Buying that inexpensive bag of potting soil to fill your containers may seem like the best choice when preparing container gardens, but it rarely is. According to Dawn Pettinelli, manager of the Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory at the University of Connecticut, the ingredients in potting soil are not regulated by either state or federal governments. The composition of the potting soil varies among manufacturers and may not meet the needs of your plants. Many potting soil mixes are heavy and dense and compact easily with repeated waterings. Making your own potting media allows you to control the ingredients in your soil.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Potting soil
- Peat moss
- Perlite or vermiculite
Pour 1 bushel of all-purpose potting soil into a large barrel or container for mixing. Although commercial potting soil may be too heavy to use as is, it provides a good base for your potting mix.
Add 1 bushel of peat moss. Moisten the peat moss with a sprayer, if necessary to facilitate easy handling. Peat moss is compressed into bags. Once opened it may be "fly-away," and be difficult to handle. Moistening peat moss makes it more manageable.
Measure and add 1 bushel of perlite or vermiculite to the peat moss and potting soil mixture. Coarse builder's sand can be substituted, but it is heavy and more difficult to move or store. Perlite or vermiculite is a convenient alternative that serves the same purpose.
Mix the potting soil, peat moss and perlite thoroughly to evenly distribute all particles. Add moisture if necessary. Soil should be slightly damp to the touch.
Add 1/2 cup of balanced fertiliser, such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of lime to the mixture and mix to blend. Always refer to the application rate on the container when adding lime or fertiliser, as products vary.
Fill plant pots or containers with the mixture and plant as usual. The potting mixture is suitable for both flowers and vegetables as it promotes drainage, increases aeration and is lightweight and friable.
Tips and warnings
- Observe all safety precautions when handling lime as it can easily burn exposed skin or irritate mucus membranes. Long sleeves and gloves are recommended.
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