Making DIY soil for container gardening is easy, and it’s cheaper than buying the commercial stuff. In this post, I share two container soil mix recipes – one for hanging planters, and the other for pots sitting on the ground. Plus, I’ll show you exactly how to make potting soil for containers, step-by-step.
When it comes to growing plants in containers, you’ll probably find that your biggest cost will be buying the soil. So why not save yourself some money, and make DIY container soil instead.
Making DIY soil for container gardening is easy, and saves you money. These container soil recipes are simple to prepare, and require only a couple of common ingredients, which can be found at any garden center.
Preparing your own mix using these recipes will ensure that you’re using the best potting soil mix for container gardening.
Benefits Of Making DIY Container Potting Soil
You certainly can use a commercial potting mix in your containers, but there are tons of benefits of making your own.
Making your own bulk container soil is always much cheaper than buying a pre-made mix at the store.
Plus, you control the ingredients, so it’s easy to make sure your soil is organic, and doesn’t contain any added chemicals (which is especially important for growing food).
Another thing I love about making my own is that I can easily modify these container mix recipes if I need special soil for any of my container plants. That way, I’m always confident that I’m using the best mix for each type of plant I’m growing.
And, making large batches of my own bulk DIY container mix means I always have some on hand when I need it.
How To Make Potting Soil For Containers
These container soil recipes are simple to make, and use ingredients that are easy to find online or at any garden center or home improvement store.
Plus, these are common ingredients I use in my other organic potting soil recipes, so they’re very versatile! Here are the main ingredients…
Container Potting Soil Ingredients
Peat moss or coco coir *
Peat moss and coco coir are both great for water retention, aeration, and adding nutrients to the soil as they decompose. There are a few differences between the two. First, peat moss is more acidic than coir. Also, coir is the bi-product of coconut processing, so it’s a more sustainable resource than peat moss.
Compost or well composted manure
Container garden plants (especially edible plants) need tons of nutrients to get them through the growing season. Compost is an easy and natural way to add important nutrients and beneficial organisms into the soil. It also helps to retain moisture
Container soil needs to be light and porous, with good drainage. Perlite is a natural ingredient that prevents soil compaction, and adds drainage to these container garden soil mix recipes.
Another natural ingredient, vermiculite helps the soil retain moisture longer. It also works to keep the soil in planters light and fluffy, which helps with drainage and preventing compaction.
* if you prefer, you can use a general purpose soil mix instead of peat moss or coco coir as your base ingredient. I recommend buying an organic mix that doesn’t contain any added chemical fertilizers.
Along with your ingredients, you’ll also need a few supplies to prepare your homemade soil mix, and to fill your containers. So, before you begin, you might want to grab these items too…
- Measuring containers (I use a 1 gallon bucket as my measure, but you can use any size you want)
- Soil scoop
- Large garden tub or wheelbarrow
- Water (if your ingredients are really dry)
Outdoor Potting Mix Recipes For Containers
Below, I’ve included two container mix recipes so that you will be able to prepare the perfect mix depending on where you want to place your containers.
The general container garden soil recipe is great for using in containers that sit on the ground or on a sturdy base. Since the compost makes the soil much heavier, it’s not ideal for hanging pots.
The soilless container potting mix recipe is much lighter. So it’s perfect for use in any type of hanging baskets or planter boxes.
General Container Soil Mix Recipe
- 2 parts peat moss**, coco coir (pre-moistened), or potting soil
- 2 parts compost or composted manure
- 1 part perlite
- 1/4-1/2 parts vermiculite
Soilless Container Potting Mix Recipe
** If you use peat moss (which is acidic), you’ll need to also add one tablespoon of garden lime per gallon of peat moss in order to balance out the acidity to a neutral ph level.
What is a “part”? – A “part” is just a generic unit of measure, and it can be anything you want as long as you use the same type of measure for each “part”. So, for example if you use a 1 gallon measure as your part, then the soilless container mix recipe would convert to 2 gallons of peat/coir, 1 gallon perlite, and 1/4 – 1/2 gallon vermiculite.
How To Mix Soil For Container Gardening
To mix your DIY soil for container gardening, all you need to do is dump all of the ingredients into your garden tub or wheelbarrow. Then use a shovel to stir everything together until it’s well mixed.
If your ingredients are dry, then add a little water as you stir to moisten it. Once everything is thoroughly mixed together, your homemade container soil can be used right away.
Soil Amendments For Container Gardening
These two container gardening soil mix recipes are great, for most types of outdoor potted plants. But, there are a few other optional ingredients that you could add to your DIY potting soil recipe for containers to help your plants grow even stronger.
You don’t need to add all of these ingredients. I’m just giving you options for some great organic soil amendments. So, if you want even richer soil, then add…
- 1/2 – 1 part worm castings – (aka: worm poop) helps create rich, fertile soil, feeds the plants, increases yield
- 1/2 part biochar soil enhancement – helps soil retain nutrients and moisture, builds and enhances soil fertility
- 1/4 part natural organic soil builder – enriches the soil, and helps improve water retention and drainage
Related Post: How To Fertilize Outdoor Potted Plants & Containers
How Can I Make My Container Potting Soil Drain Better?
If you’re growing plants that require extra drainage, then you can add more perlite to either recipe to make well-drained container soil. In this case, I recommend using 1 1/2 parts perlite, and 1/4 part vermiculite.
One side note: desert plants like succulents require more than just fast draining soil. They also need soil that won’t retain moisture. These container gardening soil recipes aren’t ideal for them, so here’s my recipe for succulent soil to use instead.
Storing Your Homemade Container Garden Soil Mix
To save your unused container soil, simply store it in a airtight container in the garage, shed or basement. Just make sure that the container is sealed and airtight. This will help to keep the soil moist, and prevent bugs from getting in there.
These container gardening soil recipes are perfect for growing most types of outdoor potted plants. You can easily adapt them too. Now that you know how to make potting soil for containers, you’ll find it’s much cheaper than buying the commercial stuff.
More About Container Gardening
- Container Flower Gardening Design Tips & Ideas
- 15 Best Container Vegetables For Pots & Planters
- How To Install A DIY Drip Irrigation System For Potted Plants
- How To Clean Terracotta Pots (In 3 Easy Steps!)
- A Cheap Alternative To Coconut Liners For Hanging Baskets & Planters
Share your tips for how to make potting soil for containers, or your favorite container mix recipe in the comments below!