How to make your own super potted potted soil

Filed in: Garden.

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You can find any number of potting mixes on the market, but making your own advantages offers many advantages. On the one hand, you will know exactly what it implies. For example, if you want to be 100% organic, you can avoid all the chemicals that commercial manufacturers commonly use, such as wetting agents and pesticides that you do not want in your pots.

You can also reduce gardening costs while using the resources you have in your garden. It is an additional incentive to compost each piece of organic waste generated in the house and garden. But more than anything, it feels good to be self-sufficient as a gardener.

What is needed to prepare a potting soil for general purpose?

A potting soil is as good as the ingredients that are made. Unlike garden soil that is continually subject to changes due to exposure to the elements, you can have more control over the structure, composition and nutrient content of the soil.

To facilitate the optimal functioning of the root and provide adequate drainage, the best soil for pots is light and ventilation. At the same time, it must have enough structural integrity to support the plant. Water registration should be avoided at any cost; It is the number one killer of potted plants. But the soil must have sufficient water retention capacity. However, it should not be compacted too much since moisture dries up between waterings.

Potting soil must be able to provide a continuous supply of all the different nutrients that plants need to grow. When it comes to nutrients, it is easier to be more precise with potting soil, but plants can quickly deplete the limited amount present in the given amount, leading to soil deterioration. Keep in mind that potting soil requires frequent filling, and that the appropriate inputs must come from us to maintain its quality.

Ingredients of a soil for general purpose pots

Garden soil

The soil unearthed from your garden can form an important part of your soil mix because of its immediate availability. The clay soil is the best; it retains the right amount of water for the plants, allows air circulation and the race of the roots, and supports the beneficial organisms of the soil. If the soil is too sandy, it drains too quickly, which requires frequent watering. Sand It is mainly silica and has very little to offer in terms of nutrition to the plants or microbes in the soil.

On the other hand, clay soil has very fine particles that compact easily, preventing the movement of air and water through the soil. This results in the accumulation of water and the growth of undesirable organisms, such as mold, that grow in a constant humidity. When they are dry, the roots of the plants have difficulty growing deeply in the compacted clay soil.

This is an easy test to find out if the soil in your garden is too clayey or sandy: water the soil and wait five minutes. Then, take a handful and squeeze it in your palm. Open the palm and look at the texture now. If the soil stays together temporarily but gets undone when you move your hand a little, you have a silty soil. The sandy soil will collapse easily, but the clay will maintain its shape. Whatever type of garden soil you have, it is possible to amend the soil by adding organic matter in the form of manure or compost.


Perlite is a whitish inorganic material that is formed from a type of volcanic glass when heated to a very high temperature to make it porous. It is extracted in some parts of the country and processed for use in agriculture due to its light texture and the ability to maintain air and water while allowing good drainage.

It is commonly used in potting soil for the same reasons. The pearlite is especially good for seeds, as it is sterile and light enough to facilitate the sprouting of seeds and the roots of tender plants. Concerns about the depletion of this natural resource and the environmental impact of mining and transport have reduced its use slightly lately, but an adequate substitute has not yet been found.


This is another natural inorganic material that consists mainly of silica. Like perlite, it has a water retention capacity combined with good drainage. As a sterile medium for plant growth, it is often used only in soilless gardening, such as hydroponics, or in combination with soil and other materials in potting mixes. Bulbs and tubers are often stored in dry vermiculite, since it prevents rot by absorbing excess water from them without drying them.

Vermiculite It is ideal for seed booting; Even pearlite is considered superior because it retains water for much longer. In addition, it has more to offer to the plants as a nutrition. When added to a clay soil, vermiculite increases drainage and air circulation through the mixture. It is equally good for sandy soil, as it helps retain more water and nutrients.

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Sand, particularly river sand, has some of the properties of perlite and vermiculite, and can be used instead in almost all types of potting soil. Almost completely made of silica, it is heavy and helps to anchor the plants. It can not contain much water or nutrients, but allows good drainage. The easy availability in almost any part of the country makes it a good complement for pots.


The compost is made of vegetable and animal waste that can decompose until it decomposes into a dark colored material with a uniform dark color and no unpleasant odor. Just like the soil in your garden, all the compost to your potting soil can be obtained without any additional expense if Do it in your own yard.

If you have a compost pile, you can throw all the kitchen and garden waste into it and let nature do its magic, turning it into rich compost. It is not without reason that compost is often called black gold in gardening circles. It is rich in organic compounds and minerals that can be used by your plants for luxury growth. It also contains billions of microbes that help keep the soil well balanced. Compost increases soil water retention as well.

The compost of your pile can be used directly on garden beds after aerating it and testing its pH level. The finished compost should be ideally neutral or slightly acidic. When used in potting soil, the compost must be well ventilated and filtered to obtain particles of uniform size without hard materials such as bones and stones.

Recommended reading: Composting 101: How to make compost that works as rocket fuel for your garden


Manure It is the waste of animals that is generated on farms that raise cattle, horses, turkeys or chickens. Fresh manure must be allowed to rot and age before it can be used in potting mixes. Well-rotted manure has a texture similar to compost and does not have an unpleasant odor.

Sheet mold

The mold of the leaf is partially composted, leaves crushed. You can add organic matter to the soil such as compost and manure, but it does not provide as much nutrition because it decomposes very slowly.

Peat / sphagnum moss

The peat or sphagnum moss is an amorphous, partially decomposed material of organic origin, which is usually found in soaked swamps. It is often used as a filler in soil mixtures. When fully moistened before use, it retains water and nutrients for long periods, but once allowed to dry, it resists wetting. The use of peat increases the acidity, so it is used as a soil amendment for alkaline soils. When mixed with neutral garden soil, limestone should be added to reduce acidity.

Coconut marrow

This organic product comes from coconut shells that are processed to obtain coconut fiber fibers for other industrial uses. The coconut marrow is aged or composted to form additive coconut fiber from the soil or coconut peat. Marketed as an alternative to peat, whose overexploitation is now a cause for environmental concern, coir is a good wetting and loading agent, but has no nutrients that plants can use.


Limestone It is a natural mineral substance that has calcium carbonate and magnesium salts. Although plants need these minerals, limestone is used mainly in the soil of pots or in the garden to reduce acidity. Calcitic limestone and dolomite are the two types of limestone commonly used; the first consists mainly of calcium carbonate with very low levels of magnesium, while dolomite has both minerals in more or less equal amounts.

Mix a potting soil for general use

You do not necessarily need all the above ingredients to make your potting soil, but you will need some organic materials and some inorganic materials mainly because of the nutritional benefits they offer. You will also need at least one of the materials that ensure good drainage because plants hate sitting in standing water.

For the simplest potting soil you will need:

2 parts of garden soil
1 parts of compost
1 parts pearlite / sand

The first two that you probably have in your yard; The third can be obtained at low cost from your nearest garden center.

If the soil in your garden is too sandy, you can improve water retention by changing the formula to:

2 parts of garden soil
1 parts of compost
1 part coir / peat (add 2-3 tablespoons of limestone to one gallon of peat to balance acidity)

How to enrich your mix for pots.

The garden soil and compost in your soil mix should meet most of the nutritional needs of your plants, but it is not a bad idea to add some prolonged-release organic fertilizers to the soil, such as bone meal, blood meal or emulsion. of fish. . 2-3 tablespoons per gallon would do. Inorganic natural fertilizers include rock phosphate, gypsum and limestone.

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In case you do not have enough land for the garden, or do not want to dig it up, you can opt for this mixture without planting:

2 parts of vermiculite
1 part peat moss / coir
1 part of compost
2 tablespoons bone meal / gallon
2 tablespoons limestone / gallon
2 tablespoons blood meal / gallon
2 tablespoons rock phosphate / gallon

Cactus soil

Most cactus and succulents need a quick means of drainage; otherwise they will rot. Although it is relatively cheap and easy to do.

Just mix together

1 part of free soil (you can also use a mixture of equal parts of soil and compost)
1 part of pearlite
1 part of sand

Testing the soil for pH

Once you have done your mixing, it is a good idea test your pH level. It is to know if it is acid or alkaline. Classified on a scale of 1 to 14, a pH of 7 is considered neutral. Any reading that falls below 7 is acidic, while higher numbers indicate alkalinity.

Most plants do well on a neutral soil, or a slightly acidic soil, so the general idea is to keep the pH reading as close as possible to 7. You can test the pH of your pot mix with a Home test kit available at garden centers or from here on Amazon.

Decomposing organic matter makes the soil slightly acidic, but the finished compost is more or less neutral. Adding a lot of compost to potting soil is the simplest way to neutralize acid and alkaline soils because it acts as a buffer.

Acid-loving plants

As we mentioned earlier, most plants like a neutral soil, but some thrive in an acid soil. Many shrubs such as azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons that grow naturally as understory plants along the edges of forests are used for the acidic soil that results from the accumulation of decaying leaves. So are peat blog plants, such as heathers and heathers. They are commonly known as ericaceous plants.

Here is a list of plants that love the acid that you may want to grow in pots:

Hydrangea, Gardenia, Magnolia, Azalea, Rhododendrons, Roses, Holly, Bilberries, Juniper, Ferns, Asters, Lettuce, Kale, Potato, Onions, Garlic

A good recipe for ericaceous potting soil would be 50% peat, 20% perlite, 10% sand and 10% garden soil and 10% sand. If you want to save peatlands, the coir is a respectful alternative to the environment if you can find it, but it is a poor substitute. Adding pine or sulfur needles can also help the soil turn acidic.

Plants that require sweet soil.

Some plants can not stand acid oil. They can do well in a neutral soil, but they do much better if the soil is on the sweeter side (unlike acid / sour soil). Soils rich in lime that have very little organic content are naturally alkaline, so if you use that type of garden soil in your potting mix, you can end up with alkaline soil without any effort. However, if you find that the prepared potting mix is ​​acidic and you want to grow geraniums, thyme or cucumbers, you can make amends by adding wood ash or powdered limestone.

The amount of lime added depends on the type of garden soil you used and the effective pH of the mixture. Potting mix that contains sandy soil may require much less lime than one that has clay soil. Good drainage is also important since water logging tends to make the soil acidic. If you intend to grow citrus trees Or peach tree in pots, make them happy by providing a sweet soil.

Some others that need alkaline soil are:

Lilies, Daisies, Poppy, Hyacinth, Saffron, Morning glory, Clematis, Artichoke, Leek, Swiss Chard

Solving common soil problems

After you have used your home potted soil for a certain time, you may recognize some deficiencies, such as soil dryness, mold growth or soil pests. Do not get discouraged You can approach them easily because you know exactly what the mixture contains.

It can increase organic matter (compost / manure / mold / peat / coir) to increase water retention. To reduce fungal growth, you can try to improve air and water circulation by adding more perlite. If pests are a problem, you have the option to use organic pesticides As neem oil or pasteurization, the mixture of slightly moistened soil in your oven is heated to 160 ° F for one hour.

It is a good idea to record the composition of the soil mix and the amendments used, if any. With experience, you can make different types of potting soil adapted to the plants you want to grow.

This article is an excerpt from our new Kindle book: 605 Secrets to a beautiful and generous organic garden: Internal secrets of a gardening superstar. Pick up a copy here and discover how to grow the healthiest vegetables and fruits, the largest flowers and tackle even the most frustrating dilemmas of the garden with totally natural and organic methods.

Reference:, by Susan Patterson

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