If you want to learn how to make potting soil for plants and grow vegetables with little or no money at all, keep reading.

How To Make Potting Soil For Plants: Mixing Ingredients & Methods

The best way to save costs with quality planting is by making your potting media and getting a quality planter. The quality of the planter you use reflects in how good your potting soil drains or breathes. These two investments will go a long way into how your garden turns out eventually.

You can buy or acquire the base ingredients for a soil mix. If you choose to purchase the ingredients and mix them at home, you may not be spending as little as you would expect.

However, you would be able to change the proportions to create a mix for specific planting goals. For instance, lettuce seedlings may need less coarse soil than wildflowers. And if you feel one type of soil works better than the other, mixing it yourself allows you to try it out!

Potting soil: what is it, and why is it essential for planting?

Potting soil: what is it, and why is it essential for planting?

Potting soil, or mix, is a blend of ingredients for planting crops without soil. They are different from the average garden soil that you’d use to bury seeds in your backyard.

Potting mixes are ideal for rooting cuttings, starting seeds, potting up houseplants, or hanging baskets.

Good-quality potting soils drain better and weigh less than the average soil. They also have a consistent, slightly coarse texture that’s easy to handle.

Making potting mixes at home

Commercial potting soils usually come in different blends and textures to match specific plant needs. They also contain various nutritional content and water-draining capacities.

Similarly, you can develop your own blends of potting soils by adjusting the mixed ingredients’ proportions.

Different ingredients have individual properties that react differently to physical conditions. So it’s best if you understand how they act and how to use them.

Media ingredients:

1.   Sphagnum peat moss. Coarse with good aeration but with the right amount of water-holding capacity to prevent moisture loss. Too much sphagnum peat in potting soil will retain excess water and restrict drainage. It can get challenging to wet, and thus should be moistened before other ingredients are added.

2.   Coarse sand. Sharp or coarse sand is usually used in construction, and primarily in potting media. It promotes aeration but doesn’t hold water, unlike peat moss. Sand tends to get heavy, so it shouldn’t be mixed with a clay-based soil or used in large quantities.

3.   Perlite. Perlite works instead of sand in peat- and soil-based potting media. However, it costs more than sand; it provides more drainage, better aeration, and weighs less. You need to moisten perlite before mixing to avoid its dust, which is harmful when inhaled.

4.   Vermiculite. Vermiculite is usually an alternative for perlite. Although it holds more nutrients than perlite, it quickly gets compact and is less able to retain air and water.

5.   Limestone. Dolomitic or pulverized calcitic limestone neutralizes the pH of peat-based potting soils.

6.   Composted wood chips. Composted wood pieces increase the pore sizes and drainage of potting mixes. Although they decompose slowly, they may reduce the soil’s nitrogen content gradually. Blood meal or alfalfa meal is an excellent supplementary addition for DIY potting soils with composted wood chips.

7.   Compost. Compost provides innumerable microbes, with great nutrient content and water-retaining capacity. It promotes plant growth and soil organic content.

8.   Fertilizers. Fertilizers are most especially needed in peat-based potting soils to provide them adequate nutrients for planting. The best fertilizer type is a natural one with animal-by products, plant minerals, mined minerals, or manure.

DIY Recipes for Potting Soils

Potting soils, as discussed earlier, come in different blends that serve different planting purposes.

However, generally, quality DIY potting soil should be fluffy, light, and blended thoroughly with essential minerals. It should also remain in its original state and not shrink when it dries out. That’s how you know you’ve prepared the right combination of ingredients.

For the best results, use a large container to wheelbarrow to distribute ingredients evenly. And use quality wooden planters for outdoor planting to retain the quality of your potting mixes.

Below are some different mixes of potting soil for different planting purposes:

  • General potting soil Mix:

Sphagnum peat moss- 6 gallons

Perlite- 4.5 gallons

Compost- 6 gallons

Lime- ¼ cup

Fertilizer- 1½ cup

  • DIY fertilizer blend:

Phosphate- 2 cups

Greensand- 2 cups

Bone meal- ½ cup

Kelp meal- ¼ cup

  • Potting soil for cactus and succulents

Sphagnum peat moss – 3 gallons

Perlite- 1 gallon

Vermiculite- 1 gallon

Coarse sand- 2 gallons

Lime- 2 tbsp

  • Potting soil for potted shrubs and trees

Compost- 3 gallons

Coarse sand- 2.5 gallons

Sphagnum peat moss- 3 gallons

Composted pine bark- 2.5 gallons

Perlite- 3 gallons

Lime- 2 tbsp

Fertilizer- 1 cup

Organic cottonseed meal (for acid-loving shrubs and trees)- ¼ cup

  • Potting soil for seed starting

Sphagnum peat moss- 2 gallons

Vermiculite- 2 gallons

Coarse sand- 1 gallon

Lime- 3 tbsp

Note: vermiculite is used preferably to perlite for seed-starting mixes because of its smaller particle size.

  • Potting soil for transplanting seedlings

Sphagnum peat moss- 2 gallons

Vermiculite- 2 gallons

Finely screened compost- 1 gallon

Lime- 3 tbsp

Fertilizer- 2 tbsp

  • Potting soil for houseplants

Sphagnum peat moss- 2 gallons

Perlite- 1.5 gallons

Coarse sand- 2 gallon

Lime- 3 tbsp

Fertilizer- 2 tbsp

The order of ingredients above is optimal for mixing great DIY potting soils.

After making your DIY potting soil, use it as quickly as you can in a suitable planter.

If you must store it, pour the blend in plastic bags and keep in a cool, dry area.


Now, you know the right combinations of potting soils that serve different purposes. You can also adjust some proportions as you wish, as long as it’ll get you to your planting needs.

Many of the materials listed above are available in bulk from farming facilities. However, if you chose to source them from alternative or local options, ensure that they are clean and nutritious.

As mentioned above, you may also need to consider quality wooden planters as an investment. Using unsuitable garden containers or those that don’t drain well may affect your soil and crop quality as a whole.

Try not to rush into certain actions, to make the right decisions. Then, you can enjoy your crops and DIY potting soil for long!


  • Savvy Gardening. 2019. DIY potting soil. [https://savvygardening.com/diy-potting-soil/] Accessed October 6th 2020
  • PennState Extension. 2007. Homemade Potting Media. [https://extension.psu.edu/homemade-potting-media]Accessed October 6th 2020