DIY – How to Make Your Own Potting Soil

DIY - How to Make Your Own Potting Soil

I whipped up a batch of homemade potting soil earlier today and decided to post my favorite recipe in case you didn’t see it the first time around I published it last year.

 Happy Gardening everyone!!

If you plan on growing anything in pots this year, potting soil is absolutely essential.  Garden soil is just too heavy when growing in pots.  The thing is, pre-made bagged potting soil is crazy expensive, and since this year, I plan on growing quite a few things in containers, I decided to make my own.

how to make potting soil recipe

Here are the ingredients you’ll Need:

  • Peat Moss
  • Vermiculite
  • Compost
  • Fertilizer {if you use it}
  • A Mask for your face {this is optional, but I don’t want to breath any of the mix in, especially since I will be using chicken poo as my fertilizer}
  • A wheelbarrow or large pot to mix your potting soil

watering can potting soil DIY

The basic recipe is easy peasy.  Mix one part each of the peat moss, vermiculite, and compost.  I’m not a big fan of store bought fertilizer, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the chickens’ job, so I’ll be collecting my compost from the floor of the chicken run.  This will eliminate the need to use fertilizer.

It’s easiest if you just grab a bucket and throw one bucket of each ingredient into your mixing container.  Add a little water and stir it around with gloved hands or a shovel.

Then, just grab your containers and filled them with potting soil.  If you are using a commercial fertilizer, fill your pots half way, add a scoop of fertilizer and mix it in.  Fill your container the rest of the way, repeat the fertilizer step, and voila, you’re done.

DIY Potting soil recipe

That’s it!  Now all I have to do is plant the veggies and wait for some homegrown goodness.

Let’s get this party started!


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Looking for a great gardening book? Check out The New Self-Sufficient Gardener By John Seymour. It’s loaded with all sorts of goodness.


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    • Tabitha says

      I’ve used coco coir instead of the peat moss and it worked. Down South it helped keep a little moisture in the soil, too. Well, in fairness, I’m sure the vermiculite helped, too.

      Good luck.

    • says

      Hi Melanie,

      If you don’t have compost you could try adding leaves from last fall. You’ll want to mulch them if possible or crunch them up by hand.

  1. Nancy says

    Hi Mavis,

    I just love your blog! Thank you for all your hard work.

    What vegetables will you plant in containers?

    • Mavis says

      Hi Nancy, I’m working on them right now and will be writing about it in the next day or two once I get them planted.

  2. michael says

    For large batches of make your own potting soil. I dump the 3 ingredients on a large tarp and then pull up the corners one by one to mix it all together.

    If you donn’t have compost you can purchase a few bags at the nursery.

    • Betty819 says

      How did you know that I was going to ask the question if you could purchase compost in the garden center or nursery.? Do you know what size bag the compost comes in? We live in a gated Sr. Citizens community so storage space is limited. Maybe I could share a bag with a gardening friend. Would it keep well in one of those 5 gal Home Depot buckets. Should I leave the top on all the time? Does it smell if kept closed up in the garage?

  3. CathyB says

    Do you use your chicken compost straight from the coop clean out or do you let it sit and truly compost for a while before using? I think I have access to some chicken clean out and was just wondering. Thanks!

  4. crlzmmr says

    Anybody know why she is not adding Perlite?
    I have heard rumors of abestos in Perlite,
    is this a true warning or hogwash?

    • Erin Kerbs says

      There isn’t asbestos in perlite or vermiculite. One time, several years ago, some vermiculite from one mine had traces of asbestos in it. That mine was promptly closed and there hasn’t been a problem since. Vermiculite holds water better than perlite, as per the Sqare Foot Garden book by Mel Bartholomew. This mix of potting soil, minus the fertilizer, is Mel’s Mix from the book.

  5. Zoe says

    I was wondering about the chicken manure too. We tried to use some from the coop last year and lost our whole bed of plants. I’ve heard it’s too acidic and needs to sit in compost for a year before using.

  6. girl with dirty nails says

    Hi, since there are pine shavings in the compost that haven’t broken down completely, you will need to add nitrogen to the mix or the plants won’t do well. The shavings will use up all of the nitrogen available in their composting process. I think you need to let your compost “cook” longer before using it. It should be uniformly dark and crumbly and have no bad smell.

  7. Maile says

    So excited about this post! Ordered my vermiculite and peat moss from wilco as they are out. Must have had a run on these since your post. =]

  8. Val says

    Yes, we don’t have chickens, but use “horse goodness” which we age in the compost pile for 5 – 6 months before using. Don’t know if it really needs that long, that’s just how we roll. : )

  9. Lori says

    Thanks for the recipe. Do you have any idea how much cheaper this is than potting soil?

    My husband complains every year about the cost of the potting soil.


  10. christy gerhardt says

    i, too, have sworn off peat moss since it is non-sustainable. coir is a fabulous substitute…plus my seed store sells it in 15 pound blocks for a song. i mix in vermiculite and granulated pumice stone. i also raise red wiggler worms in indoor worm bins…and the final product of vermicompost is the best fertilizer since sliced bread (will not burn in the least). not so much for the n-p-k, which is low, but for the beneficial microbes it contains. i leave it out of my seed starting mix, then add a little to transplants. the worm compost tea, made with an aquarium pump bubbling oxygen in a five gallon bucket, is phenomenal.

    • says

      Hi Christy,

      I’ve never heard of using coir. What is it and about how much does it cost? I’m not a really good singer, so I’ll probably will have to pay cash. Is this something I’ll have to search hard to find?

      • christy says

        hi kiesha…yes, it is troubling when one can’t carry a tune, one misses out on so many deals in life ;0) coir is the ground up left over coconut hulls after processing the coconut…thus is sustainable. my local nursery carries the blocks in bulk…so a 15 lb compressed block is $7.99 and, when it is hydrated, will fill a wheelbarrow. if you check around for nurseries in your area rather than the big box stores, you may find it…or you may convince the owner to search for a source that is reasonable. unlike peat moss which has an acid pH, coir is neutral…another plus.

        • Sandi Fleury says

          Christy and Kiesha, you gals crack me up!! I’m just catching up with the comments since Mavis re-posted this today. I can sing ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ but will also probably have to pay cash. Lol. I like the idea of coir, will look into it. I have 2 composters, large garden one and a red wiggler worm one using a large Rubbermaid container that I drilled holes in. I have it sitting over an old Radio Flyer wagon with hospital-type bins below to catch the worm tea–using that for fertilizer–my plants love it and my worms are happy. Thinking about adding some of the worms in the compost directly into my raised beds and mixing in before I replant this year. What do you think, Mavis and gardening gurus?

          • christy says

            sandi….having set up about 5 worm bins in my apartment, i know how precious those red wigglers are. they do not live in soil but in compost only…and are a completely different species from the earthworms that live in and fertilize garden soil. i wouldn’t set them up to do a job they were not meant to do…i’d split them up from the worm bin you have, and either set them up in a second bin, or gift them to a friend who wants to start their own worm bin. when i’ve added my worm compost to indoor plants, a few worms make it into the pot and seem to live on just fine. if you add lots of composted leaves to your garden beds, that will automatically attract the soil earthworms that will improve your garden soil.

  11. richele in iowa says

    Thanks for reposting the recipe today, I was planning on searching your blog for it later anyway! Question:::: Is that you in the Lactaid commercial that is running on T.V.? If it isn’t, she sure is your look-alike. BTW, I love seeing and hearing about Lucy! You really crack me up sometimes with your dealings with her, we can definitely tell you are a first time dog owner. My husband runs a Petco store here, so we are animal lovers. Keep up the good work!

  12. Carol says

    Yes, please do consider using coconut coir instead of peat moss, as peat moss is not a renewable resource. I, too, use vermicompost and find it very effective! Glad to read that the vermiculite is O.K. to use. But it is still good to wear a mask when mixing the ingredients, before adding water.

  13. Mel says

    Would this mix work for growing potatoes in my potato growing bags? I don’t know what else to use but potting soil but know potatoes grow most anywhere so potting soil seems like overkill…

  14. Charles Sifers says

    You’re on to a decent potting mix, but you need to add lime to balance the acidity of the peat moss. Better to use coconut coir, since it is a neutral pH. You should also consider using some Epson’s salts in the mix, as the ingredients you listed are typically low in magnesium. If your plants turn yellow and have purple veins, it is likely that they are magnesium deficient.
    All manures (animal or green) should be fully composted before adding to potting mixes. This applies to uncomposted leaves or pine needles. Uncomposted animal manures will burn plants, and uncomposted green manures will use what ever nitrogen is available.
    A handy tool to have is a pH meter. Cheap meters are available for $15-20 at most hardware stores.
    Don’t guess about pH of potting mix. Nutrient availability id dependent upon pH, and will quickly stunt or kill plants. Correcting the pH after your plants show distress, means you’ll lose the time it takes for the plants to recover, and they may never fully grow out of the initial offense.

  15. Kris says

    This may be a silly question, but when you change the potting soil in the pots, what do you do with the old soil? Do you compost it?
    Thank you!

  16. says

    I’m using coir instead of peat too, and liking it a lot – it re-wets much better than peat. In the long run coir is not sustainable ether, given the long distance transport for most of us, so I’m working on turning leaves into leaf mold (which is a slow process taking several years) to replace both peat and coir.

  17. Harry says

    Hi Mavis, just loving your site! You a big inspiration to me! Moved into a new house, in the planning phase of my vegetable garden and greenhouse now. It just cant materialize soon enough for me. Also in the grips of winter here in SA, so not much planting I can do anyway.
    My question is more directed at the people who commented here. In SA we don’t have bogs etc, so peat is imported and very VERY scarce. I could literally only find one supplier, and seems the stuff is more expensive than gold! I’m looking at about 5 raised beds that I want to fill with Mels Mix, so unless I rob a bank I don’t see the peat moss happening. Got super excited when I read about the coir, thought that will be easier to source…. turns out not so! In the quantity I want I’m just not getting it. And buying 100’s super expensive small packages is also not an option. SO any of you got another alternative for me here in the lighter side of dark Africa?

  18. PattyB says

    Hey Mavis! I came upon a great tip/idea the other day that I’m going to try this year! It involves a baby diaper [clean] and all you have to do is pour water on the inner diaper area. I bought the really cheap toddler ones and I poured 7 cups of water in it and it held it! Here’s what you do. When the diaper is full of water, then remove the top layer that is against the baby’s skin and you have all this gel stuff. Then mix the gel stuff in with your planting soil and it will hold water and keep your plants happily moist without over-watering it. They sell this stuff specifically marketed for gardeners and their container planters. I spent $5 on a pkg of 21 diapers and it will probably last me a VERY long time since I’ll use one diaper per bag of potting soil. I think for your wheel barrow full of soil you’d get by with maybe 2 diapers. What do you think?

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