DIY Potting Soil Recipes for Mixing Potting Soil at Home

Here’s how to make your own potting mixes at home—and save a ton of money.

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Potting soil is trés expensive. Depending on the quality, expect to pay from $1 to $2 per gallon at your local garden center — not bad if you only need to pot up a few small houseplants, but it quickly breaks the bank when filling large outdoor planters. Then there is the question of what exactly is in those bags of potting soil, and if you can even ascertain what the ingredients are, where they come from, and what their environmental ramifications are.

Buying and mixing your own potting soil ingredients saves money and empowers you to choose a mix that aligns with your ethical shopping priorities. Different plants, and different gardening situations, call for different mixes, however. Here is a sampling of recipes that should cover almost any potting soil need you might have. All of the ingredients listed should be available at a well-stocked garden center or may be purchased online.

How to Mix Potting Soil at Home

All of the following recipes provide ratios, rather than specific amounts — 1 part this, 3 parts that, etc. Thus you can choose the size of the container for measuring each “part” based on the size of your potting mix project and what is conveniently available to measure with. Almost anything will do: measure by coffee can, Tupperware, plastic plant pot, 5-gallon bucket, trowel scoop, shovel-full, or wheelbarrow load.

Mix small quantities in a bucket or plastic bin; medium-size batches in a wheelbarrow; and large loads on a flat concrete surface. Use your hands, a trowel, or a shovel to do the mixing. There is no science to it, just keep mixing until you have a uniform finished product. Store your potting soil inside plastic bins, bags, or under a tarp.

Basic Mix

This mix works for the vast majority of outdoor potted plants, including most annuals and perennials.

1 part peat moss

1 part compost

1 part perlite

Houseplant Mix

Most houseplants are tropical species that prefer a spongy, nutrient-rich mix.

1 part peat moss

1 part ground bark

1 part compost

1 part perlite

1 part sand

.1 parts blood meal

Succulent Mix

Cacti, succulents, and other species that hail from arid environments prefer a free-draining, low-nutrient mix.

1 part perlite

1 part sand

.5 parts peat moss

.1 parts compost

Tree and Shrub Mix

Fruit trees, berry bushes, grapevines and other woody plants do well on a compost-heavy mix.

2 parts compost

2 parts ground bark

1 part peat moss

1 part sand

1 part perlite

Deluxe Organic Vegetable and Herb Mix

This mix delivers abundant fertility with a balanced array of nutrients suitable for most food crops.

3 parts compost

2 parts peat moss

1 part sand

.5 parts perlite

.1 parts bone meal

.1 parts blood meal

.1 parts ground limestone

.1 parts kelp meal

.1 parts worm castings

Seed Starting Mix

Seedlings sprout best in an ultra-fine mix with equally spongy and free-draining qualities.

2 parts compost

2 parts perlite

1 part peat moss

.5 parts sand

Orchid Mix

Orchids need an ultra-spongy, low-nutrient bark-based mix.

2 parts ground bark

1 part peat moss

.5 parts perlite

Eco-Friendly Mix

Common potting soil ingredients like perlite and peat moss come with significant environmental implications. This recipe emphasizes ingredients that are likely to be of local origin and unlikely to involve egregious environmental impacts.

2 parts compost

1 part rice hulls

1 part ground bark

1 part sand

Budget Mix

All of the above mixes are made without actual soil, a necessity for providing suitable drainage in small pots. But it is okay to use small quantities of dirt (ideally good-quality topsoil from your garden) when filling large planters and raised beds. Doing so cuts down on costs considerably. It’s also possible to source the other two ingredients below for free.

1 part garden soil

1 part compost

1 part sand

DIY Potting Soil Recipes for Mixing Potting Soil at Home