s a list of more plants’ pH preferences.
- If rapid drainage is needed, as in the case of cacti, succulents, and lavender, add extra sand and perlite.
- For ferns and woodland flowers (like primrose) that require very moist conditions, include extra peat moss for water retention.
Basic Container Mix Recipe
1 bucket (2-½ gallons) peat moss
1 bucket (2-½ gallons) vermiculite and/or perlite
1 half bucket (1-¼ gallons) screened compost or composted cow manure
2 cups fine sand
2 cups pelleted time-release fertilizer
½ cup lime (to counter the acid of peat and keep the pH level near neutral)
Mix thoroughly. Makes enough to fill two 14-inch tubs or five 12-inch hanging baskets. Double or triple recipe for bigger containers.
How Much Mix Do You Need?
Potting mix is sold by volume (measured in quarts), and most pots are measured by their diameter. To translate quarts of mix into various pot sizes, use this quick reference.
Pots & Tubs
|Container Size||Amount Needed|
|24 inches by 6 inches||12 quarts|
|36 inches by 6 inches||20 quarts|
Wondering when and how to fertilize your containers? Here are some tips.
See our Growing Guides for advice on planting and growing popular vegetables, fruit, and flowers!
Do you make your own potting soil? Share your recipe in the comments below!