Making DIY potting soil is easy, and saves you money! In this post, I’ll talk about all the benefits, explain each ingredient, and give you seven of my favorite homemade potting mix recipes. Plus I’ll show you exactly how to make your own, and store the leftovers for later.
Many times, the biggest cost of gardening is buying soil. Well guess what, DIY potting soil is not only more cost effective than buying the commercial stuff, it’s also super simple to make!
No matter what type of plant you want to grow, indoors or outside, you’ll find the perfect homemade potting mix recipe below.
Preparing your own will ensure that you’re always using the best possible mix for every one of your plants. The best part is that you can easily modify any of my recipes to create your own version.
Here’s what you’ll find in this guide for how to make potting soil…
- Benefits Of Making Your Own
- DIY Recipes
- How To Mix Potting Soil
- Storing Leftover Potting Mix
Benefits Of Making Potting Mix
Although bags of potting soil are available at retailers everywhere, there is no reason to purchase these mass-produced mixes. Making your own potting mix has several benefits…
- Cheaper than buying a premade mix – Commercially produced mixes are expensive to buy, so making your own will save you money. The ingredients you need are inexpensive, and you can use them in many different homemade potting mix recipes.
- It’s fun to mix your own – Making your own potting soil is easy and fun. If you have children, this is an excellent opportunity to involve them. Mixing tactile materials is the sort of messy fun that the young and young at heart will enjoy.
- You control the ingredients – Creating your own allows you to use high-quality, organic ingredients. Since you choose what goes into it, you can avoid the chemicals and additives commonly found in many commercial brands.
- Mix up as much or as little as you need – Making homemade potting mix allows you to prepare only enough for the intended purpose. When you buy the commercial stuff, you must purchase a standard volume.
- It’s fully customizable – Assembling your own mixes allows you to completely customize the formula. With a few key ingredients, it is possible to create potting soil for a wide variety of plant needs.
Homemade Potting Soil Ingredients
Below I will give you a quick description of the basic potting soil ingredients used in these recipes. That way, you’ll understand what each one is for.
You should have no problem finding these organic ingredients at any garden center, home improvement store, or by ordering them online.
Every potting mix recipe starts with a base ingredient, and peat moss is a popular one. It provides aeration and water retention.
It’s important to note that peat moss is acidic. So, unless you’re growing acidic-loving plants, you’ll need to add 1 tablespoon of garden lime to every gallon of peat to even out the pH to a neutral 7.
Also, peat is usually packed dry (because it’s much more lightweight that way), so be sure to pre-moisten it before using it for making potting soil.
Another popular base ingredient, coco coir is a more sustainable alternative to peat moss. It is a bi-product of coconut processing, which is why it’s more sustainable.
It’s also neutral, so you don’t have to worry about acidity, and there’s no need to add any lime to it.
Coco coir usually comes in a compacted block, so you’ll need to break it apart and moisten it before use. Once moistened, it will expand a little too. So be sure to add water before measuring it for your recipe.
However, if you do choose to use your own, be sure it has been heated properly. Otherwise it could contain bugs and weed seeds, and you don’t want to add those to your mix.
If you ever wondered “what is the white stuff in potting soil?”, perlite is the answer. This is very commonly added to potting mixes to increase drainage, and prevent soil compaction.
Perlite also reduces the density of the mix, making it lighter, and easier to handle. If you can’t find it for sale anywhere, then you can substitute with pumice instead.
Many types of plants need a fast draining soil mix, and that is where sand comes in. Not only does it help to increase drainage, it also keeps the mix workable.
Just be sure that you buy coarse sand, and not the super fine stuff. If it’s too fine, it can cause soil compaction, and hold too much water. A few excellent alternatives to sand are either turface or poultry grit.
The biggest benefit of adding vermiculite into your DIY potting mix is to help the soil retain moisture, but it also reduces soil compaction.
It should be present in most soil mixes, especially if you tend to forget to water your plants. The exceptions are mixes used for growing succulents or cactus plants.
This natural soil amendment keeps the mix porous and workable, and is especially good for breaking up hard or heavy soils.
Garden gypsum also provides calcium, which is a minor nutrient necessary for many fruiting and flowering plants, like vegetables.
Another natural additive often found in many commercial mixes is blood meal. This is an organic source of nitrogen, which promotes healthy, rich green foliage growth.
It’s a wonderful soil amendment for annuals and perennials, and works great for growing prolific leafy vegetables too.
Also referred to as crushed limestone, garden lime is a natural amendment that raises the ph, neutralizing acidic soils.
You should add it to any homemade potting mix recipe where you use peat moss. Unless of course it’s for acidic soil loving plants!
DIY Potting Soil Recipes
Below you will find a round-up of several different homemade potting soil recipes. Choose the one that best suits the needs of each of the plants you want to grow.
1. Cactus & Succulent Soil
This mix provides dessert plants with structure and stability, as well as the important drainage that they need.
You can use it for all types of succulent and cactus plants, both indoors or outdoors. Find the detailed instructions for making it here.
2. Vegetables & Herbs Mix
This potting soil recipe provides vegetables and herbs with everything they need in order to produce tons of yummy food for us. It should only be used for outdoor containers or garden beds.
- 2 parts peat moss or coco coir
- 3 parts compost, decomposed manure, or worm castings
- 1 part perlite
- 1 part coarse sand
- 1 part vermiculite
- 1/4 part garden gypsum
- 1 tablespoon garden lime per gallon of peat (optional)
3. Houseplant Potting Soil
With just a few simple ingredients, this lightweight and odorless DIY potting mix is perfect for all your indoor plant needs. Read the full tutorial for making houseplant soil here.
- 2 parts pre-moistened peat moss or coir
- 1 part perlite or pumice
- 1/4 – 1/2 part vermiculite
- 1 tablespoon ground limestone per gallon (if you use peat moss)
4. Basic Outdoor Container Potting Soil
This all-purpose outdoor container mix is nutrient-rich, and provides good water holding capacity for your summer pots and planters. Get the full step-by-step instructions here.
- 2 parts peat moss or coir (pre-moistened)
- 2 parts compost or composted manure
- 1 part perlite
- 1/4-1/2 parts vermiculite
- 1 tablespoon garden lime for each gallon of peat moss
5. Outdoor Soilless Potting Mix
This soilless potting mix recipe will provide your outdoor hanging plants with everything that they need to grow successfully.
It’s a lightweight and long-lasting media that is perfect for window boxes and hanging baskets.
- 2 parts peat moss (or coir)
- 2 parts vermiculite
- 1/4 part ground limestone
- 1/4 part super phosphate
- 1/2 part blood meal
6. Acidic Potting Soil
This potting soil mix has a high percentage of peat moss, which is naturally acidic.
Use this recipe, without amending it with garden lime, to provide a medium that is perfect for plants that thrive in acidic conditions.
7. Seed Starting Mix
Young seedlings are incredibly delicate, which is why they need a specialized medium to get the very best start.
This lightweight mix is fast-draining, while also providing good water retention. Learn exactly how to make it here.
- 8 parts (pre-moistened) coco coir or peat moss
- 1 part vermiculite
- 1 part perlite or pumice
- 1/4 tsp garden lime per gallon (if you use peat)
How To Mix Potting Soil
Making your homemade potting mix is simple. All you’ll need are the ingredients, and a few supplies that you should be able to find around your house.
- DIY potting soil ingredients
- Measuring container (your “part”)
- Shovel or trowel
- Garden tub, wheelbarrow, potting tray, or bucket
- Safety mask (so you don’t breath in the dust)
Don’t worry too much about the method of measurement you choose as a “part”. You can use a measuring cup, a soil scoop, or a one gallon bucket – whatever is most convenient for you.
The potting mix recipes are essentially ratios of materials. The parts are fulfilling the described rate of ingredients in these recipes.
Before getting started, be sure to always wear a safety mask while handling and mixing your own potting soil.
Once you gather all of your supplies, measure out each ingredient using your part. Then you can simply dump all of the ingredients into the mixing container.
Use a trowel or shovel to stir everything together until well mixed. If the ingredients are very dry, then add enough water to moisten them as you work.
Once it’s mixed up, you can use your DIY potting soil immediately, or store it for later.
Storing Leftover Homemade Potting Mix
One of the biggest benefits of making your own potting soil is that you can mix as much or as little as you need at the time. But, if you would rather whip up a larger batch, or if you have leftovers, you can easily store it for later use.
Then you can simply place it on a shelf in your basement, garage, or shed. Be sure to mark each bucket with the type of homemade potting soil it contains, because they’ll pretty much all look the same once mixed.
DIY Potting Soil FAQs
In this section, I’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about homemade potting soil. If you can’t find an answer to your question here, ask it in the comments below.
How long does potting soil last?
While there’s really no expiration date for homemade potting soil, some of the ingredients will start to degrade after a while. For best results, use it within six months.
If it’s stored any longer than that, you can add more nutrients to the mix to rejuvenate it. But be sure to discard old mixes that smell bad, or if you find bugs or mold growing in it.
What is the difference between potting soil and potting mix?
Many people use these two terms interchangeably, which totally is fine. Most of the time, there is no difference between the two terms.
But technically, “potting soil” usually means it contains actual soil (such as compost). Where the term “potting mix” is usually used to describe a medium that is soilless.
Can I mix garden soil and potting mix?
No, it’s never a good idea to add garden soil into any potting mix recipe. Garden soil contains bugs and pathogens that can wreak havoc in containers, and cause all kinds of problems.
However, if you’re making soil for your outdoor garden beds, then adding potting mix to it is not an issue.
Can you reuse potting soil?
No, I do not recommend ever reusing your potting soil, homemade or otherwise. Soil can harbor diseases and bugs, which can easily be spread from one plant to another when you reuse it. So it’s best to toss the used stuff into your compost bin.
Creating your own DIY potting soil is fun, easy, and saves you money. Plus you can customize the ingredients, and experiment with your own homemade recipes in order to find the perfect soil mix for every one of your plants.
More About Garden Soil
- How To Test Your Soil At Home Using A Soil Test Kit
- How To Prepare A Garden Bed For Planting Vegetables
- Choosing The Best Potting Soil Mix For Container Gardening
- How To Fertilize A Vegetable Garden
Share your favorite DIY potting soil recipe in the comments below.