How To Make Potting Soil for Containers

Are you tired of spending time and money on bags of garden potting soil with questionable ingredients?

Do you want to learn to make healthy, organic potting soil for your container vegetable gardens and hanging baskets?

When you know how to make potting soil for containers, you won’t have to head to the store every time you want to start seeds, pot up plants, or fill baskets.

Making your own organic potting soil lowers your eco footprint, saves you time and money, and gives you control over the ingredients.

Your plants will thank you for it!

Why should you make your own potting soil?

Commercial or store bought potting soil isn’t always what it seems.

The labels Organic and Natural are misleading marketing terms that can be used by any company without certification to back them up.

Poor labelling, deceptive ingredient lists and varying quality makes it difficult to know for certain what you are buying.

It is safer

Commercial potting soil could contain chemical fertilizers that are toxic to kids and pets, antibiotics and hormones from feedlot animal manure, styrofoam or even biosolids (yuck). 

These ingredients may pose a problem if you want to grow as organically as possible.

It has a lower carbon footprint 

Even the best potting soil brands contain peat moss and vermiculite, both non-renewable resources obtained by environmentally destructive mining processes.

Peat moss is harvested from Canadian sphagnum moss bogs in a way that damages ecosystems and contributes to land degradation.

If you are concerned about the environment, these might not be the right choice for you.

There are sustainable alternatives

The good news is that you don’t need these ingredients to make the best soil for potted plants. 

There are other materials that, like peat, are lightweight, and improve drainage, water retention and air circulation.

These organic, renewable materials are cheaper (often free) and the best part is, you will know exactly what is in your potting soil.

Materials such as homemade garden compost, well-rotted manure, leaf mold, mushroom compost, and wood waste (like shredded tree trimmings) all make great potting soil ingredients and the best potting mix for vegetables.

Learn more about hot or cold methods of composting to find what works for you.

Another sustainable peat alternative on the market is Coconut Coir, a byproduct of the coconut industry in Southeast Asia. This is sold in small dehydrated bales or bricks.

If you are lucky enough to have backyard chickens (first, find out if it is legal in your area), you have direct access to the world’s best organic fertilizer!

Sourcing organic materials

Good potting soil should contain the correct balance of materials to create air pockets, hold moisture, and fertilize plants.

There are many ways to source organic materials. These may include using your own compost, sourcing green waste from your local neighbours or businnes or even using manure from your back yard hens!

What you need to make the best potting soil for containers

The following recipe offers the best potting soil mixture ratio to support good root growth.

What You Need

  • 2 parts finished compost
  • 2 parts coconut coir or pine bark mulch
  • 1 part perlite or clean builder’s sand
  • Worm castings
  • Liquid kelp
  • Small trowel and fork
  • Large container for mixing
  • square-o
    Garden sieve
  • square-o
    Access to water
  • square-o
    Dust mask
  • square-o
    Sealed container for storage

How to make your own potting soil in six steps

Making your own potting soil can be done in six easy steps. Here's what you need to do:

Step #1. Gather your ingredients 

Make sure you have all of your ingredients and tools on hand before you begin.

It is easiest to make potting soil outside, but if you need to make it indoors, use a large container and lay down a tarp or newspaper in your laundry room, mudroom, or kitchen for easier clean up.

Step #2. Rehydrate your coconut coir

Coconut coir typically comes dehydrated in compacted bricks, so you will need to rehydrate it before adding it to your potting soil mix.

You will need access to water, your fork and trowel and your large container for this step.

To learn exactly how to rehydrate compressed coconut coir bricks, check out this video:

Step #3. Screen your compost

Before you use your compost, you may need to sift out rocks, clumps or kitchen scraps or debris that didn’t fully break down (like avocado pits).

For optimal, even texture, you will want to screen your compost through a garden sieve with ¼ inch mesh before adding it to your mix.

Sift your compost directly into the container with the coconut coir and mix together.

To learn more about why you should screen your compost with a sifter, watch this video:

Step #4. Add the perlite or builder’s sand

Be sure to wear your dust mask if you are using perlite - it isn’t safe to inhale the fine particles.

Perlite and builder’s sand are intended to lighten your potting soil mix, so add one part at a time and mix thoroughly.

Step #5. Store in sealed container

When your potting soil is thoroughly mixed, store it in a large plastic storage tote or a garbage can. Keep it dry and light for easier storage and transport.

Store the large batch here until you are ready to do some gardening.

Step #6. Add your nutrition boosters

When you want to use your potting soil, it is time to add your nutrition boosters or fertilizers. Two incredible ingredients organic gardeners love for healthy, vibrant plants are worm castings and liquid kelp fertilizer.

Boost your plants every 2-3 weeks with these super foods.

At this point, depending on what you want to grow, you may need to adjust the basic potting soil ratios according to the needs of the plants.

And there you have it! A delicious chocolate potting soil ready to use! Need some inspiration on what to plant? Why not check out this easy step by step on How To Grow Broccoli in Containers

Customize your organic soil mix 

  1. The best potting soil mix recipe for container vegetable gardening should increase moisture retention. Add more organic materials, like compost, for better water absorption.
  1. The best soil for container gardening tomatoes has nutrients that support fruit growth. Boost soil mix with bone meal and/or kelp fertilizer every two weeks.
  1. Want to know how to make potting soil for indoor plants, like cactus, succulents, or lavender? The mix needs good drainage. Mix in sand or small stones and add a layer of stones to the bottom of your container.

    If you have made your scrumptious soil, you may want to use it now! Check out our article on how to grow moss and cosmos flowers, for some great ideas on how to use home-made soil in your garden!
  1. For starting seeds you need lightweight, low nutrient mix. Increase the coco coir amount and leave out your nutritional boosters.

Do It Yourself Organic Potting Soil

If you want to become more self-reliant and grow healthy, sustainable food in containers, making your own organic soil mix might be the way to go.

It is great to have a large batch on hand for gardening season.

You will always be ready to start a new garden or pot up plants, your plants will thrive, plus you’ll learn a new skill to share with others!

Have you tried making your own potting soil?

Let us know in the comments. If you enjoyed this article and tutorial, please share on social media.

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