How to Make Potting Soil

How to Make Potting Soil

How to Make Potting Soil

The Biggest gardening secret is good soil.  Whether it’s a traditional row garden, raised garden beds or pots – the plants will only be as good as the soil they are planted in.

It’s true.

Good soil = Huge tomatoes

Terrible soil = no tomatoes

When growing plants in pots – the soil is even more critical.

Potting Soil is not garden soil.  It is not dirt.  It is not compost.

Potting soil is different.

You see, plants in pots have different needs than plants in row gardens, raised beds or the front landscaping.

Plants in pots are living in dire circumstances:

  1. They get super hot (due to the small amount of dirt in the pot).
  2. They get watered so often that the nutrients in the soil are quickly washed away.
  3. They have the potential to be more compacted than any other soil because of all the watering.  Compacted soil means squashed roots.  Squashed roots will eventually kill the plant.

If the correct ration of fluff to compost isn’t used in pots you can end up with sunken, compacted, suffocating soil in a couple of short weeks.

Using the right potting soil will make all the difference.

Roots need air, water, and soil

It is important that the soil in pots support these requirements.

Potting soil can be purchased.  Thankfully for all of us DIYers it is easy to make.

Potting Soil: 

Making your own soil is simple and will save you money.

Here are potting soil requirements:

  1. Must allow for air and water to flow to the roots
  2. Must be solid enough to support plants
  3. Must prevent compaction
  4. Must be clean (no weeds or diseases)

To make potting soil you only need 3 ingredients.  Peat Moss, Perlite & Compost.  You can buy them at most garden centers.  I like to use my own compost (mostly because it’s free).

Peat Moss (you can also use shredded coconut husks) – This is what will keep your plants hydrated.  It will retain water like a beast.  This stuff is also nearly impossible to get wet when it first comes to your place.  Be sure to wet it before mixing in the rest of the ingredients.  Combine the peat moss with plenty of water in a large container and let sit 1-2 days to moisten.

Perlite – is ground up, lightweight, volcanic rock. – This is what will give your roots air and circulation. Perlite is the white chunks in potting soil that look like Styrofoam.

Compost (make sure it is finished – not hot) – This is the bang in the soil.  The compost will give your plants the food they need to grow into healthy, strong, giant plants that roll out of your containers and make you smile… at least for a few weeks it will.

You can make a small batch in a bucket or an enormous batch in a wheelbarrow.

Dump the peat moss into a giant container and add water.

Yes, it was snowing in April… 🙁

Add water until all the peat moss is nice and moist.  You do not want water puddling or pooling just nice and damp.
Let this sit overnight.  The next day the peat moss will have absorbed the water and expanded a bit.

The next day, add the perlite and compost.

Use a shovel to stir well.

And it’s done!

Potting Tips

  1. Do not add gravel to the bottom of pots (this actually reduces drainage).  Gravel will also take up space and reduce the amount of soil in the pot.  Potted plants need all the soil they can get.
  2. This potting mix recipe is appropriate for fruit, vegetables or flowers.
  3. When planting, leave room for plants to grow.  It’s like leaving space in a pan for rolls to rise.
  4. Consider emptying your pots and refilling them with fresh potting soil every couple of years.

Happy Planting!



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