When it comes to potting soil, I never buy any; I make my own using regular compost and a few little extras. For me, this simplifies gardening and means I don’t have many different bags of compost lying around the allotment. If this interests you, read on to find out how I make my own mix.
Garden Soil Vs Potting Soil
It is essential to understand the difference between garden soil and potting soil. Garden soil is the soil found in your garden, typically consisting of heavy particles, such as sand, clay, and other cheaper additives that don’t perform well in containers.
On the other hand, potting soil is a mixture that incorporates various ingredients to create an optimal environment for plant roots in containers. Potting mix is lighter, richer and fluffier than garden soil, allowing for better drainage, aeration, and healthier root growth.
Potting Soil Ingredients
A good potting soil mix contains a combination of these ingredients:
- Organic matter: This can include peat moss, coir, compost, or well-rotted manure, providing nutrients and improving water retention.
- Inorganic matter: Materials like vermiculite, perlite, or sand help improve drainage and aeration, ensuring that plant roots do not become waterlogged.
- Fertilisers: Slow-release fertilisers give plants the essential nutrients they need for optimal growth.
Importance of Drainage and Aeration
Drainage and aeration are critical factors in a potting soil mix. Excessive moisture, caused by poor drainage, can lead to root rot or other diseases. A well-draining, aerated potting mix prevents waterlogging, allows oxygen to reach the roots, and encourages beneficial microbial activity. Inorganic materials like perlite, vermiculite, or sand can improve drainage and aeration in a potting mix.
Benefits of Using a DIY Potting Mix
Using a high-quality potting mix offers several advantages for container gardeners:
- Promotes healthy root growth: The light, fluffy texture enables roots to grow easily and access the oxygen and water they require.
- Customisable: DIY potting mixes allow gardeners to tailor the ingredients to the specific needs of their plants.
- Cost-effective: Making your own potting mix can save money compared to store-bought options.
- Consistent results: Creating a suitable mix maintains a stable plant growing environment, leading to better overall health and growth.
MY DIY Potting Soil Mix Recipe
Creating your own potting soil mixes can be beneficial for container gardening, as you can tailor the mix to suit the specific needs of each plant better. This section will discuss three different DIY potting soil mix recipes for various purposes: All-Purpose Potting Mix, Water Retaining Mix, and Fast-Draining Mix for Succulents and Cacti.
All-Purpose Potting Mix
An all-purpose potting mix suits the majority of gardening needs. This recipe is a soilless mix, making it lightweight and well-draining for containers. To prepare this mix, combine the following ingredients:
- 1 part 6x chicken manure
- 1 part perlite or vermiculite
- 10 parts multi-purpose compost
I like to make my mix using a wheelbarrow as my bucket. Chuck all the ingredients in and give it a really good mix.
Water Retaining Mix
This is my special mix for smaller containers which tend to dry out quickly. Essentially we are just increasing the amount of vermiculite in the mix.
Vermiculite expands and soaks up water before slowly releasing it over time. So the more vermiculite you have, the slower your mix will dry out.
- 1 part 6x chicken manure
- 2 parts vermiculite
- 10 parts multi-purpose compost
- (can also add water-retaining gel if you want)
Fast-Draining Mix for Succulents and Cacti
Succulents and cacti require a well-draining mix to prevent root rot and promote healthy growth. This fast-draining mix recipe consists of coarse sand, and perlite, providing excellent drainage for these dessert plants. To prepare this mix, combine the following ingredients:
Each of these DIY potting soil mix recipes addresses specific gardening requirements. By creating your own mixes, you can offer a personalised growing medium for the plants in your container garden. Just remember that homemade potting soils may need additional fertilisation over time to replenish nutrients that plants require.
Tips for Successful Potting Mix Management
Moisture Retention and Consistency
A key factor to consider when creating a potting mix is moisture retention. Ensure that the mix can hold water well to keep the plants hydrated. One option is to use a soilless blend containing coconut coir, which provides excellent water retention properties. This helps maintain consistent moisture levels for seedlings and cuttings, promoting healthy growth.
What I like to do is to add vermiculite. Vermiculite rapidly expands and can take on a lot of water; this water is then slowly released over time.
Container-grown plants can quickly burn through the nutrition in their pots, that is why lots of potting composts are very rich.
I like to add the fibrous 6x to my mix to increase the nutrient levels, but fish blood and bone is another popular choice.
Adapting the Mix for Specific Plant Needs
Customising the potting mix based on specific plant needs is crucial for optimal growth. Fine-tune the mix composition by considering factors such as plant type, life stage, and specific nutrient requirements.
When adapting the potting mix for specific plants, follow these steps:
- Research your plant’s preferences regarding soil composition, pH levels, and nutrient content.
- Select and combine the necessary ingredients in correct ratios for each plant type.
- Adjust the potting mix as needed:
- Use lighter, finer-textured mixes for starting seeds and rooting cuttings.
- Incorporate well-rotted manure, homemade compost, or worm castings as a nutrient source.
- Amend the mix with specific fertilisers or pH adjusters as required by your plants.
With these tips, you will be well on your way to mastering potting mix management, providing your plants with the best possible growing environment.