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Posted by Kim Green

How to Make Your Own (*Much Cheaper) Potting Soil

Those premixed potting soils promise everything, a rich mixture with added nutrition, and they generally deliver—everything except economy.

Purchasing bags of premixed potting soil is a wonderful convenience if you have only a few pots to fill. But with almost fifty open maws to feed in our garden, we seek another option: homemade potting mixes.

Many pots to fill

The basic ingredients in most recipes:

  • Peat moss
  • Compost or well-composted manure
  • Perlite
  • Garden soil
  • Balanced slow-release fertilizer (to be scratched into each container)

We begin by digging out a third to a half of last season’s soil from the containers. Never use last season’s soil. It has done its job and is now depleted. Nor should you dig up soil from your garden; it compacts far too quickly and may create drainage problems.

Next, in a couple of wheelbarrows, we mix: (Note: This is OUR mixture and seems to work for us. Others may choose different recipes. If you search the internet, you will surely find a soil mix that satisfies you.)

  • Two parts of compost and/or composted manure
  • One part of peat moss (I buy a three-cubic-foot bale.) (Retains moisture)
  • One part or a bit less of perlite

Your containers will also need a starting dose of balanced, slow-release fertilizer to give them a boost. Avoid overdoing this step to prevent burning your plants. Add fertilizer again every few weeks as part of your maintenance regimen.

If you aim for quick drainage, add a bit of sand. If you are planting succulents, leave out much of the peat moss and add a good deal more sand since succulents need more sharply-drained, drier soil. We mix a wheelbarrow-full at a time and transfer the mixture to a large covered garbage can for use as needed.

Container planting time has become quite busy. We’ve even given it a name: the “Annual Annual Day,” which has gradually spread over almost a week of mixing and digging. It’s a labor of love.