Easy DIY Potting Mix Recipe

Do you want to learn how to make potting mix at home? Want a quality potting mix recipe? Look no further! My early experiences with bagged potting mixes were not happy ones. With a sea of choices, clueless salespeople and confusing labels, I made more than one bad choice. Maybe you have too!

Easy DIY Potting Mix Recipe: I fried my seedlings in what I thought from the label was 'potting mix with fertiliser' but was actually almost 100% fertiliser; starved my plants with the next bag that didn't have any food in it at all; and another bag was virtually dead dirt that wouldn't grow anything.

I fried my seedlings in what I thought from the label was ‘potting mix with fertiliser’ but was actually almost 100% fertiliser; starved my plants with the next bag that didn’t have any food in it at all; and another bag was virtually dead dirt that wouldn’t grow anything.

 

I got so seriously cheesed off wasting time and money with ‘dried arrangements‘ as a result. So I decided to make my own mix. It had to be better than going through all that pain!

Now, I try to be self-reliant and budget conscious where possible, by making my own supplies. If you don’t already, give home made potting mix a go. It’s easy, saves you money and a whole lot of headaches!

 

The ‘Dirt’ on Commercial and Soilless Potting Mixes

  • Surprisingly, the old saying ‘You get what you pay for’ doesn’t always apply. You often take ‘pot’ luck!  Gardening Australia ran some potting mix tests that proved this is the case. Even their seasoned experts were surprised by the results.

 

Quality bagged mixes can be quite expensive (when you add up ingredients, packaging, transport, marketing costs, retail margins, etc). Problem is - you often don't know what you've paid for until you've opened and used it!

Quality bagged mixes can be quite expensive (when you add up ingredients, packaging, transport, marketing costs, retail margins, etc). Problem is – you often don’t know what you’ve paid for until you’ve opened and used it!

 

  • Quality varies tremendously from certified organic products with strict standards to unlabelled contents of questionable origin and quality.
  • Poor labelling leaves consumers in the dark.
  • Peat and bark (commonly used ingredients) tend to become hydrophobic (water-repellent) as their moisture content drops to below 30%.

 

Many use non-renewable resources that impact the environment like peat moss (expensive; breaks down too quickly; and compacts easily reducing aeration and drainage).

Many use non-renewable resources that impact the environment like peat moss (expensive; breaks down too quickly; and compacts easily reducing aeration and drainage).

 

  • May include chemical polymers in wetting agents to compensate for the ingredients that are often hard to wet.

 

The most common ingredient is cheap composted pine bark which can be quite acidic & breaks down quickly, causing the soil structure to collapse. It also consumes nitrogen in your mix so has to be compensated for, with added fertilisers.

The most common ingredient is cheap composted pine bark which can be quite acidic & breaks down quickly, causing the soil structure to collapse. It also consumes nitrogen in your mix so has to be compensated for, with added fertilisers.

 

On the up side, commercial mixes are sterile, disease free and very convenient as you just open the bag!

 

So Why Make Your Own Potting Mix?

  • 1. SAVE MONEY.  Potting mix bags range in price although high quality premium mixes are expensive. You can ALWAYS make your own premium quality potting mix cheaper!
  • 2. CONVENIENCE. Making a batch and storing it saves time. This way, you always have some on hand for mini projects. You don’t have to make it from scratch every time. Make up just the quantity you need.
  • 3. SAFE INGREDIENTS. Many non-certified organic commercial mixes contain water crystals or soil wetters. These are made from chemical polymers. After researching the dangers of these, I’ve decided not to use or recommend such products. Other bagged mixes contain chemical fertilizers. By making your own potting mix recipe, you know exactly what’s in it and can control the outcome you want with no hazardous ingredients.
  • 4. SELF-RELIANCE. Making your own supplies is incredibly satisfying and you can share these skills with others.
  • 5. LONGER LASTING. By choosing the right ingredients, you will get more mileage out of your own potting mix recipe, than a bagged mix based on bark. This ingredient quickly decomposes and becomes moisture resistant.

 

I've tried lots of different potting mix recipes with varying success rates. Now I just use a basic mix I know is reliable and long lasting - it's a starting point so feel free to try it out and experiment!

I’ve tried lots of different potting mix recipes with varying success rates. Now I just use a basic mix I know is reliable and long lasting – it’s a starting point so feel free to try it out and experiment!

 

How to Make Potting Mix at Home Guide

 

How to Make Potting Mix at Home Guide - increase your yields and grow healthy plants

CLICK THIS GUIDE if you want to follow the exact recipe I use to grow nutrient-dense food and healthy plants. This laminated double-sided guide gives you the shortcuts to successfully make your own potting mix and organic seed raising mix recipes. Dig in!

The Role of Potting Mix Ingredients

An ideal general potting mix should be:

  • light and airy (so plants can easily take root and access oxygen in the soil);
  • long-lasting (won’t break down or become compacted);
  • moisture-retentive (hold water to save you money watering too frequently);
  • and contain some nutrient value (save you fertilising too often).

 

Potting Mix Recipe: I think of it like baking a cake - each of the ingredients plays an important function. In a typical cake mix, there are wet and dry ingredients, those that bind it together and make it rise. If an ingredient is missing, you can't expect successful results!

I think of it like baking a cake – each of the ingredients plays an important function. In a typical cake mix, there are wet and dry ingredients, those that bind it together and make it rise. If an ingredient is missing, you can’t expect successful results!

 

Similarly, in your potting mix recipe, you need ingredients that provide different roles. These include drainage, aeration, water and nutrient retention, plant food, support, microbes and sometimes, thermal insulation.

 

“Some ingredients perform multiple roles and I’ve chosen mine carefully to minimise cost and maximise the benefits.  This mix is suitable for use in pots, hanging baskets and gardens.”

 

Basic Potting Mix Recipe

I like to keep things simple. Whilst there’s no “one size fits all” potting mix recipe that is perfect for ALL plants, I believe every gardener should learn the basics to start with. When you’re confident after making a few potting mix batches, experiment! Try using more or less of the ingredients to suit your own needs. Or substitute with resources you have easy access to.

 

This basic potting mix recipe is a starting point.

This basic potting mix recipe is a starting point.

 

Potting Mix Recipe Materials

If you want to make your potting mix quickly, I suggest you have a ‘kit’ of basic supplies that you store together in your shed or storage area. Each time you need to make a batch, you will have it all together. A few good quality tools will last you for many years.


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You’ll need:

  • a container for measuring;
  • a large bucket for mixing in;
  • access to water (kettle and hose/watering can);
  • sieve;
  • a small fork and trowel;
  • a container for pre-soaking the coir peat; and
  • your ingredients.


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Safety First!

When gardening, there are times when it’s important for your health, to wear protective safety equipment. This is not overkill! Legionnaires’ Disease is a risk factor when working with soils and potting mix.

These are simple precautions to take when making your own potting mix:

  1. To prevent inhaling dust or organic particles and the risk of any disease, wear a particulate face mask when working with organic materials.
  2. Wear suitable protective clothing and gloves. Wash your hands afterwards.
  3. Avoid making your potting mix on a windy day.
  4. Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from dust.
  5. Use a spray bottle to mist water over dusty ingredients.

 

Remember to wear suitable protective clothing when making potting mix.

Remember to wear suitable protective clothing when making potting mix.

 

Potting Mix Recipe Ingredients

Ideally, source your ingredients from your own garden, locally and choose organic where possible. There are also many sustainable, low-cost options online. These are a few products that I’ve hand picked for quality, safety and value.

 

CLICK BELOW for potting mix recipe ingredients

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  • 1 part pre-soaked Coir Peat. Coir peat is a cheap, but long lasting renewable resource. This is a more responsible environmental choice than peat moss. Coir peat is a waste by-product from the coconut-processing industry. The finer product left behind after the husk fibre is processed, is called ‘coconut coir’ or ‘coir peat.’ Don’t confuse this with peat moss, a very unsustainable resource!

 

Potting Mix Recipe Ingredient: Coir peat brick - this small brick makes up 9 litres when rehydrated

Coir peat is available in a convenient dry, lightweight compact block (in various sizes). It’s sold online, at garden centres, supermarkets, produce and hardware stores. It provides aeration; water holding capacity and bulk to the mix.

 

  • 1 part Vermiculite* (Grade 3 is a good size).  Vermiculite is the silvery grey coloured particles you often see in potting mixes. It is a natural volcanic mineral that has been expanded with heat to increase its water holding capacity. It can come from a variety of sources around the world. You can also purchase asbestos-free vermiculite online.

 

Vermiculite close up

The flaky vermiculite particles soak up moisture and nutrients and keep them in the mix so the plants can access them.

 

  • Vermiculite has a moderate CEC (cation exchange capacity). This means it can hold/make available minerals to the plants. It’s lightweight and inorganic. So it is a permanent ingredient that will not deteriorate or lose volume in the mix. Vermiculite is clean; odourless; non-toxic; sterile (no pathogens) and won’t become mouldy or rot. Depending on which brand you buy, the pH may be a little alkaline. [* If unavailable, use coarse sand – see Tips]
Sieving compost - I use a metal sieve which sits just inside the lip of a flexible bucket and makes it easy to remove any lumpy bits!

Compost retains minerals, provides moisture and plant food, microbes and improves the structure of the growing media. It also acts as a buffer to changes in pH and suppresses disease.

 

  • 1/2 to 1 cup* Worm Castings or Vermicast (humus). Ideally you will have your own worm farm to add this perfect humus to your mix. Note: * this is an approximate quantity based on making 36 litres (4 x 9 litre buckets) of potting mix using a 9 litre brick of coir peat. Feel free to add more if you have it! If you can’t access vermicast, you can buy worm castings or use some humus from the bottom of your compost pile that is most decomposed or use good quality compost.

 

CLICK BELOW for worm farm and composting resources

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Humus from the worm farm ready for use.

Humus has so many benefits including the capacity to hold nutrients and supply them to your plants; incredible moisture retention capacity (holds 80-90% of its weight in water); prevents leaching; provides beneficial microbes; is a plant food source; a buffer for toxic metals and chemicals; and has the optimum soil crumb texture.

 

  • A “part” can be whatever quantity you need: a small scoop or icecream tub; a 9 litre bucket or even a wheelbarrow depending on how much potting mix you require. I make 60 litres at a time in a large flexible bucket and store the rest till needed.

 

Potting Mix Recipe Method

STEP 1: Pre-soak coir peat in warm water in a large plastic container. Tip: To rehydrate a 9L block requires 4.5L of water so you need a container bigger than a 9L bucket to work in (minimum 14L size).

 

Add HOT water to the coir peat block to speed up hydration.

When rehydrated according to the directions for the volume you are making, loosen and fluff with your trowel.

 

STEP 2: Mix equal quantities of pre-soaked coir peat and vermiculite (or coarse sand if using) together well in a large separate container.

 

Blend the coir peat and vermiculite together first.

I’ve found it easier to get an even mix by blending the coir and vermiculite together first.

 

STEP 3: Next, add the sieved compost and worm castings and combine thoroughly with (optional) nutrients.

 

Blend all the ingredients together well as you would when making a cake!

You may need to moisten lightly with a watering can until you can just squeeze a few drops of moisture out of the mix or it has a nice moist but NOT wet feel.

 

STEP 4: Check the soil pH with a meter or pH testing soil kit.  Most plants require a pH of between 6.0 and 7.0. If you are growing vegetables, from my experience, they grow best in the range of 6.2 – 6.8 pH.

TIP: Store in a container WITH a lid. This stops your potting mix drying out if not using it all immediately.

Some plants do require a more acidic mix (e.g. azaleas, gardenias, rhododendrons and blueberries) to thrive. I've never had to adjust the pH using this recipe, however you may need to for what you are growing.

Some plants do require a more acidic mix (e.g. azaleas, gardenias, rhododendrons and blueberries) to thrive. I’ve never had to adjust the pH using this recipe, however you may need to for what you are growing.

 

Check the Soil pH

 

Keep the potting mix moist and recheck the pH again a few days later. It should be neutral (around 7) or slightly acidic (6.5-7) for most plants.

CLICK BELOW for a soil pH tester and nutrients you can boost your potting mix recipe with

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Add Nutrients (optional but recommended!)

I suggest you also add minerals and slow release organic fertilisers. You can blend these additional ‘ingredients’ into the mix all at ONCE. Then all you have to do is plant and water! The plants have everything they need to start growing.

 

CLICK BELOW for potting mix resources

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Want to Supercharge your Potting Mix?

Now you understand the basics. However, if you want to get the maximum out of your homemade potting mix, there’s so much more you can do. You will need to add other specific ingredients. These can help your plants take up nutrients faster, detoxify and insulate your soil against temperature extremes and help your potting soil mix last much longer.

After years of research, making tonnes of potting mix and testing to achieve the best results, I’ve created a one-of-a-kind ‘How to Make Potting Mix at Home Guide.‘ This guide also reveals what you need to add to adjust the pH level of your soil mix. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE.

How to Make Potting Mix at Home Guide - increase your yields and grow healthy plants

This Potting Mix Guide provides you with many variations and options to make your own high quality potting mix, with no nasty chemical additives – and NO pine bark. It lists specific ingredients, their unique benefits and quantities and how to use them.

In this laminated double-sided Guide, I also reveal my five tried and tested organic seed raising mix recipes so you can boost your seed germination success.

CHECK IT OUT HERE and how it can help you. Hey, and if you’ve benefited by reading my article, I’d really appreciate you supporting my site. Thanks!

My Potting Mix Recipe Tips

  • If you want fast results, soak your coir peat block in hot water to speed up hydration.
  • Once you have potted up your plants, avoid letting the mix dry out. Coir peat holds moisture well, but if it really dries out over time, it can take time to re-wet thoroughly. Mulch really well.
  • Compost breaks down as the nutrients are used up by the plants. So the volume of mix in your pot will gradually drop. You will need to top up with additional fresh potting mix around your plants over time.
  • Some potting mix recipes suggest using perlite instead of vermiculite. However, I prefer not to use this due to the risk of Silicosis. Overexposure to dust containing microscopic silica can cause scar tissue to form in the lungs, reducing the ability to extract oxygen from the air. It’s wise to always use a protective particulate face mask when using organic materials.
  • When buying a commercial potting mix, look for the Australian Standards Mark (AS 3743) on the packaging. A black tick indicates a basic potting mix and a red tick has added fertiliser which means it will feed your plant for a period of weeks. If I buy a bag of commercial potting mix, I choose Searles. Alternatively, look for an equivalent quality guarantee in other countries.

 

So, that’s my take on potting mix! … What recipes do YOU use if you make your own potting mix? I’d love you to share your thoughts here.

Related Articles: Re-using Old Potting Mix | Frugal Gardening | Thrifty Recycling Tips for your garden.

 

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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2016. https://themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.

157 Comments

  1. aussiebushgirl March 3, 2017 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Hi Anne. I am hoping you’ll be able to give me a few tips on growing bougainvilleas in containers/hanging baskets here in S.E. Qld. I’ve seen a few YouTube vids that mention that bougs do not like wet feet! Looking at your mixture above, I’m worried that the combination of peat and ver could cause over-absorption in the bougs. Can you recommend any other substitutes for peat and vermiculite in a bougs mix? Looking forward to any feedback you can pass my way, with thanks. Cheers, Heather.

    • Anne Gibson March 3, 2017 at 9:42 am - Reply

      Hi Heather, you can reduce the quantity of coir peat and add more coarse sand for additional drainage properties for bougs. Vermiculite holds moisture and nutrients but also provides great drainage. It’s used in professional mixes for propagation for this reason. I believe it’s an excellent ingredient for a boug mix. My How to Make Potting Mix at Home Guide provides a unique chart with many additional ingredients, showing the roles they play so you can mix and match to the properties you want in your mixes. It allows you to make a huge number of different potting mixes. The Guide also has specific ingredients not listed in the free recipe that enhance the longevity of the mix and many other beneficial characteristics. Hope this helps and have fun planting. Cheers Anne

  2. David December 20, 2016 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    Thank you kindly — we have been having a few issues with our potting mix – this has helped — and good idea about the PH test meter — just bought one — thanks

  3. Steve W. May 9, 2015 at 3:34 am - Reply

    Ann

    I started using your mix all last summer and since I do containers and live in a cold winter section I over wintered the pots in my garage which has an inwall heater which I keep in the 35-45 F degree range. When I brought those containers out this spring I was impressed with how well they wintered and how well the foliage looked after some warmth and sun. Much better than the peat , potting soils in the past. Im especially refering to the salvia greggii flower plants I grow. I also repotted these guys taking some of the old mix out and some new of the mix you show,, thanks a lot.

    • Anne Gibson May 9, 2015 at 5:05 am - Reply

      Thanks Steve for sharing your positive experience with my potting mix recipe. So thrilled to hear you had such great results! When we put the love into our soil, it shows in our plant health too.

    • Isabelle August 26, 2016 at 11:51 pm - Reply

      Hi Anne,
      I plan on making some of your potting mix to grow tomatoes in a wicking bucket. I was wondering if the kelp / fish emulsion / rock dust provides sufficient minerals – namely ca and K or will they require extra?

      • Anne Gibson August 27, 2016 at 12:07 pm - Reply

        Hi Isabelle, if you include a complete balanced mix of rock dust/soft rock phosphate/rock minerals + the kelp/fish emulsion, you should have sufficient nutrients for your mix. I am not sure where you are located but if you are in WA, you could try Munash Fertilisers. One of my clients uses their products and their rock dust is high quality. There are many options and the beauty of this recipe is you can tweak it to suit your needs. Hope this helps. If you are located elsewhere, let me know and there may be another brand that may be closer. I am also about to release my new Potting Mix Recipe Guide so stay tuned for more details on that. Cheers Anne

  4. amanda May 8, 2015 at 11:50 pm - Reply

    Hello….i bought peat 650grams…..how much vermiculite should i mix with it? thank you so much!!

    • Anne Gibson May 9, 2015 at 5:07 am - Reply

      Amanda if you are substituting peat for the coir peat, then an equal part of vermiculite should work well. Enjoy making your potting mix!

  5. Anne Gibson February 18, 2015 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    Jerard you don’t mention if your cow manure is well aged (old) or fresh? Fresh manure is UNSUITABLE for potting mix. It needs to be well broken down or composted first. Hope this helps.

  6. Jerard Samy February 18, 2015 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    Hi mam,
    Thanks a lot fo the reply.i have prepared 120 liters of potingmix.i have added All as you mentioned .for compost I have added cow mannure 2 parts(30+30+60 ie coco peat+ vermiculite+ cow mannur
    ).will it work mam.please reply mam

    jerard

  7. Steve February 16, 2015 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    Anne— Ive been using your recipe for a couple of years, but I also jumped over on your repotting of old mix blog. I think I may be guilty of putting too much verm. in the mix for fear of root rot so like you say I think the water runs out way to fast and I may be losing too many nutrient. Is there a good way to judge when the water is running out too or is that just a play by ear thing, like a cook tasting the food . I guess I have always gone by the addage water the pot till you see it running out. Any thoughts on the water running out too fast.?

    Steve

    • Anne Gibson February 17, 2015 at 7:48 am - Reply

      Hi Steve
      Thanks for your question. I guess you are trying to find out if your mix is holding water i.e. old potting mix. To do this, I just water the pot and count the seconds until water comes out the bottom. If it’s pretty quick, it’s likely your mix has become hydrophobic (repels water). This is a good time to revitalise it. If the potting mix has started to repel moisture, the water will run down the sides of the pot rather than percolate through the mix. I wouldn’t worry about too much vermiculite (unless cost is a consideration!) – it’s great for holding moisture and nutrients. Once you’ve reinvigorated your mix, you’ll know how to do it next time. No wasted ingredients so that saves money too. Hope this helps. Anne

  8. Jerard Samy February 15, 2015 at 11:42 pm - Reply

    Hi mam,
    Thanks a lot fo the reply.i have prepared 120 liters of poting mix as you explained.i have photos.how can i send mam.

    i get your mobile no.for watts app.
    The potting mix looks very nice.i have added All as you mentioned .for compost I have added cow mannure 2 parts.will it work mam.please reply
    thanks for u r time
    jerard

  9. jerard samy February 14, 2015 at 3:27 am - Reply

    Hi mam,
    thanks a lot for your reply.
    also i would like to know shall I add
    1.neem cake
    2.fish liquid in this mix.what quantity should l add.
    i am in India. hot place so should i use shade net for vegetable terrace garden.
    please give me reply.

    • Anne Gibson February 15, 2015 at 4:12 pm - Reply

      Jerard liquid seaweed or fish is used in this potting mix recipe – see pre-soaking coir step. I am sure your veggies would benefit from a light shade cloth or structure in your climate. It will likely reduce their need for water some what.

  10. Jerard Samy February 13, 2015 at 11:56 pm - Reply

    Hi ma,
    shall I add neem cake in this mix.what quantity should l add.please give me reply.b cos I am going to prepare .

    • Anne Gibson February 15, 2015 at 4:11 pm - Reply

      I don’t use neem cake Jerard – why not experiment with a second potting mix and compare results?

  11. Jerard Samy February 12, 2015 at 11:52 pm - Reply

    Hi anne, very use full one.i am in india.this sunday I am going to prepare the potting mix for my vegtable terrece garden.thank you very much.my cell number is 9487255662.if you have watsapp account please add me.bcos I can share more regarding this easily.thank you bye

  12. Rod January 8, 2015 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    Hi Anne,
    I have a question about what type of coir peat to use (noting that you’ve featured the 9L Brunnings brick. I’ve checked the Brunnings range at Bunnings and have found one that is a “potting mix” (makes 60L) and another that is “garden soil” (makes 90L). I’d prefer to buy these large bricks as I need to make a lot of Mel’s Mix (square foot gardening)soil. Do you think that both will be suitable replacements for peat moss? The packs are very unclear as to the difference.
    Thanks for your time,
    Rod

    • Anne Gibson January 10, 2015 at 5:39 am - Reply

      Hi Rod
      I think coir peat is a suitable substitute. It’s important to check the wording on the packaging though. Coir peat comes in various forms and grades (from fine to mulch). Some brands also add polymer based wetting agents so read the fine print! Brunnings brand is low in salt which is good. I haven’t used their 90L garden soil product and couldn’t find it online so you’ll have to make a decision based on the label or contact them. The 60L product is suitable. Depending on where you are located, you may also want to try your local horticultural supplies store – it’s usually even cheaper if you are making bulk volumes. Hope this helps.

  13. Rachel December 3, 2014 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Hi Anne. Thanks for the great potting mix recipe. I will be making this as soon a I can get some of the ingredients (and preferably from an organic source, not Bunnings!). I just had one question though, I have a compost tumbler in which I put grass clippings and food scraps. I also have access to a garden mulcher/ chipper and was contemplating using chipped tree prunings (such as from softer wooded plants such as echiums) in the compost. I think they will break down ok being soft stemmed but not sure as to how good a compost they will make. I would appreciate any thoughts you may have on this. Also, good to know about the Bunnings Coir. I will definitely be speaking with our local landscape suppliers to see if they have a better product. Gardening is tricky enough down in this part of Victoria (built on solid clay) so any advice on improving soil and growing successfully is always welcome :-).

    • Anne Gibson December 3, 2014 at 3:56 pm - Reply

      Hi Rachel, a quality compost has a wide variety of ingredients (nitrogen & carbon or greens + browns). So any woody prunings (if fresh) would add nitrogen or (if aged and dry) would add carbon. A good balance is 2 x carbon to 1 x nitrogen. The smaller the particles, the better. This increases the surface area for microbes to break down and speeds up compost decomposition. Use the clay to your advantage (it holds minerals and moisture well) by breaking it up with lots of organic matter to improve aeration and drainage. Then you should have a fabulous soil! Hope this helps.

  14. Andy November 17, 2014 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Anne, thank you for writing such a detailed response! i will look at amending the capsicums with some calcium, however i find it weird that it would be a calcium deficiency considering the compost is brand new this season and i amended with blood and bone (Compost is Searles 5 in 1 compost as i only just started getting my compost bins working again). I will also have a worm farm going at Christmas which will be great.

    Just to clarify we have 5 bays in the garden which 3 of them have the same soil as one another. The first bay we got was 1.8m x 1m x 40cm and it drains fine but was initially done by my parents who put cheap brunnings potting mix, sugarcane mulch and amended with several different fertilizers. 3 bays are 1m x 1m x 70cm and we have another with the 1.8x1x.4 that have the new mix in them. The 1x1x.7 bays have 1/2 of it as gardening soil we got from centenary landscaping which ended up being a semi clay (Not fully), so that is probably why there is water down below, however half the bay is the new mix and when i put the moisture meter about half way it has stayed at maximum moisture for the past couple of weeks. The other 1.8x1x.4 bay is 100% the soil mix from above, no bad soil and it stays moist as well once you get down about 10 cms. Beneath all bays is a weed net with some holes poked in it for worm access and below that is clay soil which has always been there.

    I also don’t think it helps that i was probably chronically overwatering them before i got the moisture meter which probably worsened the problem.

    The tomatoes aren’t dead yet, the cherry bush continues to grow upwards (1.8m tall) but is loosing leaves faster then it is producing and the tomatoes aren’t ripening at all. (Some have been sitting there for a month now) The two romas are stunted at about 70cm tall and all of their fruit have been either hit with ber and thrown out (Calcium + inconsistent watering) or caterpillars have got to (Getting exclusion bags as dipel/richgro beat a bug wasn’t effective). These 2 are also shedding leaves rapidly whilst the rest of the plant has abnormal darkish greenish grey colour. So yes you might be right about other nutrients being to high. I am going to do a ph test as well on each bay this week to see if there is something funky going on as well.

    The one other thing (Since you are a SEQ gardener as well) i had to ask was have you planted bush and climbing beans this season and if so have you had problems with them getting hit by leafhoppers (seen them on the bean leaves numerous times). Pretty much they destroy my beans before they even get big enough to produce flowers. Holes in all the leaves then the leaves shrivel and die. I tried them in 4 positions (1 bay, 3 pots) and only the ones on the deck which is 2 meters above ground are doing well as no pests come up there. The two other pots were put in 2 locations around the house to test the theory. Not sure what to do about this? Would it be best to get some exclusion netting? as i have exhausted different spraying ideas to stop them.

    Thank you so much for your time! I really appreciate it!

    • Anne Gibson November 19, 2014 at 7:32 am - Reply

      Hi Andy

      It sounds like you may have used Searles 5 in 1 as the ‘compost’ ingredient in your potting mix. Searles 5 in 1 is NOT compost – it’s an organic plant food. They do have an organic Real Compost Mix but the 2 products are completely different! This may possibly explain why some of the nutrients may be out of balance.

      I think you should address the clay content in your soil or you will likely always have problems. Clay holds minerals and moisture (as you’ve found!) but has very poor drainage properties. It should always be mixed well with organic matter so the clay particles are broken up and not in one layer or mass.

      The pH test is an excellent idea. This will help you know whether the plants are able to take up the soil food in the beds.

      Yes I planted bush beans this season but no problems with leafhoppers. They tend to thrive in warm, dry conditions. You will likely find that well-watered, healthy growing crops can tolerate any minor damage. If you work on your integrated pest management strategies, it’s likely if any do turn up in your garden, predatory bugs and spiders will take care of the leafhoppers. Sprays will only kill the beneficials as well. Plant health starts in the soil. Then it comes down to good management practices. I’d grow them in pots at this point until you get your soil healthy and beneficial insect populations arrive to maintain balance. Boost plant health with regular seaweed applications.

      You may find this article useful: Design Tips for a Productive Kitchen Garden. If you need further personalised advice, I also provide phone/online consultations and garden visits/site reports.

      Hope this helps! Cheers Anne

  15. Andy November 16, 2014 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    Hi Anne, i used your exact combination in several raised beds and found that the soil mix holds a little to much water. The issue is if you overwater them (Which i did accidently so it is my fault) or you get to much rain the soil doesn’t completely drain and in my case i have had my tomatoes get root rot from overwatering (Leaves rapidly go yellow then shrivel and die. There is no dark marks or anything so i assume its not blight). Obviously after this season is up i will be looking at putting in lots of organic matter to try to make the soil hold a little less water. Also i hadn’t watered my capsicums for two weeks and they never drooped once, then when i watered thinking they might need it, it then rained the following night, then they went all sad and looked terrible obviously from overwatering. Blossom end rot also started happening. Ordered in a moisture meter and the soil is dry as a chip about 10 cms in then it gets very moist after that. It has been like that for the past 7 days even with the 40 degree day here in Brisbane. Do you find yours holds water like this?

    • Anne Gibson November 17, 2014 at 9:57 am - Reply

      Hi Andy

      Thanks for sharing your challenges. There are always learning opportunities! I don’t have enough information to accurately diagnose exactly what has happened, but I wouldn’t assume overwatering has caused all the problems. Particularly as we have been through an incredibly dry season in SEQ.

      You mention you used the potting mix in raised beds. Was this as the total volume of soil to plant in? Or just on top of other organic matter, garden soil etc? Or did you just put a few handfuls around each plant? This info would be very helpful. The reason I ask this is because you say the top 10cm is very dry but it is “very moist” below that. I am wondering if you have clay soil under there or whether the beds are located somewhere down a slope where they are wicking up moisture from underground. There are many factors to consider why this could be happening. So it’s important to understand whether the potting mix makes up 100% of the growing medium or just part of it. Also, it would be useful to know if the beds are irrigated or do you water by hand? To me, this sounds like it could be primarily a drainage issue.

      In the case of tomatoes getting yellow leaves that shrivel and die, this is quite common for them! This often happens when they have been watered inconsistently and fertilised irregularly. They are extremely hungry feeders, so they shed these leaves when producing flowers and fruit to send the mobile nutrients from the oldest leaves to the new ones. The dead leaves just add more organic nutrient-rich mulch to the soil, so don’t stress about that. It isn’t clear whether the tomatoes actually died (you mention root rot?) or you just had the leaf ‘problem’ so please clarify! Root rot could occur if there was inadequate drainage and you had excessive moisture in the bed, however I am wondering if this is possible when it’s been so dry?

      Regarding adding organic matter – it HOLDS nutrients and moisture and this is exactly what you want. Moisture-holding ingredients in the soil help to make the nutrients bioavailable to the plant. That is different from lack of drainage (See my post on 3 Key Factors to Consider). That is why I asked for more detail about your raised beds. Also, how deep are they? There are many solutions if we can accurately diagnose the real issue.

      With your capsicums, blossom end rot indicates there is not enough calcium available to your plant to properly form the fruit. This can happen for a number of reasons including:
      * lack of calcium in the soil (i.e. you haven’t added the nutrients in the form of minerals or in the organic matter available e.g. compost).
      * the level of other minerals/micro-nutrients the plant absorbs before calcium, may be too high (i.e. the available calcium is locked up in the soil).
      * if lots of leaves were growing on your capsicum at the same time as fruit were forming, there may not have been sufficient calcium for both functions.
      Inconsistent watering only makes these problems worse. Overwatering and dry conditions can both cause problems.

      The bottom line to fix this is to:
      1. Make sure you keep up the supply of calcium (a balanced rock mineral blend like Organic Link or NatraMin is ideal).
      2. Water consistently so the nutrients are available to the plant.
      3. Have good drainage.
      4. Add organic matter.
      5. Provide protection to plants if located in a windy area so they don’t lose too much moisture through their leaves.

      I hope this helps! Cheers Anne

  16. shafique November 8, 2014 at 9:37 am - Reply

    Dear sir/madam

    Hi

    Can you gave me some idea of potting mix, how much 7-7-7 fertilizer I can apply on the 25litre, or 25Galan compose, I will wait for your reply thank you,

    Kind regards,

    Shafique

    • Anne Gibson November 8, 2014 at 10:36 am - Reply

      Hi Shafique

      I’m not sure if I understand your questions correctly so I’ll give it a try! I don’t use 7-7-7 fertiliser. This is an N-P-K formulation which assumes plants only need three minerals and this is not correct! For organic gardeners who are aiming to create healthy gardens and plants, I recommend you add a balance of ALL the nutrients plants need – not just 3. i.e. A complete rock mineral mix with the main minerals (Nitrogen, Phosphorus & Potassium) plus all the trace elements. There are many brands that you can use. You can find some examples in my Amazon store – I don’t sell them personally. It’s a bit like assuming the human body will be healthy if we just have Vit C and ignore all the other minerals our bodies need to function!

      When working out fertiliser quantities, you follow the recipe for adding the compost, coir peat etc (1 part or 2 parts etc). When you have the TOTAL volume of finished potting mix, then you would need to follow the directions on the mineral mix or fertiliser brand you use for that volume. e.g. If you are using 25L or 25 gallons of compost in your recipe, then you would also be adding about the same volume of coir peat & vermiculite combined i.e. total volume approx 50L/Gal of potting mix. So you can work your fertiliser out on that. Hope this helps. 🙂

  17. shafique November 8, 2014 at 8:55 am - Reply

    Dear sir/madam

    Can you just calculate for me? How much fertilizer I can mix with “five Galan” Bucket? On fertilizer code 7-7-7 with total five Galan compose, thank you

    Kind regards,

    Shafique

  18. Suresh November 6, 2014 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    Thanks Anne.

  19. Suresh November 6, 2014 at 11:21 am - Reply

    Hi Anne,

    How are you ? Me again with one quick clarification on coarse sand for preparing my own potting mix.

    My local nursery got three varieties of sand namely Packing Sand, Concrete Sand and White Sand. And when I asked for coarse sand the nursery suggest me for concrete sand which is the Coarse sand. So I would like to know whether the Coarse sand and Concrete sand are same one or different varieties ?

    Kind Regards,

    Suresh
    Melbourne.

    • Anne Gibson November 6, 2014 at 12:05 pm - Reply

      Hi Suresh
      I would suggest you take the nursery’s advice – just so long as you get a coarse or sharp sand (i.e. NOT round so it compacts), it will be fine for drainage in your potting mix. Sharp/coarse sand leaves air pockets whereas soft, beach and other round sand particles compact tightly and should not be used.
      Hope this helps and have fun making up your potting mix!
      Cheers Anne

  20. Nyssa November 1, 2014 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    After spending a bit of time gardening & shopping around lately – building up a vege bed – I thought I would let you know my experiences with a few shops around Brisbane with finding Vermiculite.

    Bunnings sells 5L for $8.95
    Masters sells 5L for $7.98
    Capalaba Produce sell in 10 & 20L packs – I got 20L for $9.85. A big range of other things too, for animals & gardens – plenty of seedlings outside but I did not check them out.

    Nudgee landscaping sell 100L for $33. This was the only landscaping shop that listed vermiculite online (I looked at maybe 5 around Brisbane). However, I haven’t checked in person at any other landscaping supply stores – no doubt there will be places that don’t have everything listed online.

    I hope that’s helpful for some people! 🙂

    • Anne Gibson November 1, 2014 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and Brisbane suppliers. I’m sure lots of SEQ gardeners will find that info helpful.

      Here are a few other places around Brisbane that you can source organic supplies for your garden. You may have to phone to check exactly what they have in stock before making a trip.

      SEEDLINGS SUPPLIERS:

      Peter Kearney, Biodynamic Grower Brisbane – Supplies organic vegetable, fruit & herb seedlings propagated with organic methods. Seeds are mostly from non-hybrid saved seeds (well acclimatised to the local climate) grown originally from either Eden Seeds or Green Harvest. No chemicals used. Grown organically and biodynamically producing strong seeds and healthy plant stock. Roadside stall at the front of the property @ 203 Wights Mountain Road, Wights Mountain, North Brisbane. Phone 0401 156 532 for current stock or drop in.

      Edible Landscapes Nursery – Northey Street City Farm, Corner of Northey Street & Victoria Street, Windsor, Brisbane. All seedlings and plants are grown from open-pollinated seeds from organic sources, the potting mix is also organic and produced at Northey Street City Farm in their Green Waste Recycling Centre. No chemicals are used in the production of their seedlings. Visit the nursery during open hours Tuesday-Sunday. For all enquiries, phone (07) 3857 8774.

      Brisbane Organic Growers Inc. – The BOGI Seed Bank is a collection of seeds donated by various members of BOGI from plants which are organically grown and non hybrid varieties or purchased from a reliable source. Includes insect attracting flowers, vegetables and herbs. Seeds are $1 a packet. The number of seeds provided varies, but it is generally enough for a couple of harvests (i.e. just the right amount). Seeds are available for purchase at the General Meetings as well as certain special events such as the BOGI Fair each October. 102 McDonald Rd, Windsor. Ph: 3357 3171.

      LOCAL PRODUCE STORES:

      All stock Organic Xtra; Apollo also stock Dr Grow It All.

      Lindsay Rural, 44B Cambridge Street, Rocklea, 4106 Phone: 07 3240 4900
      Apollo Landscaping Supplies, 2 Musgrave Road, Archerfield, 4108 Phone: 07 3275 1195
      Globe Australia Pty Ltd – 2/79 Musgrave Road, Coopers Plains, 4108 Phone: 07 3277 3999

      NURSERIES:

      Turner’s Garden Centre, 473 Miles Platting Rd, Rochedale 4123
      Email: turnersgc@optusnet.com.au; Phone: 07 33415214

      OTHER PRODUCTS:

      Searles stock a range of bagged certified organic ‘Kickalong’ potting mix, compost, 5 in 1 plant food, cow and chicken manures and mushroom compost – all these help building organic matter in your soil so if you need a boost while you are making your own supplies, this is an easy range to find.

      BRISBANE LOCAL FOOD:

      This is an excellent local online community of organic gardeners who help each other in the Brisbane area. I’m a member and it’s free to join. This is a great way to get local advice, tips and join groups that visit each other’s gardens to get inspiration and learn about plants that grow well in your area. If you want to source something locally, you can also ask for help and the online community almost always has an answer.

  21. Jerard Samy October 29, 2014 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Mam could you please tell me some additional nutrients to add in natural form.b cos the brands natramin etc. Are not available in our place.so if you mention some nutrients in natural form I can arrange here.thank u mam

    • Anne Gibson October 29, 2014 at 4:17 pm - Reply

      Hi Jerard
      You don’t mention where you are located so I would suggest looking for “rock minerals”, “soft rock phosphate” or “crushed minerals”. There are many brands but the quantity depends on whether you are just container gardening or have a bigger space like a backyard. If that’s the case, then I would go for a more economical option like a big bag. Usually agricultural supply stores stock these kinds of products or nurseries. If you can’t find anything similar, then try your local landscaper and get some crusher dust (crushed granite fines) or similar. You can also use potash (from a fireplace) if you have it available. Hope this helps. 🙂

  22. Jerard Samy October 29, 2014 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    Very nice recipe

  23. Elliot Pilshaw October 20, 2014 at 8:02 am - Reply

    Dear Ann,
    In your article about making DYI Potting Mix, you mentioned that many non-certified organic commercial mixes contain water crystals or soil wetters made from chemical polymers and after researching the dangers of these, you decided not to use or recommend such products. I’ve never used water crystals before, but was considering getting some to mix into soil for my houseplants.

    Until now, I had only read that these crystals/polymers are non-toxic. But I want to make sure I know what I’m getting into. So, after reading your article, I wanted to ask you exactly what the dangers are that you discovered. I doubt I would be comfortable using water crystals when growing vegetables, herbs or anything else that is going to be eaten. But for just growing non-edible house plants, should I be concerned about toxicity? Thanks for your help.

    All the best,
    Elliot

    • Anne Gibson October 20, 2014 at 12:12 pm - Reply

      Hi Elliot

      In my opinion based on the research I’ve done, I don’t believe there is any need for water crystals in potting soil mix IF there is sufficient organic matter and a living soil food web (i.e. beneficial microbes). i.e. if you have moisture and nutrient holding ingredients that supply your plant with what it needs, why add a chemically based product? In nature, plants have sufficient microorganisms in the soil supplying them with food and leaf litter as a living mulch, providing and holding moisture. With my houseplants, I just imitate the same environment. Good quality mix + mulch & sufficient moisture. You can also choose self-watering containers if you are concerned your houseplants will dry out too quickly. There are many solutions other than adding water crystals.

      Obviously you’re not eating your houseplants, so the choice is up to you! Water crystals are polymer-based (petrochemical) usually made up of acrylamide and polyacrylamide units. You can read more about the toxicity and sustainability issues in this article ‘Water Storage Crystals‘. I choose not to support companies or products that are environmentally damaging as there are many safe, organic solutions that are not detrimental to human health, the soil, water table or other creatures.

      There is also an excellent science-based article by Dr Linda Chalker-Scott that paints the pros and cons of ‘Water Based Crystals‘. This article also explains how ineffective they can be with many factors affecting how they work. Some common microbes (bacteria and fungi) even actively decompose the gels in the soil!

      Alternatively, some simple things you can do to keep your houseplants healthy include: add liquid seaweed regularly to provide a wide variety of trace elements to build plant immunity and healthy cells; coir peat (coconut fibre) which is very moisture-retentive; and minerals to your potting soil. Top with mulch and rotate them out in the rain or sun every so often.
      Hopefully this information will shed some more light on the subject so you can make an informed decision. I guess it comes down to doing our own due diligence and making a decision you feel comfortable with.

      Hope this helps! Anne

  24. Suresh October 17, 2014 at 10:45 am - Reply

    Thanks Anne for sending me another great link on ‘no-dig veggie bed’ . I will follow your instructions and if I need further help I will contact you via Skype.

    Kind Regards,

    Suresh.

    • Anne Gibson October 17, 2014 at 11:49 am - Reply

      No problem Suresh! I have made lots of these – I have my own lasagne garden recipe which has different ingredients from the link I shared, but the principles are the same. Would love to see before/after pics if you’d be happy to email them to me. It’s always inspiring seeing garden projects. Have fun! Anne

  25. Suresh October 16, 2014 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    Hi Anne,

    Good Day.

    You are absolutely correct. I planted two citrus plants in the pots and this is my first planting experience.

    Now I am planning to build a small veggie bed to grow day to day use veggies ex. Tomatoes, some Greens and so on and the veggie bed size I am planning is
    3 x 1.5 x 0.40 meters which requires approx. 1.5 cubic meter soil. Few months back I purchased one compost and I am adding all garden and kitchen waste to it so the compost is still cooking.

    So can I get a Veggie mix and some mushroom compost from nearby nursery and mix together instead of sieved compost in your recipe. And add Vermiculite and Coir peat to it make a good potting mix to my veggie bed ?

    And could you please suggest me how much each items is required to make good soil for my veggie bed.

    Thanks,

    Suresh.

    • Anne Gibson October 16, 2014 at 3:15 pm - Reply

      Hi Suresh
      It can be expensive to buy in bulk supplies to fill a raised garden bed. It is common for many new gardeners to get compost or premium soil delivered from the landscape yard only to find it is poor quality and full of weed seeds. It’s best to ask friends/neighbours about their experiences and get a recommendation if you go down this path.
      One economical option is to make your own soil if you have the time and access to resources locally. Many councils offer cheap or free mulch from their recycle centres for residents. You could create soil using a no-dig ‘lasagne’ technique by layering your new garden bed with a variety of organic materials like grass clippings, compost, prunings, mushroom compost, leaves from your yard, coffee grinds and veggie scraps from a local cafe/green grocer etc. i.e. you create compost by layering browns rich in carbon (e.g. bale of hay, dead leaves, well-aged manure, old grass clippings etc) with greens (fresh grass clippings, veggie scraps, green bale of lucerne etc). This provides food for the microbes to break it all down and turn it into compost in your garden bed.
      While it is decomposing, you can then make a premium potting mix (like my recipe) and plant your veggies into little pockets at the top of the garden bed. This saves you money and time. By the time the little roots have grown deeper, the materials will be broken down sufficiently to feed the growing plants.
      Bagged mixes can get expensive so maybe just get a few for the top layers and add bulk to your garden bed at the bottom with a bale or two of hay from a local produce store.
      If you need more help, I’m available for consultations online via Skype or phone. Just email me for details. All the best!

  26. Suresh October 15, 2014 at 11:37 pm - Reply

    Hi Anne,

    Thanks for your great article. Your information will be very useful for me as I am very new to gardening. I spend around $40 just for buying 4 bags of potting mix for two citrus plants which I planted last week.

    Only item I am not sure on where to get the Vermiculate in Melbourne. So could you please let me know where I can purchase Vermiculate in Melbourne.

    Kind Regards,

    Suresh
    Melbourne

    • Anne Gibson October 16, 2014 at 11:25 am - Reply

      Hi Suresh

      Thanks for your feedback and glad the info is useful. I gather you are planting into pots?

      Vermiculite is often available at hardware and nursery/horticultural supplies stores. It’s best to shop around for value. Depending on your needs, it may be more economical to buy a larger bag that lasts for much longer than a small bag that costs a lot for the volume you get. I use grade 3.

      Here are a couple of suggestions for Melbourne area:
      * Exfoliators (Aust) Pty Ltd, 3 Kitchen Rd, Dandenong, 3175, Victoria, Australia Ph: (03) 9706 6049 MB: 0427 999 949 Email: louis@exfoliators.com.au Website: http://www.exfoliators.com.au/ – see where they distribute that’s closest to you.
      * Sure Gro 6kg BFA certified organic input approved bag.

  27. Mark September 25, 2014 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    😀 What a great read!

  28. Mark September 25, 2014 at 7:18 am - Reply

    Hi again Anne. Almost finished potting. I have a question regarding microbes in the soil. Chlorine is put in water to kill microbes, should we not be using tap water on our pots and gardens? Also, I brew my own beer and after all the sugars have fermented, there remains a nice lot of yeasty sludge at the bottom of the barrel. Would this be ok to use as a replacement for molasses even though there are no sugars left in it? Thanks.

    • Anne Gibson September 25, 2014 at 8:27 am - Reply

      Hi Mark

      Great to hear you are potting up and sharing your experience here. Microbes (microorganisms) in the soil food web play an essential role in helping feed your plants. The last thing we want to do is kill them. Chlorine, unfortunately, is in our town water of necessity for human consumption. Over time, this can affect plants detrimentally, from the research I’ve done. That’s why I always recommend putting your potted plants out in the rain to get the benefits of rainwater. If you have tank water, it may be better to use that.

      I haven’t personally used beer sludge but I have read others have had success using it in their compost. Why not trial it? Label the potted plants you add it to vs the ones you don’t and see if you notice any difference. Always interesting to experiment! This forum has some interesting experiences you might find useful. Keep us posted with your progress.

  29. lorraine September 21, 2014 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    Your page is a very interesting read and thanks for putting it out there. I have tried many commercial potting mixes in the past and was very disappointed when I got them home, to find they were mainly made of composted pine bark, and poorly composted pine bark I might add. I found they were not much good at all. So I did start making my own – very much the same stuff you use, except I used bags of coarse washed river sand and that coir stuff. It worked fine but now I don’t use pots as they are a bit of work and they can be time consuming with watering etc. Now I basically put everything in the garden beds, as I find that less work and worry. I have tried many different plant foods and the ones I find much superior to the others are good old fashion home made compost, and a touch of blood and bone now and then. I have not found anything on the market yet that will beat a good old home made compost. If made correctly, your flowers will bloom all the time, as mine do. Also pests seem to almost disappear when plants are nicely fed with compost. I won’t use any more chemicals either, as I have found using them just makes more problems later down the track. Anyway, thanks again for a good read. Cheers Anne and good luck with your gardening.

    • Anne Gibson September 24, 2014 at 7:18 am - Reply

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with compost Lorraine. Well fed plants are happy and healthy! You’re always welcome to share how your garden is growing. Cheers, Anne

  30. Lissete September 19, 2014 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    Hi Anne, I am new to your site today and am in awe of your wealth of information in getting the soil established with complete nourishment. I have used some Bentonite, Zeolite and spongolite which are good products to enrich sandy Perth soils along with compost. Ihave yet to finish the job in more of the garden. Some of my garden is doing better than others. In one section I planted a creeping Chinese Jasmine with the dream of it flourishing and covering some of the back fence and then enjoying the delightful aroma. Not to be, that was about 8 years ago. There must be something nasty in the soil as it never flourished and is embarrassingly growth stunted. The leaves are more yellowish/veined and only had flowers once when I used Lime Sulphur on it. Can you explain what I really need to do to bring into the land of it’s true living condition please?? Thank you Lissete

    • Anne Gibson September 20, 2014 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      Hi Lisette
      Sounds like you are on the right track with the minerals and compost you’ve been using. Without a soil test, it’s very hard to know exactly what your soil needs. Many different things could be needing correction such as pH levels, nutrient deficiencies, insufficient moisture, etc. However, remineralising it + adding lots of organic matter + an active soil food web, will all help so keep going with these things. Remember to add mulch also. Hope this helps!

  31. Mark September 14, 2014 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    Thanks Anne. I’ll still journal this project with pictures 🙂

  32. Mark September 14, 2014 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    Typo: pull my plants out and amend it?

    • Anne Gibson September 14, 2014 at 6:12 pm - Reply

      Hi Mark
      NO! Please don’t pull your plants out – no need. This recipe is just a guide. I wrote it from my personal experience to help explain the PRINCIPLES of ingredients and the ROLES they play so people are able to make their own decisions based on what they have available. Don’t worry about the quantities not being exactly the same. I am actually going to create a laminated card for people to use with the recipe and some variations so you will be able to take it outdoors with you. So stay tuned for that! In the meantime, you can’t have too much compost. You have just added more of an ingredient that provides your soil with extra nutrients = plant food; more moisture holding capacity; microbes and improved aeration. They are all good things! The fact you have black gold in there is a bonus. I think your plants will take off and love it.
      Why don’t you take before and after photos? I’d love to see them and I’m sure my readers would too. Let me know how you go.

  33. Mark September 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    Hi Anne, better late than never, I finally got onto doing this and in the rush, I realized I had gotten the ratios wrong. The final mix was made 4 parts compost to 1 part coir and 1 part vermiculite, which makes it half as much coir and vermiculite compared to the recipe. Just wondering how this will affect the final mix in terms of needing to water it more often/watch for drainage etc. The compost like I said is light and flaky, and in itself was 3 parts light compost with one part black gold from elsewhere. 60L of the hydrated final mix weighed 30kgs to give you an idea. Should I leave it or pull my plants out and am end it? Thanks in advance. Mark.

  34. Jan August 9, 2014 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Hi Anne.

    What a lovely blog you have. Thanks for all your ideas and it is so good to your experience in your garden.
    I am a newbie in regards to gardening and I want to know where to get all the ingredients to make the potting mix for seed germination.

    I want to get the ingredients but not in plastic because of the growth of bacteria.

    I am in Camden NSW and I only need small amounts of each media.

    I would appreciate your help.

    Regards.

    Jan

    • Anne Gibson August 13, 2014 at 7:51 am - Reply

      Hi Jan

      Welcome and thanks for your feedback. You should be able to find basic ingredients like coir peat blocks in various sizes at your local nursery, hardware or stockfeeds & produce stores. Coarse washed river sand is available very cheaply from landscape supply stores. Just take a bucket or they will bag up the quantity you need. You should also consider getting your own worm farm going as worm castings are brilliant for raising seeds. You can also buy certified organic potting mix or compost that you can sieve for seed raising and use the remainder in your garden.

      Hope this helps and would love a photo and to hear how you go Jan. Cheers Anne

  35. Caroline August 3, 2014 at 11:12 am - Reply

    Hello Anne

    I came across your site today as I lay in bed recovering from Legionella longbeachae as a result of bought potting mix. Like all gardeners, I have been aware of the risks, but it seems I was just unlucky!

    What impressed me when I first read your potting mix recipe was seeing your children wearing masks, which will be something I will be strongly promoting.

    As I continued to read on, my interest grew. I too have been aware of the damage our food is doing to us and the environment, but have also been drawn into the convenience of bought potting mix, food etc.

    I have read your story and my heart went out to you. Well done to you for the hard work work in achieving what you have and for your generosity in sharing it with others. I will be spending the rest of the day reading everything on your website.

    Many thanks

    Caroline

    • Anne Gibson August 4, 2014 at 1:38 pm - Reply

      Hi Caroline

      Thanks so much for sharing your story – I am so sad to hear you have suffered from Legionnaire’s disease. Too many gardeners think it is overkill to wear a mask but I lost my beloved young dog to a virulent soil-based fungal disease that spread to his lungs. He had breathing difficulties and died in my arms 24 hours later. Bagged mixes come with a warning for good reason. After our family’s painful experience, I am well aware that invisible microbes play an important role in the soil but are not meant to live in our lungs or bodies.

      Masks and gloves are a basic safety precaution and I am horrified to watch popular celebrity gardeners demonstrating how to pot up all sorts of plants on TV shows with no mask or gloves. I know from the practicalities of filming that it would be difficult to talk through a mask, but I think they should at least explain these precautions are what viewers should do at home.

      I have a personal interest in using and sharing safe gardening practices and materials – you may also enjoy reading Choose Safe Containers for Growing Food.

      I wish you a speedy recovery and hope you enjoy the site.

      Warm regards Anne

  36. Mark June 13, 2014 at 10:27 am - Reply

    Thanks Anne. I might take up your suggestion and journal this project with pics & all. I got a great surprise when digging the compost today…. its light & fluffy! Layers of old leaves, sawdust, grass clippings, and its right next to an old chicken pen. I’ve struck gold 🙂

  37. Mark June 12, 2014 at 8:57 am - Reply

    Hi Anne. This is an awesome post. Thank you.

    I am about to make 600L of this potting mix to start a potted dwarf fruit tree orchard and herb garden for my balcony. So far I have dwarf lemon, like and mandarin, dwarf Wurtz avocado, Turkish fig, and may get dwarf apricot, peach and nectarine.

    I was lucky enough to move into this house 6 months ago, and it had a large compost pile (will make about 300L) from lawn clippings and fallen deciduous leaves. It is well broken down, but is still chunky, with particles around the same size as bagged potting mix. Using this will save me about $80 compared to buying 300L of Searles Organic Real Compost. I also found bulk vermiculite at a hydroponics store in 100L bags for $35 compared to $45 elsewhere. They have a lot of coco coir, and told me that the coir at Bunnings is processed in salt water then rinsed in fresh, and may have residual salt left in it, whereas the stuff they carry has an industry standard that doesn’t allow for any salt to be present whatsoever. Thought that might be worth mentioning here.

    My question is regarding the size of the compost particles in my pile. Your recipe states to screen the compost, and I am wondering what the effect of me using larger particles will have on this DIY mix.

    I will check its pH and correct as necessary, because I understand grass clippings to be acidic.

    I look forward to hearing from you and thanks again for this post!

    • Anne Gibson June 12, 2014 at 9:36 am - Reply

      Hi Mark

      Thanks for your feedback. Excited to hear of your mini urban balcony orchard. Would love to see some pics via email re your journey, to inspire others if you have the time to share with me.

      Sounds like you have the ideal situation with your own compost and what a saving! Because of the leaves, that will be ideal for potted fruit trees as there will be more beneficial fungi in the mix. Don’t worry about it being “chunky” – that’s what compost is. Partially broken down organic matter. When it completely breaks down, you have humus = black gold. In the meantime, the microbes feed on the nutrients and turn this into plant food. I suggest sieving compost if it’s really chunky – mainly for small pots or if you are planting seedlings or seeds. Seeds need a fine sieved mix but fruit trees will thrive on what you have.

      The bulk vermiculite sounds good and thanks so much for sharing the info about Bunnings coir peat. I get mine from a farm supplies store.

      As I’m sure you’re aware, the grass clippings will change from nitrogen (when fresh & green) to carbon (when dry & brown), so you can use them according to how you want to build your compost layers. I’d separate some out and use them in both forms if you have limited ingredients to build it. Perhaps consider asking your neighbours for their kitchen scraps or coffee grounds, tea leaves etc for extra nitrogen and diversity? You could leave a communal bucket with a lid somewhere if allowed, and get them to drop their food waste in there. This could help you build it more quickly. You may also have a groundsman that comes to manage the property. Perhaps he could bag up prunings or other organic matter (check whether he uses herbicides or other chemicals on the grass clippings though!) Herbicide residues can last for years in the soil and that’s NOT what you want in an organic food garden, so please be careful. If you have a coffee shop or green grocer nearby (organic preferably) and you have the means of collecting their waste, that’s another solution for getting ingredients fast.

      Keep me posted with your progress! Hope this helps. Anne

  38. Todd May 20, 2014 at 11:34 am - Reply

    Anne, at the end of the growing season how do you store your old potting mix over the winter months? I don’t want to leave it in my fabric grow bags and was thinking about storing it in plastic bags or plastic trash cans in the garage. I’m just worried that if I do store it that way, that it’ll go “bad” in some fashion…mildew, etc.

    • Anne Gibson May 20, 2014 at 2:08 pm - Reply

      Hi Todd
      I grow all year around so I don’t have this issue, but when I make up batches of potting mix, I store it in a large 60L (13gal) garbage bin with a lid. It is unlikely to go ‘bad’ if you have a living soil mix with a balance of microorganisms. Plastic trash cans sound fine but I would use your ‘down time’ to create more compost and healthy soil. If you have a compost system, you can add your mix to that so over the cooler months, the microbes can reinvigorate it ready for spring. Alternatively, add some food scraps and other organic matter to your mix in the garbage bins and let the microbes go to work breaking it down ready for planting. You may also find my article on Revitalising & Reusing Old Potting Mix of help – including my replies in the comments. Hope this helps!

  39. Uber Gardener May 18, 2014 at 11:53 am - Reply

    Hello, this year I have way too many containers to fill. I want to make my own potting mix and like your recipe.

    I was wondering about the lightness of the mix and the container. Would the wind knock over tall plants? Normal windy days, nothing tornado-ish.

    Should I add garden or top soil to my mix to get it a little heavier? Any suggestion is welcomed.

    • Anne Gibson May 20, 2014 at 2:29 pm - Reply

      Hi Uber Gardener
      This mix is quite lightweight so if you have a windy site, my suggestions would be:
      1. Add sand to your mix for drainage and weight.
      2. Use heavier pots in exposed conditions such as concrete or wood (see my post on Choosing Containers).
      3. Securing your containers to a railing or fence etc for additional stability.
      4. A solitary pot is far more exposed than a group of containers so consider positioning pots together for support.
      5. Avoid planting single stem plants in tall narrow pots as these are more likely to have an imbalance of weight and susceptible to wind damage.
      Hope this helps!

  40. Mike the Gardener May 16, 2014 at 11:15 pm - Reply

    Great Post Anne!

    Very detailed! I am always looking to conjure up potting mixes from recipes for the many varieties of fruits, veggies and herbs that I grow. I am looking forward to giving this a try.

    • Anne Gibson May 17, 2014 at 2:54 pm - Reply

      Thanks Mike! I’ve had lots of positive feedback using this recipe so hope you have great results too. 🙂

  41. Neco Torquato May 16, 2014 at 3:26 am - Reply

    Hello Anne,

    Good job! Fantastic text!

    In the Add Nutrients section, for Rock Minerals, you wrote: “1 cup of NatraMin”. This amount, 1 cup, is for 60 liters of pott mix?

    Thanks,
    Neco Torquato

    • Anne Gibson May 16, 2014 at 12:15 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your feedback Neco. Yes, I use about 1 cup of rock minerals/60 litres of potting mix. I also put this into my compost so it is already in a bioavailable form for my plants. If you are making your own compost, I suggest you also do this to maximise the mineral availability to your plants.

  42. Zeffur May 8, 2014 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    I’m the quinessential thrifty gardener. I don’t buy anything for my garden or potting mix. I use top soil (which is clayey), finished home/yard compost (leaves, twigs, grass, kitchen waste), finished bark compost (provided for free by the company who is hired by the electric company to trim branches around the power lines), & urine (an organic nitrogen & potassium source). The soil works great in my garden & for pots–and best of all it costs me *nothing* out of pocket.

    I have had my clayey soil tested and the only thing it lacks is nitrogen. That’s why I add the urine (which provides 9.3 g/L of N and .75 g/L of K). A good rule of thumb for applying urine is: ~22.5 mL (i.e. ~0.76 fluid oz) per square foot will provides 10 ppm of N. It’s usually best to add the urine to about a pint (2 cups) of water before applying it because it makes it easier to cover the 1 sf area more evenly when applying the small amount of urine over a 1 SF area.

    For those who might want to use it to fertilize potatoes in 100 SF patch, use the following example:
    Let’s say your soil test shows your soil has 20 ppm of N
    And you want your pre-plant fertility to be 80 ppm of N
    Then you need 80-20=60 ppm of N

    Since the urine has 10 ppm/22.5 mL, you simply do the following calculation: 22.5 mL/10 ppm * 60 ppm = 22.5 mL * 6 = 135 mL (~4.6 fluid oz) of urine will be needed per square foot. Since your potato patch is 100 sf, you calculate 100 SF * 135 mL/SF = 13,500 mL. Since there are 1000 mL per liter, that means you will need 13.5 L of urine (~3.6 gallons) to fertilize the whole potato patch. Note: The average person produces about ~1.8L (.5 gallon) of urine per day, so it would only take about 7 days for one person to collect enough urine for the whole potato patch pre-plant N fertilizing.

  43. Catherine April 30, 2014 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    Hi,

    I’m a total newbie so please excuse the ignorance. I am all set for making this mix, and have found all the required supplies. Even found some great biodynamic compost locally (mine isn’t good enough).

    Just wondering, I would like to pot plant some herbs and leafy greens. when potting, do I just put in the potting mix and the seeds? DO I need to add other ingredients? I was going to mulch with leaves from the tree, we have tons.

    I am also getting organic link, eco seaweed, and will have bokashi juice and worm juice on hand.

    Thank you,
    You have a really great site.

    • Anne Gibson May 1, 2014 at 11:20 am - Reply

      Hi Catherine – don’t apologise! Everyone has to begin some time and happy to help. 🙂
      Sounds like you are well organised and ready to go. You can use Organic Link for your minerals and Eco-Seaweed and just add these to your potting mix while you are making it. Then it will have all the nutrients already and you can just pop into your pots and sow seeds or plants. Biodynamic compost is amazing and your plants will be so healthy! Would love to know where you sourced this?
      I always water in with seaweed or diluted worm juice (not diluted bokashi – I suggest you use this on your compost to activate it instead).
      Leaf mulch is fine if it is shredded/composted rather than green – it’s also called leaf mould and you can make this by putting in a black bag for a few weeks. What tree are the leaves from though? There are some such as eucalyptus I wouldn’t recommend using as they have growth inhibiting chemicals. Hope this helps!

  44. Anne Gibson April 28, 2014 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Hi Steve
    Sorry by Nursery Suppliers, I mean businesses that supply materials in bulk to the horticultural or nursery industry, not just retail garden nursery outlets. There’s a big difference in price! Not sure where you’re located but you could try Googling or your local directory to see if there are any in your area. This may open up more possibilities for you. Good luck.

  45. Steve April 28, 2014 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Anne

    Thanks for your help but I have already tried the best nurseries around and they dont have the good course grade I would like to have. Looks like I may end up biting the bullet and getting the expensive stuff. I think in the past I used too much of the verm in the mix and my pots drained to quickly when watering I think your recipe will help in that direction.

  46. Steve April 27, 2014 at 10:41 am - Reply

    I like using the exact size of verm. you show but only one place in my area has it and it is expensive. $16 for 1.5cu ft bag. I want to use your recipe and I already do worming and have the coir but I think on the verm step I will go half verm. half sand. When I run out of the fine verm. I will get a bag of the course stuff just hate to pay the price.

    • Anne Gibson April 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm - Reply

      Hi Steve
      Yes vermiculite is more expensive. Not sure where you are located but try your nursery suppliers and you may be able to get a bulk bag for MUCH cheaper. That’s what I do. Alternatively landscape yards supply coarse washed river sand which is cheaper than bagged sand.
      Cheers Anne

  47. Denise Joseph March 23, 2014 at 3:57 am - Reply

    What do you mean by adding molasses?

    • The Micro Gardener March 23, 2014 at 8:11 am - Reply

      Molasses (preferably black-strap) helps feed the microbes and you can purchase it from produce stores, health food shops and supermarkets. It’s pretty cheap and you only need to dilute about 1 tblspn in 9L of water in a typical watering can. Hope this helps!

  48. Katrina March 16, 2014 at 9:12 pm - Reply

    Great fact sheet!!!

  49. Jack December 17, 2013 at 12:06 am - Reply

    Hi Anne
    In your E book you say one week seaweed and then molasses the alternate week. I haven’t heard of molasses before this. I did not see how much and how do you use it also the use of Epson salt how much how often
    Thanks
    Jack

    • The Micro Gardener December 17, 2013 at 6:04 am - Reply

      Hi Jack thanks for your questions and welcome! Molasses helps feed the microbes to activate your soil and it’s a cheap input. You can get it from produce stores, health food shops and even some supermarkets for just a few dollars. A little goes a long way. I slurp about 1 tablespoon (capful) into the 9L (2 gal) watering can and fill up with water (use a sharp spray from your hose or tap to dilute as it’s quite thick and sticky). You can also add the same quantity of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) to this sized bucket monthly or when starting seeds to help root growth. Hope this helps! Anne

  50. Todd October 18, 2013 at 12:53 am - Reply

    Hi, thanks for posting this. I have been looking for a good potting mix recipe for next year’s big project. I do have a question, at the end of the season what to do with all of the potting mix that was used in the pots? I would like to recycle it into use the following year but is this possible? If so, what does one have to do to reuse it?

  51. Elyssa October 10, 2013 at 12:41 am - Reply

    I’m currently having a go at making my own potting mix from your recipe – but do you also have a recipe for making your own seed raising mix?

    • The Micro Gardener October 10, 2013 at 8:02 am - Reply

      Hi Elyssa
      You can buy a commercial seed raising mix or try these DIY recipes:
      1. 2 parts coarse/sharp washed river sand (i.e. not beach sand) to 1 part vermiculite and 1 part coconut fibre.
      2. 50:50 Worm castings (vermicast) to sharp sand.
      3. 2 parts sharp sand to 1 part coconut fibre, worm castings or sieved compost.

  52. Gary Zerner September 20, 2013 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Anne and Dona,
    Love your site and tips for gardeners.

    Thanks for talking about NatraMin. We have been manufacturing NatraMin, a blend of rock minerals, for over 25 years and farmers and gardeners across Australia love it. NatraMin rock minerals are a blend of 4-6 natural mineral sources and are ground down to a fine particle size in order to speed up their release is action to improve soil structure. (Crusher dust nutrients will only come from the dust as the tiny stones are too large to release any nutrients in the foreseeable future).
    NatraMin blends act as a fertiliser and soil conditioner that contain bio-activated minerals and trace elements and contain a unique catalyst to feed and stimulate microbial/biological activity. The increased microbial activity in your soil assists with soil crusting, cloddy or sticky soil issues as well as assisting with neutralizing soil pH, improved water infiltration and moisture retention while increasing the availability of applied and stored nutrients.
    Rural stores and produce stores in southern Qld and Northern NSW may have NatraMin in stock if you live elsewhere, NatraMin can be ordered. All blends are safe for natives and will not burn plants, apply higher rates to speed up soil structural improvements. One last thing, the smallest package size we currently have is 40kg (will be reducing soon to smaller bags) and should retail for between $20-$28 per bag (allow a couple of extra dollars for freight depending on where you are. Many thanks and happy gardening. The AgSolutions Team

  53. The Micro Gardener September 19, 2013 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    Dona, I suggest NatraMin Original. Cheers.

  54. dona September 19, 2013 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    thanks for your quick reply. I contacted agsolutions now and they have a few natramin choices in stock and asked which one I want. I’m stuck as I dont know which natramin is good for potted and plants directly on soil. Which one should I buy as they have suggested natramin cal-s which they say is there most popular one. Please help me.thanks

  55. The Micro Gardener September 19, 2013 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Hi Dona

    The stores I suggested definitely stock NatraMin – best to phone to check it’s available when you go or contact AgSolutions via their website for other stockists. See http://www.agsolutions.com.au.

    I love Organic Xtra and have used it for years as I’ve had great results from it – comes in 5kg and 20kg bags so you can buy according to your needs and well priced for the quality. See http://qldorganics.com.au/store-locator/ for closest outlet to you. If you have any trouble finding it, contact Kathy@qldorganics.com.au – she’s very helpful.

    Will touch base via email re consultations.

    Cheers
    Anne

  56. dona September 19, 2013 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    thanks a heap for your reply. Can I ask where do you buy your natramin from so I can buy from there. I cant find a buy now section on the natramin website where I can buy. I will check at acacia ridge shop you gave me for natramin. Also which is better- organic link or organic xtra to buy? Can I ask how much you charge for consultation. You have my email address.please let me know.thanks

  57. dona September 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    thanks Anne. i found rock dust munash from herbs2home.com.au which I think is pretty similar to rock minerals your using. I might try that. I’m planning to start a small worm farm but that takes time. In the mean time can I use humus solution or worms work from bunnings. will that work? Do I need to use trace elements to build up soil microbes? if so which brand? should I use Bio-Trace Trace Element Mixture from batphone.com.au or renew liquid from herbs2home.com.au. I appreciate that you took the time to answer my questions. thank you. I look froward to hearing from you and also tips on growing container tomatoes in Brisbane.

    • The Micro Gardener September 19, 2013 at 2:14 pm - Reply

      Hi Dona
      I’m not familiar with the Munash brand as I only use certified organic products and they do not appear to be. One of the products I use is a 25kg bag of NatraMin which retails for around $40 and is great value but I’ve also used smaller quantities of Batphone’s Organic Link [http://batphone.com.au/products/dry-mineral-fertilisers/organic-link-1kg.html]. I am not familiar with ‘humus solution or worms work’ from Bunnings. I don’t use anything that’s not certified organic (i.e. has Australian accreditation) in my garden or those of my clients so we can have the confidence that what we are growing in does not contain anything toxic, potentially damaging or that will create an imbalance in nutrients. Unless you are prepared to invest in a soil test to find out what mineral deficiencies you have and then remediate it appropriately, you will likely be only guessing what you need in terms of products like Bio-Trace. Generally these types of products are used once you know what your soil is lacking. If you make your own potting mix for smaller containers, you can get my free recipe and this will help you get an understanding of the role of the various ingredients. As you can appreciate, I provide a full advice service to my private clients with home consultations and help them set up everything they need to get started and maintain their organic garden. If you need further advice, I’m happy to send you the details about one-on-one consultations so you can decide if this is for you. Re growing tomatoes in our climate, I do provide this service at my personalised consultations so you can learn everything you need but not online. Hope this helps. 🙂

  58. dona September 16, 2013 at 10:55 am - Reply

    Hi,
    I live in brisbane and would like to know where I can buy vermiculite, rock minerals,coarse sand. Also which brand of vermicast(humus) should I buy.please help me.will I get these at bunnings? please let me know.thanks.
    Have you got helpful info on growing tomatoes. I always try growing them but never have success as some of the flowers wilt and dry.the leaves wilt and yellow sometimes.the bottom leaves grow but after a few days it wilts and dies.I grow them in pots.Can you send me start to finish process of potting tomatoes and growing them in pots from start of potting till finish steps of harvesting tomatoes.please help.thanks.dona

    • The Micro Gardener September 17, 2013 at 9:05 am - Reply

      Hi Dona
      I’m sure Bunnings does sell some of these ingredients but you can usually find coarse washed river sand quite cheaply at landscape yards – just BYO bucket with lid for what you need. Produce stores like Brookfield Produce might also stock them but best to phone and check. There are many brands of rock minerals – I use NatraMin from AgSolutions in QLD. A couple of locations you can try are Farmcraft, Acacia Ridge – 3272 8906 or Lindsay Rural, Rocklea – 3240 4900. I don’t recommend buying worm castings unless it’s fresh otherwise it can be dead and dried out. It doesn’t take long to get your own worm farm started and make your own. Brisbane libraries are always running free workshops on how to do this or visit your local community garden.
      I’m writing a series of eBooks and cover tomatoes in one but will keep you posted when available.
      Hope this helps, Anne

  59. Kim September 7, 2013 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    Hi – I love your site 🙂 I was just wondering if you realised that nicola chatham is selling this diy potting mix recipe as part of her ebook which she sells through her site. I just noticed that the mix she uses and wording is pretty much exactly the same as your post. It may be nothing to worry about but I though i should let you know.
    Kind Regards

  60. KayleneP May 5, 2013 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    This is a fantastic source of information for someone who is new to making their own potting mix. I have recently been making my own compost and I am now ready to starting reaping the rewards and making my own potting mix. I have a blog where I share great links that I have found on the web. I will be doing a post shortly on making my own potting mix from my compost and I will be linking to the great information that you have here!
    Thank you for providing such comprehensive information that is so useful for beginners!

  61. Marla March 31, 2013 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    Should not be called “Easy DIY Potting Mix.” This is by far the most elaborate and complicated I’ve seen, requiring pH meter, multiple ingredient and many steps over several days. Very information article, however.

    • The Micro Gardener April 4, 2013 at 7:21 am - Reply

      Hi Maria
      This tutorial is to help readers understand the ROLE of different ingredients and how to make CHOICES about what they have easy access to, so it can be made economically. It takes me about 15 minutes to make this recipe using the 4 ingredients suggested – no need to make over several days if you are organised with your materials on hand. Just like baking a cake, you get everything ready and mix it all at once then store whatever you don’t need.
      I’ve also given suggestions for ingredients if you don’t have the ones I use which may have given you the impression this recipe is complicated rather than comprehensive.
      The pH meter isn’t a necessity but a useful tool and it would be remiss of me not to mention it because the final pH of the mix should be fairly neutral. I feel it’s important for readers to know this step to help you be successful as some plants don’t do well it’s too alkaline or acidic and I don’t want to set anyone up for failure by excluding this tip. The nutrients as mentioned ARE COMPLETELY OPTIONAL. This is a suggestion as adding them to the mix is a major time saver. You are free to choose to do this or not. I hope this helps.

  62. Lynne February 19, 2013 at 4:22 am - Reply

    I want to make my own potting mix with your recipe. As it is the end of February I won’t have time to make my own compost. I live in eastern CT and can’t seem to find any organic compost to buy locally. Do you have any suggestions?

    • The Micro Gardener February 19, 2013 at 6:21 am - Reply

      Hi Lynne
      That’s fantastic you’re going to make your own! I’m not sure how close Collin’s Compost is but if they retail their product near you, you could try theirs as they comply with the National Organic Standards.

      If not, you have a few ways to get some beneficial microbes into your mix which are essential to a healthy mix that will feed your plants. A worm farm is quick and easy to set up on a porch or small space and can produce worm castings quite quickly for you, especially if you add manure (cow, horse etc) as food. You don’t need to buy a farm if that’s not within your budget – there are many YouTube videos showing how to make your own from other materials. My established worm farm can turn a layer of horse manure into worm castings in just over a week. If you know someone who has a worm farm or can connect with a local gardening or Permaculture group, you may be able to find someone who’ll happily start you off with a handful or bucket of compost or worm castings. Perhaps in return you can offer your help in their garden or to their club. Think ‘win-win’! My experience with our local groups is that everyone is so friendly and happy to help people get started so if you know how to bake or have something else you can offer like your time, I’m sure you’ll be able to find what you need locally!

      Alternatively, you can dig up a little organic matter from your own (or a neighbour’s) soil, sift if necessary and add this to your mix to get the living soil biology into your potting mix. As the recipe does need bulk organic matter as one of the ingredients you could also increase the amount of coir peat for your first batch until you make your own compost and just add in a smaller amount of your borrowed compost/soil/worm castings. Hope this helps! 🙂

  63. Tyler February 18, 2013 at 8:47 am - Reply

    nevermind on that last comment

  64. Tyler February 18, 2013 at 8:26 am - Reply

    So in this recipe, do we use both vermiculite AND perlite or just one of them. I got somewhat confused because you listed both of the products in the ingredients list. Otherwise, excellent post. Thanks for sharing this with us!

    • The Micro Gardener February 18, 2013 at 8:35 am - Reply

      Hi Tyler – no only one ingredient is needed to perform that role – either vermiculite OR perlite (I personally think vermiculite is superior for the reasons listed). If you need to make a lot of mix, try sourcing it in a bulk bag which is much cheaper. To keep the cost to a minimum you could also use 50:50 vermiculite to coarse washed sharp sand. Hope this helps! 🙂

  65. Mary Binder February 7, 2013 at 10:57 am - Reply

    I love the way you so freely shared your knowledge on this subject.

    It is refreshing to see one practice the motto, “each one, teach one”.

    Great post! Keep it up!

    • The Micro Gardener February 7, 2013 at 11:03 am - Reply

      Thanks Mary – glad you found the info helpful. Please feel free to share this post with others and empower them to save money and learn new skills. We should all be self-reliant and able to grow our basic food needs. I believe a good potting mix recipe is crucial to doing that. If we each sow a seed of knowledge we don’t know how many we could end up helping! As the Chinese Proverb says: “GIVE a man a fish and he will eat for a day. TEACH a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”

  66. Misti February 1, 2013 at 5:30 am - Reply

    What causes gnats? I know they say over watering but ever since I no longer allow Miracle-Gro in my house I don’t seem to have them.

    • The Micro Gardener February 1, 2013 at 6:41 am - Reply

      Hi Misti
      Thanks for your question. In your case, there’s a link between the Miracle-Gro product and your problem. This company is an agent of Monsanto. Scotts who make the Miracle-Gro product are well aware of the problem but their only “solution” is a chemical one – one of their own products encouraging you to waste even more money! This is a company whose products I personally WILL NOT USE OR RECOMMEND.

      If you are not aware, on 7 September 2012, “The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, a producer of pesticides for commercial and consumer lawn and garden uses, was sentenced … in federal district court in Columbus, Ohio, to pay a $4 million fine and perform community service for eleven criminal violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which governs the manufacture, distribution, and sale of pesticides. Scotts pleaded guilty in February 2012 to illegally applying insecticides to its wild bird food products that are toxic to birds, falsifying pesticide registration documents, distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels, and distributing unregistered pesticides.” Overall, they paid $12.5 million in criminal fines and civil penalties for illegally including insecticides in bird food products and for other violations. Disturbingly, according to the EPA, “The misuse or mislabeling of pesticide products can cause serious illness in humans and be toxic to wildlife.” They knowingly allowed their products to kill wild birds for over 2 years before the product was recalled. I urge you to read the full article so you can make an informed decision about what you buy in future. Would you trust a company like that? This is a thought-provoking article that examines the ethics of supporting such companies.

      It seems there are far too many of their customers who’ve used this product and consistently had the same problem with fungus gnats for it to be a coincidence so in addition to the ‘trust’ issue with the Scotts brand, you can draw your own conclusions about product ‘quality’! Fungus gnats lay their eggs in potting mix, which then hatch, grow and start flying around your house.

      My first advice to avoid this ever happening again is simply make your own potting mix – then you know EXACTLY what ingredients are in it and can control a high quality soil without contaminants. Poor soil mix may already contain the gnat eggs. You are welcome to use my FREE recipe and source ingredients you have easy access to for low cost. Once you realise how cheap and easy it is to make, you’ll probably never buy another bag again!

      If you need to source ingredients, feel free to visit my store which has economical and organic products (like worm castings, coir peat blocks, compost and vermiculite) that may help you make your own mix or buy one that is ready-made such as Naturals Seed Starting Mix. If you are going to buy a product make sure you check who makes it and what’s really in it. There’s some interesting info on Miracle-Gro here.

      These are a few other suggestions for minimising the occurrence again:

      • To remove any gnats inside your home without chemicals, try making your own sticky traps. The idea is they are attracted to the colour and get stuck there. You can make sticky boards from cheap yellow cardboard or a yellow plastic plate as they don’t need to be waterproof indoors. Use 6 cm x 15 cm or 30 cm x 30 cm as a size guide depending on the area you have to cover. Spread with petroleum jelly, glue or spray oil to form a sticky surface. Attach with a paper clip and hang or secure to a stake above your pot. Replace traps weekly or when full. Traps should be positioned 60 – 70 cm above the plants to be effective if hanging. Yellow sticky traps can be used for white flies, winged aphids and leaf mining flies too although you’re unlikely to get these indoors! (See a photo here).
      • Consider not using Miracle-Gro mix. I would personally repot the plants and start again with fresh potting mix and reuse it outdoors where the gnats won’t bother you. There are some tips for ways to reuse potting mix in my article.
      I hope this helps!

  67. Chris September 8, 2012 at 11:56 am - Reply

    Hi,
    Thanks for the great recipe for making your own potting mix.
    Do you have any suggestions for a seed raising mix?
    I use coir and coarse sand but I’m not having great results. I think it dries out way too quickly. Not sure whether covering with cling wrap would help?

    • The Micro Gardener September 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm - Reply

      Hi Chris

      Thanks for your feedback and question. Whilst you can buy a commercial seed raising mix, there are many alternatives for making your own but it’s good to remember that successful seed raising is not just about the mix you sow your seeds into. There are a number of factors that affect germination including:

      Correct moisture content (i.e. moist = 40-70% moisture but not TOO dry <30% moisture = they will die – or too wet >80% = they will rot).
      Sufficient humidity – A plastic bag or upturned cut off drink bottle work well for just a few seeds or for larger trays, you may be able to improvise with a lid or mini greenhouse solution.
      Soil temperature i.e. sowing your seeds at the right time of year. Some seeds only germinate if you sow when the soil temp and light is right.
      Planting depth – make sure you follow directions for the right depth for your seed type. Very fine seed only needs to be pressed onto the seed mix.
      Quality seed – not too old (i.e. still viable and from a reputable source).
      Good hygiene – Make sure your seed raising trays, pots or cells are washed clean if they have been used previously to ensure no diseases are spread.

      I am sharing these tips because your seed raising mix may be fine in itself but it may be too dry AND you possibly may not have sufficient humidity to retain moisture and temperature.

      If you want to try a different mix, here are some other recipes:
      1. 2 parts coarse/sharp washed river sand (i.e. not beach sand) to 1 part vermiculite and 1 part coconut fibre (holds moisture well).
      2. 50:50 Worm castings (vermicast) to sharp sand (as above).
      3. 2 parts sharp sand to 1 part coconut fibre, worm castings or sieved compost.

      You may also find this useful: http://www.underwoodgardens.com/downloads/germination_guide.pdf

  68. Tara June 25, 2012 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing 🙂 I too was diagnosed with cancer and now think about the safety of just about everything including what’s inside that bag of potting mix.

    This potting mix recipe looks easy enough to do and it will be great to know that the fast cropping greens growing in it will be not be affected by some nasty chemical. Our patch of lawn is getting smaller by the month and the percentage taken up by edibles just keeps growing!

    • The Micro Gardener June 26, 2012 at 5:47 am - Reply

      Hi Tara
      Thanks for sharing your experience – going through major health issues does change our paradigm and it’s an opportunity to make wiser and more informed choices about we eat, consume, our environment and how we live. So glad you can use the potting mix recipe. It is just like baking a cake! After a while you don’t need the recipe – it’s just a few ingredients and you can tweak it to suit your needs. I’ve made it so many times now I am not even that fussy with the measuring – I do it by eye. I use this recipe because not only do I know there’s no nasty chemicals in it, but that it lasts and gives good value for money and most importantly, what IS in it – a balance of minerals for healthy plants and nutrient dense food for us. Most of all, I LOVE hearing you’re turning your lawn into lunch! I’m sure sharing your story will inspire others to do the same. Happy potting! 🙂

  69. Sandy Perry March 4, 2012 at 5:17 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for such a thorough reply!! You’re advice is really going to help! I’m actually heading out shortly to try and pick up the seaweed (kelp emulsion, correct?) and Bokashi!

    Re: the “microbes” issue, the concern I had came from all the reading I’ve done online about using chook manure (and pond water, etc) with a veggie garden. Over and over again I hit warnings about spreading bacterial pathogens if said materials had not spent enough days at a high enough temp. On the other hand, I definitely understand the amazing power of beneficial microbes! (The yin and yang of the microscopic world is one of the “miracles” of life on earth, isn’t it?! For every bad one there’s a good one waiting to keep it in line, if nature’s given a chance to do HER thing!!!) It just gets tricky trying to balance out the info I read, and I definitely don’t want to do something stupid and dangerous! (I also have my slightly-more-paranoid mother’s voice in my ear, warning me that I’ll get everyone sick if I’m not careful!) On the other hand, for most of my life I’ve eaten whatever fruit and veggie happened to be on sale at the store, irregardless of how it was grown or what it was treated with. So surely if I just use common sense in washing the (100% organic) fruits of my OWN labors I’m now going to be WAY ahead of the food-safety curve no matter what!!

    One last quick question….in the compost/worm bin I threw together, I started with about 8″-10″ of worm-rich hummus and layered wet & dry leaves and veggies over it. For optimal performance, does the hummus portion require frequent stirring, or just the unprocessed scraps/leaves? (I worry about disrupting or injuring the worms that are tucked into the soil, since it’s hard to gently churn such dense material.) Thanks again! And a HUGE thank you for having such a fun, info-rich blog! I find myself coming here first for ALL my questions!

    • The Micro Gardener March 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm - Reply

      Hi Sandy

      Just wanted to first clarify that with the chook manure, I was assuming you are letting it age or mature in the compost until it has broken down and not using it fresh on your garden. If as you say, you had it at the bottom of your compost pile and it has turned into humus, then it should be ready to use.

      All manures can harbor some pathogens and common sense does play a major role in the decisions we make for our health and how we use organic materials in our garden. Obviously if fresh manure comes in contact with food crops such as strawberries, leafy greens or root vegetables and these are harvested and not washed properly, then any soil borne pathogen present could be a potential health risk. However, most people are aware they need to use well composted manures and wash home grown produce so I didn’t refer to this above.

      Doing our own ‘due diligence’ and research is one way we can satisfy ourselves we’re making the best possible decision at the time for our own personal circumstances. For example, I only use aged chicken manure on my garden rather than fresh unless it’s going straight into a hot compost system (it reaches between 55-65 degrees celcius for 3 days). I always make sure if I’m fertilising my fruit trees for example with (aged) chicken manure, that I do this after rain or when the root zone has been well watered first to avoid burning the shallow surface roots.

      There are some articles you might find of interest to provide more information on the topics you’ve raised:

      I’m assuming your compost bin is not a worm farm as such, but a bin you are adding organic materials to, to break down with a ‘starter’ of humus rich in worms! I would just aerate the top layers every few days or once a week (depending on how desperate you are for fast humus!) You don’t need to do anything to the humus that has already been created except to use it.

      I have what I call a ‘Mother Culture’ compost – my cream of the crop microbe population in a beautiful humus rich compost system and use this to ‘seed’ or as a ‘starter’ for new compost systems, much like you did. It ensures the right balance of beneficial soil microbes are there to start with. Keep up the great work Sandy!

  70. Sandy Perry March 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    We don’t yet have an official compost bin set up, but we do have a large area in our backyard where we dump lawn refuse (clippings, and especially TONS of leaves) as well as some veggie scraps and material from cleaning out the pond. It’s earthworm heaven, and the bottom layer is all very rich, black soil (seems to be what you call “hummus”) and on that is a nice layer of mulched leaf material that’s still not quite finished breaking down. I’d like to use it in a DIY soil mix, but I have one concern: we also have a chicken with free access to that area of the yard. She spends a good deal of time scratching away in the leaves…..which means she inevitably deposits a good deal of poo! Since this isn’t an enclosed compost bin, would the temp at the bottom of the pile ever get high enough to kill the bad bacteria from the poop? (I’m wanting to use it in a veggie garden.) I don’t suppose the portion that’s turned into rich dirt and worm castings can be presumed safe….as in, it wouldn’t have become dirt in the first place if there wasn’t enough heat to also kill off the bad bacteria? And if I CAN’T assume it’s been neutralized, if I were to gather a bunch of this is there any way I can speed along the process of reaching the ideal temperature? Since the composting process itself has already been handled by nature, I just need a way to get it to that ideal microbe-killing temp and hold it there for the 3 or 4 days necessary to “cleanse” it—and since it’s still generally chilly around here right now I don’t think I can count on the heat of the sun alone! (Maybe I’m wrong about that! Maybe I just need to seal it in black trash bags and lay it in direct sun or something!) The catch is that I need the soil to be ready ASAP, so if there’s no way to achieve this within a week or two I’ll have to go buy some. Thanks!

    • The Micro Gardener March 3, 2012 at 5:31 pm - Reply

      Hi Sandy

      Thanks for some really interesting questions! Firstly you are really lucky to have access to such wonderful raw materials to build your soil including your chook manure, pond waste, leaves and food scraps. It sounds to me like you are more concerned about the safety of the soil and that you might perceive microbes to be “bad” so if I’m incorrect in that assumption, please let me know. My answer tries to address this concern.

      Re compost temp “to kill the bad bacteria from the poop” and be “safe”: I am not sure what you mean by “bad bacteria from the poop” – chook manure is a rich source of beneficial bacteria and nitrogen that is gold for your garden when mature (some people age it for 3-6 months to use around fruit trees) because it can burn some plants if used fresh. However as the chooks are processing it as they help you make your compost (thanks girls!) you don’t need to be concerned. I’d love to have your ‘problem’! This is a BIG topic to fully answer all your questions because it relates to how beneficial microbes work to break down organic waste into humus so I’ll attempt to give you a short answer to put your mind at rest.

      Beneficial aerobic microbes (those not in water, such as in your pond) are on everything (bacteria, fungi etc) and they each play unique roles (they feed on different foods) and these good guys are responsible for the breakdown of organic materials in your compost (that’s where the heat comes from not the sun). It depends on the size of your compost, aeration, food & moisture present and a number of other factors, as to how hot your compost gets and if you are concerned about pathogens (e.g. from diseased plants that could be spread into your soil), then yes you should try to get the temp up in your compost. If however you don’t have these issues to deal with and are just trying to make your compost quickly so you can add to your potting soil mix, I would not be worried at all about the chooks adding their manure to the pile – this will only accelerate the decomposition by providing nitrogen (think food) for the happy little microbes who need to eat to do their work for you. If you use this composted material when it has been turned into humus in your potting mix, then watch out for abundant crops! Heavy feeders like tomatoes and other fruiting crops will LOVE it.

      To get a healthy population of microbes (both bacteria and fungi) into your compost that will break down into beautiful humus quickly (even in winter) you can try:
      Adding both seaweed (according to the directions for a strong solution depending on the brand you use) and a tablespoon of molasses to your watering can and fill it up. Water this in EVERY time you add new materials to your compost.
      Adding a sprinkle of Bokashi to your compost especially on your food scraps. (Bokashi is a Japanese term that means “fermented organic matter” – usually a combination of wheat bran and rice husks that also includes Effective Micro-organisms (EM) = beneficial microbes). Bokashi has traditionally been used to increase the microbial diversity and activity in soils and to supply nutrients to plants. I’ll blog about this in a future post. You can buy bokashi online quite reasonably or from places like Bunnings hardware in Australia.
      Cover your compost pile with some black plastic or natural fibre such as an old woollen rug/carpet square (not synthetic as these leach toxic chemicals) to retain heat and moisture.
      Turn the pile as often as you can from outside in (even if only the top layer) and water enough to maintain sufficient moisture (when you pick up a handful and squeeze it, a few drops should come out).

      Your suggestion of putting your compost into a garbage bag in the sun is a very effective method for “solarising” or killing weeds and weed seeds (same as drowning in a bucket). I’ve used a similar method to create beautiful compost by adding the contents of our guinea pig cages (mix of manure, urine and straw bedding = nitrogen + carbon) directly into a black garbage bag with some water and then waiting a few weeks until it had all composted down. Best of all I didn’t have to lift a finger!

      So, in summary, try the above tips and you should see your compost break down much faster. I’ve seen my food scraps disappear literally within one week using this method (seaweed + molasses + bokashi). Hope this helps.

  71. Mark Valencia February 4, 2012 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    This was a well written article with easy to follow setp-by-step instructions and excellent pictures – well done, it takes a lot of work to produce this kind of post.

    I got a lot out of reading your potting mix recipe and it sure has made me re-think buying the commercial stuff.

    Cheers, Mark

  72. The Micro Gardener January 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    Hi Glenyth

    Love the idea of the plastic yellow party plates – very inventive! It sounds like you will have to resort to a multi-faceted strategy to get the white fly under control. Both oils will work – I don’t recommend White Oil because it’s petroleum based and I only use certified organic products like Eco-Oil or ones I make myself. There are sustainability and chemical issues with White Oil.

    Although I haven’t made this myself, if you want to give your own white oil a go, there’s a recipe you can try at http://deepgreenpermaculture.com/diy-instructions/strange-brew-homemade-garden-sprays/. This site has some good general purpose home made sprays without the nasty chemicals.

    I think remediating the soil mineral deficiencies is going to help in the longer term but in addition to what you’re already doing, the oil may be a good short term solution to knock them out en masse. The certified organic BugGuard insect spray is used as a direct contact solution against white fly and is less damaging to beneficials than some other alternatives so if you already have it, and the problem is out of hand, sometimes it’s best to just resolve the issue.

    With the citrus leafminer, if there’s only a minor infestation, you can remove the individual leaves and destroy them (because it will spread), without resorting to the oil. In summer/autumn you can limit water and fertiliser on citrus to avoid a flush of new growth when the leafminer population is at its peak and fertilise in winter instead.

    The hot weather may have stressed the nasturtiums out sufficiently to make them more susceptible to white fly attack, especially if they are in your garden in such large numbers. Keep us all posted. It’s interesting seeing what products/solutions work for others.

  73. Glenyth January 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    Thanks Anne,
    I have the sticky traps. I bought throwaway plastic party plates in bright yellow and coated them with petroleum jelly and attached them to bamboo stakes. (I am sure the neighbours think I’m crazy cos they look like fake sunflowers. They sure catch the whitefly but they are in such plague proportions that they don’t seem to make any difference. I had already bought some epsom salts as I had read our soils are magnesium deficient but was not sure what strength to make up the solution. I will try that straight away. I may also need to raise my sticky traps a bit higher. Is Eco-Oil different to white oil? As I use white oil to control citrus leaf miner.
    My nasturtiums have died back and I thought it might be because of the hot weather. I just went and checked the patch and the ones that are left are full of whitefly. You should have seen the cloud of them when I touched the nasturtiums. You can see the small larvae of the whitefly under the leaves and those leaves are starting to yellow, so I think maybe it was the whitefly that made them die back also. Hope the epsom salts help!
    I was worried about using the BugGuard that I have that it might kill the good critters as well.It is a potassium based soap that is recommended for whitefly.
    Thanks once again for your help. I’ll see how it goes.
    Cheers Glenyth

  74. The Micro Gardener January 14, 2012 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your experience Deb. Unfortunately it’s extremely common but most people don’t think to check the mix! I don’t believe in rewarding manufacturers of poor quality products with my wallet anymore! It’s good motivation to start making your own potting mix. You can now control exactly what you are getting for your money.

    You should be able to tweak your poor mix by adding some of the ingredients I’ve mentioned above in the post. Humus will help balance the pH so if you have some, try adding that. Check the pH until it is corrected or put it all into your compost and revitalise it. Have fun!

  75. Deb January 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this post Anne. I bought some potting mix recently and things weren’t growing well in it. After some searching I found a suggestion to check the pH – it was 4!!! (with the electronic one and 5.5 with a mix up kit) I couldn’t believe the poor plants were still alive. So I have been looking for a way to make my own.

  76. Glenyth January 13, 2012 at 10:32 pm - Reply

    Hi, love love your website! My flower and ornamental garden does ok but here in Murrumba Downs, Brisbane my vegies really struggle with pests and diseases. At the moment whitefly is driving me nuts. They even killed the marigolds I planted to deter insects! None of the organic measures I’ve heard of seem to be making any difference and I don’t want to use stronger stuff as I think beneficial insects will get killed off also. I’ve tried to grow vegies in the past with similar results. I’ve tried building up the soil with organic material and the earthworms seem to be big, fat and numerous. I use seaweed products fairly regularly and organic fertilizer so I don’t know what I am doing wrong. The local nursery says not to grow vegies in summer but some people seem to grow them ok. I am looking forward to giving your potting mix a go. A lot of my vegie gardening is in pots so it will be very useful. My lemon and lime trees (in pots) are looking great and I now seem to be getting on top of citrus leaf miner, so that is one success. I am now trying kang kong, water chestnut and malabar spinach. I really like the malabar spinach, it grows really well and is very tasty, no where near as harsh tasting as silver beet. Have to wait for the water chestnut but the kang kong is just about big enough to start harvesting. My herbs are doing fairly well except the sage has died – I believe it doesn’t like humidity! I really look forward to your articles so keep up the good work and thanks,
    Glenyth

    • The Micro Gardener January 14, 2012 at 11:54 am - Reply

      Hi Glenyth

      Thanks so much for your compliments on the site. Much appreciated! Loved hearing what you are growing in Brisbane and my intention is to write some articles on pest and disease control as well as prevention so stay tuned for those.

      Now to the White fly! These sap suckers create havoc because they excrete honeydew as they eat – which in turn attracts sooty mould that turns the leaves black and the plants can’t photosynthesize so once they take control, they can do quite a bit of damage. They are most active in warm, humid conditions (i.e. our summers) so won’t be a problem all throughout the year but it’s good to have organic strategies to use from your toolbox when needed.

      My philosophy is to work WITH nature, so here are some options for you to consider:

      1. White flies do best where the soil is deficient in phosphorous or magnesium (most soils in Australia are magnesium deficient). I don’t know if you’ve had a soil test done, but you could probably guess this is part of the problem. Mineral deficiencies can be easily corrected over time by adding the minerals to the soil. Part of my regular maintenance regime is to add 1 tblpsn of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) – which is cheap and easily available from the chemist, produce store or supermarket – to 9L bucket or watering can. Water in monthly. You can also add dolomite (calcium & magnesium), rock phosphate (these are the rock minerals I refer to in the above post which provides a balance of soil minerals) or wood ash (if you have a fireplace) to the soil. i.e. tip the scales in your favour by altering the environment so they won’t want to live there!
      2. Spray with a certified organic product like Eco-Oil that will suffocate them. Check after 2-3 days and spray again if needed. This is a useful product to have in your arsenal.
      3. Try growing LOTS of nasturtiums under the plants being affected.
      4. Grow pest-repellent plants in your garden to use in homemade sprays or as companion plants to protect against white flies. Penny Woodward has an excellent book (on my bookshelf) called ‘Pest-Repellent Plants’ which is worth borrowing from the library. She lists many plants including lavender, basils, calendula, onions, pyrethrum, rosemary, thyme, tomatoes, derris, feverfew, quassia, rhubarb and wormwood that are effective against white fly when used in a variety of ways. I won’t list them all here but you may want to pick up some ideas from her helpful book.
      5. You can also try making your own yellow sticky traps as a last resort as these also attract beneficial insects. The idea is the flying insects are attracted to the colour and get stuck there. Sticky boards are made from lightweight plywood painted yellow or you can use cardboard (cover in yellow contact or paint to make it weatherproof). Use 6 cm x 15 cm or 30 cm x 30 cm as a size guide depending on the area you have to cover. Spread with petroleum jelly, glue, motor oil or spray oil to form a sticky surface. Attach with a paper clip and hang or secure to a stake. Replace traps weekly or when full. Traps should be positioned 60 – 70 cm above the plants to be effective if hanging. Yellow sticky traps can be used for white flies, winged aphids and leaf mining flies too. (See http://www.asktheexterminator.com/Pest%20Control%20Supplies/Glue_Traps.shtml for photo).

      In regards to growing summer vegie crops, I totally agree with your strategy of growing sub-tropical alternatives like malabar spinach, water chestnuts and kang kong. These are all great choices for summer crops. Others include ceylon spinach, sorrel (lemony flavoured spinach which is incredibly resilient – good in salads, omelettes, quiche, as a spinach substitute) & Tahitian spinach. Look forward to staying in touch. Please share how you go with the white flies!

      Cheers Anne

  77. Jetsetterjess January 13, 2012 at 1:48 am - Reply

    Hiya great post, I think I’ll give making my own potting mix a go. I was trying to find river sand in Bunnings today however and couldn’t…will check out some other places though. Have been following your blog for a few months now — love the frugal gardening articles and the nasturtium posts inspired me to get some nasturtium seeds going. Sadly my seedlings keeled over when we went on holiday as there were several consecutive days of 40 degree heat here in Adelaide. Compounded by them not getting watered by family as requested! Will plant a new batch soon and hopefully get them established so I can try a few of the ideas mentioned. Cheers, Jess

    • The Micro Gardener January 13, 2012 at 7:18 am - Reply

      Hi Jess, Great to hear from you and about your nasturtium adventures! They are a wonderful plant aren’t they? We’ve just had a heat wave for a few days here on the Sunshine Coast and mine have been knocked around too (except for the ones under trees or shade). If you know hot weather is on its way, they would benefit from a good soak including a drink of seaweed (as a tonic) beforehand so there is plenty of residual moisture in the soil and heavy mulching. These are a couple of my ‘plant insurance policies’ that I use to protect them! Nasturtiums have wide sun umbrellas for leaves so do lose quite a bit of moisture thru transpiration. Skinny plants like chives aren’t as affected by the heat so this ‘policy’ really applies to large leaf plants as well.

      Wonderful that you’ll be giving potting mix a go. It’s quite addictive once you start! From my experience, river sand is almost always stocked by landscape supply yards and is very cheap as it’s bought in bulk. I’ve bought it this way. I just take a plastic container with a lid (just in case it spills in the car on the way home!) and get them to spade it in directly. They weigh it and you pay a small charge. This way you can buy exactly the quantity you need and no more. Would love to see some pics of your garden when you have a moment. I’ll be doing some posts this year sharing what others in our MG community are doing so we can get inspired by each other.

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