Garden Basics

DIY Potting Mix For Container Gardening

One of the most important aspects of plant care and success in your container garden is potting mix.

Potting mixes are typically composed of soil, coarse sand, peat or compost, and fertilizer. When choosing a potting soil recipe for container gardening, you want to be sure it's appropriate for plants you're growing in containers, as well as your geographical location.

In this article, I'll list my favorite homemade potting soil recipes that will help you start with your container garden!

The soil your plant is in will determine the health of its future. If you don't provide it with proper food, drainage, and correct pH, no matter how beautiful that final product might be, it will not last long-term.

Container gardens and potted plants provide another challenge in that there are not the same opportunities for plants to gather nutrients or moisture from deep within a soil.

A garden container is a closed environment, making it difficult for plants to grow as they do not have the same opportunities to get nutrients as those grown in garden beds. We need to set up the conditions in our pots to be successful from day one!

For the number of containers I use in my garden, it's much cheaper to make your homemade potting soil and store it in an old trash can. Plus, you're able to customize the mix for a variety of different plants!

If you need potting soil for one small container, it may be more economical to buy a premade organic potting soil. Making your own is only good on large scales and long-term projects as the process can take up lots of time that could otherwise be spent planting!

Measurements For DIY Potting Soil

measuring-diy-container-potting-mix

A "part" measurement can be anything. It is not a specific measurement, but you could use it any way that was helpful to you.

One "part" could be a cup, one gallon, a liter, one scoop, a bucket or one handful of something.

Put every ingredient into the bucket, wheelbarrow or any other container and mix it all.

Using Peat In Your Potting Mixture

old-abandoned-peat-extraction-area

If you're worried about the effects of peat on the environment, there are a few options. You can use coir fiber, compost or bark chips as an alternative to peat in your container mix.

If you are using peat, always add a handful or two of garden lime to the mix, as it will help balance out the acidity.

REQUIREMENT

PRODUCTS

Moisture retention

Peat, coco coir, vermiculite, sphagnum or water retaining crystals

drainage

tree bark, perlite or sand (builders sand)

nutrient rich matter

compost or manure

aeration

perlite

acidic

peat 

alkaline

garden lime

fertilizer

organic slow release or water soluble fertilizer

General All-Purpose Potting Soil Mix

mixing-homemade-potting-soil

This recipe is for an outdoor general all round potting mix that can be used for many different plants.

This is a good recipe when you're getting started and don't know what kind of soil your specific type of plant prefers.

  • 6 parts Topsoil or your garden soil
  • 2 parts Coconut coir or peat for its water holding capacity
  • 2 parts Compost for micronutrients
  • Half part worm castings

General All-Purpose Soilless Potting Mix

soilless-potting-mix

You might think that a soilless mix is just soil, but it's not. It is simply organic matter mixed, without the help of inorganic materials like sand or clay, which means it technically isn't soil either!

This recipe is perfect because it's not too heavy yet still has a lot of water-holding capacity.

It also contains some organic fertilizer from the compost, which will help provide nutrients and micronutrients for your plants.

  • 3 parts peat or coco coir
  • 1 part compost
  • Half part perlite for good drainage
  • Half part worm castings

Orchid Potting Mix

potting-orchid

This orchid potting mix is a general recipe for all types of orchids, but if you grow an orchid that requires high humidity, you would want to add more sphagnum moss and/or sphagnum peat moss to this mix.

Orchids don't need soil, but they do need good aeration and drainage.

  • 3 parts medium fir bark
  • 1 part perlite
  •  part sphagnum moss or coconut coir

Cacti and Succulents Homemade Potting Mix

Potting-cacti-and-succulents

This DIY potting mix recipe is a great start for growing cacti and succulents.

Cacti and succulent plants are drought tolerant and require little water.

This recipe helps with aeration and drainage while holding some moisture in the potting soil.

  • 1 part peat or coco coir
  • 2 parts sand
  • 1 part perlite

Fern Potting Mix

Maidenhair-Fern-in-container

If you are interested in growing ferns, start by checking that they will get the right amount of water and light.

Ferns need a lot of humidity, typically found near densely forested areas where many plants are around them.

This soil should also have good drainage to avoid being too wet or dry for long periods.

  • 1 part compost
  • 1 part garden soil or topsoil
  • 1 part peat or coco coir
  • 1 part perlite or coarse sand or gravel

Indoor Plant Potting Soil Mixture

indoor-plants

Indoor and outdoor plants have different requirements.

The potting mix should have good drainage for indoor houseplants, so plant roots don't sit in water for long periods. It also needs to be able to hold some moisture and nutrients.

  • 2 parts peat or coco coir.
  • 1 part compost.
  • 1 part perlite

Acidic Potting mix for Acid Loving Plants (Ericaceous)

azalea-in-container

Ericaceous plants such as gardenias, hydrangeas, blueberries, conifers, ferns, dogwoods and maples, and azaleas camellias, rhododendrons prefer acidic soil, so this potting mix is perfect for them.

  • 5 parts peat or coco coir
  • 2 parts perlite
  • 1 part sand
  • 1 part compost
  • 1 part garden soil/topsoil

Hanging Basket Potting Mix

plant-in-hanging-basket-next-to-water-feature

Potting soil for hanging baskets needs to be lightweight and have good drainage.

They need a potting mix that can retain moisture, or else they will dry out very quickly.

  • 1 part peat or coco coir
  • 1 part compost
  • Half part perlite
  • A handful of water-retaining crystals

The advantages of using soilless mixes are that they absorb moisture very well and resist compaction but dry out quickly.

One advantage is the sterile environment. It keeps from introducing pests or diseases.

The soilless mixes do not contain any nutrients, which means you need to provide your plants with a consistent fertilizer supply.

Takeaways

If you are concerned with the effects on the environment when using peat, chose the alternatives listed.

Plants will need to be fertilized, a good idea is organic fertilizer which could depend on the plant of your choice.

Some people choose potting as an art form or hobby and it’s important for them to know how much nutrients their plants require so they can purchase the appropriate levels of food (organic)

When planting up a few container plants, getting a good organic store-bought mix would be more economical.

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