Learning how to mix soil for container gardening does not need to be complicated. You can easily learn the different types of soils that you should use as well as which ones to avoid. In this article, you’ll not only learn how to create the proper soil mix for container gardening, but how to choose quality components to make the best possible potting soil.
The biggest difference between growing plants in a container as opposed to growing them in the ground is that the soil will not be able to regenerate lost nutrients. This means that YOU are responsible for making sure that the plants you place in these containers get all the nutrients that they need. Therefore, it is critical to be able to supply the best potting soil for container gardening.
What is Container Gardening?
Before I tell how to mix soil for container gardening, I will briefly share what container gardening is all about. Container gardening is a type of gardening where you place soil in raised containers made from wood, concrete, or rocks. It is ideal for locations that have little to no garden space, locations that have very rocky, dry, or tough soil, or locations where the climate is not suitable for outdoor planting. Container gardening is ideal for small spaces or coastal gardens.
Having a container garden in your home allows you to have a versatile garden where you can plant a multitude of different vegetables, herbs, or even flowers! You can decide whether the plants you grow will be for consumption or decoration or both!
How Do I Choose the Right Containers?
Before you mix your soil, you need to have the right containers ready so that you can easily store the finished potting soil. You can choose to buy ready-made containers, or you can make your own from scratch. However, if you are starting with container gardening, it would be better to buy ready-made containers.
The size of your container is important for several reasons. First, the size of the container will dictate the type of plant that you can grow. If you want to grow root crops such as potatoes or onions, you need to use a large and deep container. Second, the size of the container will also dictate how much soil you can put in. Large containers with more soil can hold more water and resists drying out quickly in hot conditions. Finally, you need to consider the available space you have; if you have limited space available, you should consider going with smaller plants such as herbs that can be grown in small containers.
The ability of your container to drain water is critical to your plant’s health and growth. If the water cannot drain properly, your plants will essentially “drown.” Look for containers with evenly spaced holes at the bottom so that the water can drain out quickly and evenly.
If you are buying your containers from a store, you’ll generally find clay, concrete, or plastic containers. Clay containers look beautiful, but they are fragile and sensitive to changes in temperature. Concrete is durable and long-lasting, but they are generally heavy and difficult to move around. Plastic is light and portable, but they can crack or break over time.
Some specialty stores offer containers made from polyurethane foam. They are super lightweight, durable, and strong, but they are expensive!
How to Mix Soil For Container Gardening: The Potting Mix
Now that you know how to choose the container, it’s time to learn how to mix soil for container gardening or even for your bucket gardening. The type of soil used for container gardening is called potting soil, although it can also be called soilless potting media or soilless potting mix.
Yes, potting soil doesn’t contain any soil!
What Makes a “Good” Potting Mix?
Potting soil might not contain any actual soil. Still, it can contain a wide variety of other organic and inorganic components that are mixed to mimic the properties of natural soil. Here are some of the common ingredients used in making potting soil:
- Peat Moss/ Coco Coir – these organic materials are light, thin, and make up the bulk of most commercially available potting soil. They hold water well but still allows great aeration and drainage.
- Sand – helps make the potting mix loose and light.
- Perlite – made from ground-up volcanic glass, perlite helps increase aeration and drainage.
- Compost – compost is made of decaying organic matter. You can make your compost at home with vegetable and fruit peelings, twigs, and leaves. The bulk of nutrients in a potting mix comes from the compost.
The Basic Potting Mix Recipe
Here is a simple potting mix recipe that you can use with most plants that you want to grow in a garden container.
- 40% garden soil
- 30% coco coir or peat moss
- 20% compost
- 10% sand
This recipe will give you a potting mix that has a good balance of aeration, water retention, and drainage. The potting mix will be moderately dense, so it will be able to hold tall plants firmly rooted in place.
Over time, you can learn how to mix your soil for container gardening. You can tweak the soil’s texture, structure, pH levels, and water retention capacity.
Sterilizing Your Potting Mix
Before you use your potting mix, you need to sterilize it to kill any microbes or pathogens that are lingering in the mix. Yes, even if you bought the potting soil from a store, you need to sterilize it before you use it.
Luckily, the sterilization process is easy. Place the soil in a baking tray, place the baking tray in your oven for 45 minutes at around 350⁰F, and you’re good to go!
Now that you know how to mix soil for container gardening, you’re probably excited to get your hands dirty! Remember, the success of your container garden is dependent mainly on the type and quality of the potting mix you make, so be sure to formulate the potting mix correctly to have healthy and thriving plants. Find out more about garden soils.