Now you can reduce the cost of container gardening by making container potting soil at home. It will cost you a few bucks and give the full control over the nature of plant soil. These days nobody has enough time to set up a large outdoor garden. Most people like to grow herbs, vegetables, fruits, and houseplants in a different type of containers at home. For this purpose homemade Plant soil is best.
You cannot use garden soil in containers because it will increase your work and your plants easily get infected by many plant diseases.
Below are my DIY potting soil recipes that I use to cut my container gardening cost to half. I use this potting soil in my 37 plant containers.
What is Container potting soil?
The first question that comes into mind is what is this potting soil. The most important thing you need to know is potting soil does not contain real soil. It has a blend of different ingredients like peat moss, coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, etc. Potting soil and potting mixes are the same things.
It is the most suitable soilless mixture for growing plants in containers. Whether you are growing tomatoes, lettuce, lime tree, basil, mint, etc soilless potting mix is the best choice. It is ideal for starting seeds, growing from cuttings, hanging plant baskets, garden raised beds, for all containerized plants.
Before going for the mix, let’s understand what are characteristics of good container potting soil.
It doesn’t matter you make your soil at home or buy it from the market the plant-soil should have the following qualities that make it good or bad.
- Potting mix soil has better draining capabilities than the normal soil that we have in our garden.
- It is light in weight and gives extra room to plant roots
- Easy to handle
- Less prone to plant diseases.
- Shows good resistance to insect and microbial attacks
In garden nurseries, we saw so many types of potting soils each with different nutritional values, purpose, texture, and water holding capacities. The good news is you can make every type of soil at home by mixing the right ingredients in the correct ratio. This way you can save a huge amount on potting soils.
Your knowledge of mixing different soilless ingredients will decide how your soil acts when you grow plants in it.
So read this article till the end and then decide which type of soil is best for your specific types of plants.
The light mixture is best to use for starting seeds and cuttings whereas potting trees want little heavy mixture and you need to mix more amount of Coarse sand and other similar material.
Cactus and succulents like to thrive in sandy soil as they thrive in desert soil.
When it comes to growing fruits and vegetables all-purpose potting mix is best to use.
More than 14 types of potting soil are available in the markets but this doesn’t mean you need different soil mix for every plant that you have in your garden. This will increase the gardening cost and we are talking about how to reduce the container gardening cost by making Potting soil by yourself.
With my soil recipes, you can make soil for every plant type by using the same materials (just add or subtract one or more material together).
What are the potting ingredients that you can use to make potting soil at home?
99% of the potting mixes contain following soilless ingredients.
It is also called coconut coir and coco fiber a by-product of coconut processing factories. It has a good amount of nutrients but we cannot say it has everything that plants need to grow. You still need to give fertilizers to your plants to full fill their nutritional needs.
Coir is a little expensive than peat moss and comes in the form of bricks. Before using it, you need to soak it into the water so that the brick can expand in size and you have a good amount of coir.
No need to set the pH level of it because it already has pH towards the neutral side.
Botanicare is one of the top manufacturers of coco coir bricks.
Sand is used to making potting mixes for the cactus and other succulents. These plants do not require much water. Therefore, we need such a type of soil that has a good tendency for draining water quickly. The high amount of sand is mixed along with other ingredients to make cacti soil (the full formula is explained below in this post).
The soil that we make by using peat moss has to be treated with limestone to adjust it’s pH to a neutral level. 1/3 cup of limestone is enough for the 6 gallons of peat moss. Lime is an inexpensive material and comes in ready to use form means not soaking, no treatment. Just open the pack and add it to the peat moss containing potting soil.
If you see the ingredients list of any pre-made potting mix you will see peat moss in high quantity. The reason is it is the light, stable, and inexpensive soilless ingredient. Even if you added it in bulk it does not increase the weight of the mix. Peat moss is widely available in all garden stores.
Another plus point is it has good draining abilities that makes it suitable in almost every type of potting mix. When you add peat moss you need to add limestone because peat has a pH level between 3.5 to 4.5 means this is on the acidic side. Limestone increases the pH level and makes it less acidic and more neutral.
Perlite is a volcanic rock that has tiny pores in it. These pores hold water in them and supply it to plant roots when needed. It is lightweight, neutral pH, and inexpensive. When workers get perlite from mines, they heat it to a certain temperature this expands it and we get small white rocks.
The main benefit of using perlite in home-made container soil is it has extremely good water holding capabilities. When gardener gives water to perlite it stores water in it and keeps the environment safe for plant roots. Whenever plant needs water, the roots get it from the perlite pores (water is stored in perlite pores).
Vermiculite is a mineral that is naturally found in mines. The same heating process is used for making perlite and vermiculite. The difference is in the nature of substance, vermiculite has a fair amount of calcium and magnesium while perlite doesn’t contain any nutritional substance. The main purpose of adding it to the DIY container soil is to increase the porosity of the soil. This gives good aeration environment to plant roots and also doubles the water holding abilities of soil.
Homemade potting soil should contain a good amount of fertilizers because peat-based soil mixes do not contain nutrients. Plants need a high amount of nutrients to grow healthy and strong. Lack of essential nutrients results in improper growth and loss of plants in rare cases.
Avoid using synthetic fertilizers in homemade soil for containers plants, they just contain a bunch of chemicals and no natural ingredient. Fertilizer should be natural, derived from plants, a by-product of animals, or manure.
I use many types of organic fertilizers for my container plants. Those having no experience of fertilization can use the pre-made organic fertilizers like
It is good if you can make compost at home by using a kitchen or garden waste and then use this compost in the potting mix. This rapidly increases the nutritional level of soil and also slowly releases nutrients to plants. This makes the continuous supply chain of nutrient supply to plants.
Remember you cannot use compost for seedlings because it is heavy for them and reduce the aeration which is required in the seedling stage. Never use it for starting seeds.
Note: A good quality of DIY potting soil should be lightweight, fluffy, and easy to control.
How you can make your own soil for your plants?
Homemade potting soil allows you to control the growing environment of plants. You can make different types of potting mixes at home for different plant species.
Below are the 6 best homemade potting soil recipes that you can use to make the best soil for your plants. Use mixer, compost tumbler, or bucket to mix different potting ingredients.
Potting Soil recipes
This recipe is best for growing vegetables, tropical plants, and flowers of all types.
6 gallons of peat or coco coir + 4 gallons of perlite + ¼ limestone to adjust pH of peat + 1 cup of organic fertilizer.
This formula is perfect for growing small trees and shrubs in big pots.
3 gallons compost (tree and shrubs need slow nutrients) + 2 gallons of Sand + 3 gallons Coir or peat but coir is best + 2.5 gallons perlite + 3 tablespoons of LIME + 1 big cup or two small cups of fertilizer.
The third Recipe is for Cactus and other Succulents
3 gallons peat or coir + 1 gallon of Perlite + 1 gallon vermiculite + 1 tablespoon of Lime + 1 gallon of Sand.
2 gallon of Coconut coir + 1 gallon perlite + 2 tablespoon of Lime + 1 cup of Fertilizer.
Soil for Seedlings
1 gallon of Coco Coir or peat + 1 gallon of vermiculite + half-gallon of compost + 1 tablespoon of Lime + 1 tablespoon of organic fertilizer.
Note: Use the homemade soil as soon as possible but if you want to store it then put it in a sealed plastic bag and stored in a cool and dry place away from sunlight.