Gardening season is here!
The sun is shining and it is time to break out your gardening gloves. Potting soil is the first essential item you will need to get started. Did you know you can make it right from home?
Making your own potting soil is fun and cost-effective. Not only is it cheaper than buying pre-made, but you can customize your potting soil to make sure your plants have the specific nutrients they need to grow.
Potting Soil Ingredients
With just a few ingredients found at many home improvement or gardening stores, you can make customized potting soil for your garden.
You can use ground soil as a base for your homemade potting soil, but horticulturists found in the mid-1990s that peat moss was a much more ideal soil base for encouraging plant growth. Peat moss is excellent at water retention and aeration. You can replace peat moss or add multiple base ingredients such as sand, perlite, or vermiculite.
Sand is great at aeration, just like peat moss, but will not retain moisture well. A more expensive option is perlite, which is a volcanic, rock-based substance that is more efficient than sand. It is lightweight and drains well, but it does not retain water well. Vermiculite is a clay that is wonderful at conserving water, nutrients, and air. However, it can easily become compacted, which will reduce its ability to retain air and water. Vermiculite and sand should not be mixed. If you are planting something that needs quick drainage, such as a desert plant, use sand or perlite. For plants that require more water retention, use peat moss or vermiculite.
Making the Potting Soil
Here are the steps for mixing and storing your potting soil.
When measuring out a basic potting soil mixture, start with a bucket that holds about 2 ½ gallons. You can always cut the recipe in half if you do not need this much. Mix one bucket of peat moss, one bucket of vermiculite or perlite (depending on the drainage needed for your plant), ½ bucket of compost or manure if you would like, two cups of sand, and two cups of fertilizer. Adjust this as necessary for your plants and growing conditions.
The next step is testing the pH balance of your potting soil. This is another perfect example of how you can customize your soil! The ideal pH balance will change depending on what you are planting. For example, you may need the soil to be more acidic for plants like azaleas and sweet potatoes. Plants such as cauliflower and lilac prefer alkaline soil. If you need to bring your soil to a lower acidic pH level, put soil sulphur in your mixture. Adding lime will do the opposite and raise the pH level. After adding your pH additive, mix everything together well.
You may end up making extra and will need to properly store potting soil. Keeping your soil in the right conditions will ensure that it will not get infested with mold or insects. Place your soil in large zip-top bags, or just a regular bag folded over and pinned or taped closed. Find a solid opaque container and place the sealed bags inside. The container should be placed in the basement or another climate-controlled area until you are ready to use it again. Outdoor weather can have unknown effects on your soil, so check on it every few months just to make sure it is faring well.
Enjoy getting your hands dirty and personalizing your own soil this season! What are you looking forward to planting with your new potting soil?