Making a nutrient rich potting soil mix at home
As a flower farmer and overall avid home-gardener, I get asked often by my customers about soil! Everyone, including myself when I first began growing, appears to know that soil biology, viability and construction are all crucial elements for any seed starting operation one endeavors to undertake, but it is unclear how many of us know just how important it truly is.
The purpose of this blog post is to outline what I have found to be the best mix of ingredients to use when making your own potting soil at home. I wanted to provide context regarding the knowledge I have attained in my craft over the past few seasons to aid the home-gardener or aspiring farmer to begin with the best foundation that they can get.
If you’re just looking for the Potting Soil Recipe and don’t want all the information about the ingredients then you can skip right to the bottom of the blog post! Remember that gardening is a beautiful melding of art and science. Our sharing of the knowledge and practices that we have found most effective makes all of us a more powerful community of growers!
A well rounded compost base is the primary ingredient for making effective organic potting soil at home. Nutrient dense and balanced compost is made by decomposing organic materials such as food waste, leaves, and grass clippings. As it decomposes, it releases nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are essential for plant growth. In addition to providing nutrients, organic compost also helps to improve soil structure. It helps to create a porous, well-draining soil structure that allows for the proper exchange of air and water in the soil, which is important for root growth and overall plant health.
Using organic compost in your potting soil is a great way to ensure that your plants are getting the best possible growing medium. When making your own potting soil, you can use homemade compost or purchase it from a garden center. You'll want to look for compost that has been fully decomposed and has a dark, crumbly texture. My advice would be to do adequate research on the compost you source before you purchase it. Personally, I talk to the company I am purchasing my organic compost from to get an idea of what they put in their mix as well as how long that particular aggregate has been “cooking”. This means that the compost has reached a stable state where it no longer heats up or gives off an odor. It is important to know what youre starting with as the compost is such an important part in making your soil blend.
If you are interested in starting the process of creating compost at home, here are reference points to get you going:
- Start with the right ingredients: Compost needs a mixture of "browns" (such as dried leaves, straw, and wood chips) and "greens" (such as vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and coffee grounds) to break down properly. Aim for a ratio of about 3:1 browns to greens.
- Chop or shred the materials: Smaller pieces will break down faster, so consider using a shredder or a lawnmower to chop up your materials before adding them to the compost pile.
- Build the pile in layers: Alternate layers of browns and greens, making sure to moisten each layer as you go. Aim for a pile that is about 3 feet wide and 3 feet tall.
- Keep it moist: Compost should be damp, but not wet. If it's too dry, add water; if it's too wet, add more browns.
- Turn the pile: Every few weeks, use a pitchfork or shovel to mix up the materials in the pile. This helps to aerate the compost and speed up the decomposition process.
- Be patient: Composting takes time. Depending on the materials you use and the conditions in your compost pile, it could take anywhere from a few months to a year for your compost to be ready to use.
- Use your compost: Once your compost is dark, crumbly, and smells earthy, it's ready to use in your garden. Spread it on your flower beds or vegetable garden, or mix it into potting soil to give your plants a nutrient boost.
Coconut coir is an increasingly popular choice for making homemade soil mix as it offers numerous benefits that compare favorably to traditionally used peat moss. The fibrous material is derived from coconut husks that have been processed and ground into a fine, sponge-like material while being a lot more environmentally friendly compared to Peat Moss.
One of the primary benefits of using coconut coir is that it is highly absorbent, able to hold up to ten times its weight in water. This helps to ensure that seedlings retain adequate moisture levels during those first few crucial weeks. Coconut coir also has the beneficial characteristic of maintaining a light, airy structure that aids in giving the soil mix proper drainage and a sample supply of oxygen, allowing for better root development and preventing soil compaction. This can lead to healthier plants and increased yields.
In addition to its moisture-retaining properties, coconut coir is also nutrient-rich, containing a range of minerals such as potassium, iron, and copper. These nutrients are slowly released into the soil as the coir decomposes, providing a long-lasting source of plant food.
Coconut coir also has a neutral pH, which helps to balance the acidity of other soil components and creates an ideal environment for plants to grow. Furthermore, using coconut coir in soil mix can be an eco-friendly option as it is a renewable resource that can be sustainably harvested without damaging the environment.
Perlite or vermiculite
Perlite and vermiculite are both made of inorganic minerals and are crucial elements in a good soil mix. In some ways, these elements play a similar role to peat moss in your soil blend. They act to help with water retention in the soil while also maintaining an airy structure that won't waterlog root systems and cause the plant to perish from lack of oxygen. While these elements are similar to peat moss in this sense, both perlite and vermiculite do not contain a significant amount of nutrients for the plant thus requiring the use of these in conjunction with a slow releasing organic material like peat moss.
Perlite is a volcanic rock that is heated to high temperatures to expand it into lightweight, porous particles. It is a commonly used soil amendment to in many gardening applications and benefits soil by improving drainage and aeration. Perlite particles have many tiny cavities that trap air, which helps prevent soil compaction and allows roots to grow more freely. Perlite also helps prevent waterlogging in heavy soils, which can lead to root rot and other plant diseases.
Vermiculite, on the other hand, is a clay mineral that is heated to high temperatures to expand it into lightweight, spongy particles. Like perlite, vermiculite is also used as a soil amendment to improve soil structure. Vermiculite particles are able to hold large amounts of water and nutrients, which, when used in parallel with high organic matter, help slowly release these nutrients to plant roots as needed. This helps to maintain a steady supply of everything a plant needs to survive and thrive early on in the seedling stage. Again, we are doing everything we can to prevent the drying out of the seedling while also not suffocating the root system.
Organic fertilizers play an important role in making a soil mix by providing essential nutrients to plants in a slow-release and natural form. Unlike synthetic fertilizers, organic fertilizers release nutrients slowly over time as they decompose, which can help to maintain a healthy soil ecosystem and support long-term plant growth.
Organic fertilizers are made from natural materials such as animal manure, compost, fish emulsion, and bone meal. They are typically high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are the three main macronutrients that plants need for healthy growth. Organic fertilizers also contain micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and sulfur, which are important for plant development.
My favorite Organic Fertilizer Additives:
- Green Sand: A naturally occurring mineral harvested from the ocean, rich in Potassium.
- Bone meal: Made from ground animal bones, bone meal is a slow-release fertilizer that is high in phosphorus. It is often used to promote root growth and flower formation in plants.
- Blood meal: Made from dried animal blood, blood meal is a high-nitrogen fertilizer that can help plants grow quickly and produce more foliage.
Organic fertilizers play a critical role in making a soil mix by providing slow-release nutrients in a natural form. Examples of organic fertilizers include compost, manure, fish emulsion, bone meal, and blood meal. By using organic fertilizers, gardeners can help maintain a healthy soil ecosystem and promote long-term plant growth.
Worm castings are a rich source of plant nutrients that are essential for healthy plant growth. They contain a balanced blend of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are the three primary macronutrients that plants require in large quantities.
However the reason that I use them in potting soil mix is not necessarily for the nutrients but rather for the large quantity of microorganisms found within it. These microorganisms help to break down organic matter and release nutrients into the soil, while also suppressing harmful pathogens that can damage plant roots. This results in a healthy and vibrant soil ecosystem, which is critical for maintaining plant health and productivity.
Potting Soil RECIPE:
Part = any size container you want to use, just keep that container consistent throughout the entire recipe.
Thank you for reading & Happy Gardening!!