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Easy DIY Potting Mix Recipe

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.

 

Make your own potting mix - it's cheap, easy, satisfying and a skill you can share with others.

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, I decided to make my own mix. It had to be better than going through all that again!

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 and saves you a whole lot of headaches!

 

The ‘Dirt’ on Commercial and Soilless Potting Mixes


  • Surprisingly, the old adage ‘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.

 

Take 'pot' luck with general potting mix

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%.

 

There are more environmentally friendly choices than peat moss.

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

 

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

 

Pine bark mulch

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?


  • SAVE MONEY.  Potting mix bags range in price but you can ALWAYS make your own premium quality mix cheaper!

 

Ready to go potting mix in a container.

CONVENIENCE. Making a batch and storing it saves time so you always have some on hand for mini projects without having to buy a huge quantity if you don’t need it.

 

  • SAFE INGREDIENTS. Many non-certified organic commercial mixes contain water crystals or soil wetters made from chemical polymers and after researching the dangers of these, I’ve decided not to use or recommend such products. By making your own mix, you know exactly what’s in it and can control the outcome you want.
  • SELF-RELIANCE. Making your own supplies is incredibly satisfying and you can share these skills with others.
  • LONGER LASTING. By choosing the right ingredients, you will get more mileage out of your mix than a bagged mix based on bark which quickly decomposes.
Make your own potting mix - it's easy!

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!

 

The Role of Potting Mix Ingredients

 

A ideal general potting mix should be light, airy, long-lasting (doesn’t break down or become compacted), moisture-retentive and contain some nutrient value.

Mixing key ingredients together.

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, you need ingredients that provide:

  • Drainage – to help hold the soil structure open so water moves through and it doesn’t become anaerobic.
  • Aeration – a good mix will be light and fluffy, allowing air pockets to form in the soil structure so your plant roots and micro organisms have the oxygen they need to thrive.
  • Water retention – moisture holding capacity is essential or you will have a water repellent mix and waste money on unnecessary watering.
  • Nutrient retention – ingredients that bind or hold onto the minerals means less leaching of nutrients; improves plant health and saves you money.
  • Plant Food – vital nutrients for plant growth – the amount depends on how long you want the mix to feed your plants for.
  • Support - the soil crumbs need to be small and fine so the plant roots (especially young seedlings) can take hold and easily expand through the mix.
  • Microbes – play a vital role in plant health and growth and I include them in my mix although many mixes are devoid of soil life.
  • Thermal Insulation* – whilst this is an optional function, given that most container plants experience extreme weather conditions at times (hot or cold climates), this can be a beneficial characteristic to include.

“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

 

My home made potting mix

I like to keep things simple – whilst there’s no “one size fits all” potting mix recipe perfect for ALL plants, I believe beginner gardeners in particular need to learn the basics to start with … then when you’re confident, experiment by using more or less of the ingredients to suit your own needs or substitute with resources you have easy access to.

 

Materials:

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.

A mask prevents inhaling dust or organic particles & the risk from any disease from potting mix is greatly reduced if it is damp.

Safety First: To prevent inhaling dust or organic particles & the risk of any disease, wear a mask and gloves when working with organic materials and wash hands afterwards. Avoid making your mix on a windy day, safety glasses and a spray bottle to mist water over dusty ingredients are other precautions you can take.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 part pre-soaked Coir Peat – Coir peat is a cheap but long lasting renewable resource so is a more responsible environmental choice (a waste by-product from coconut-processing industry). The finer product left behind after the husk fibre is processed is called coconut coir or coir peat – not to be confused with peat moss!

 

Coir peat brick - makes 9 litres

It comes in a convenient dry, lightweight compact block (in various sizes) and is sold 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 colour you often see in potting mixes. It is natural volcanic mineral that has been expanded with  heat to increase its water holding capacity and can come from a variety of sources. I use a brand from Australia.

 

Vermiculite close up

The flaky particles soak up moisture and nutrients and keep them in the mix so the plants can access them. It’s lightweight; inorganic so is a permanent ingredient that will not deteriorate or lose volume in the mix; clean; odourless; non-toxic; sterile (no pathogens) and won’t become mouldy or rot.

 

  • Vermiculite has a moderate CEC (cation exchange capacity) so can hold/make available minerals to the plants.  [* If unavailable, use coarse sand - see Tips]
A 4 litre icecream tub is a good size container to use for measuring small quantities of mix.

I prefer this medium to coarse washed river sand because it provides excellent drainage and has great moisture and mineral retaining properties whereas sand doesn’t. It also helps aerate plant roots, has good pore space and is a thermal insulator. Depending on which brand you buy, the pH may be a little alkaline.

 

  • 2 parts sieved Compost - (preferably home made but a commercial certified organic mix is an alternative if you haven’t got your own).
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]

 

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.

 

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 & 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 pH with a meter.  Most plants require a pH of between 6.0 and 7.0 but if you are growing vegies, from my experience, they grow best in the range of 6.2 – 6.8 pH.

 

pH Testers are a useful tool (for around $10 at hardware stores)

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.

 

To raise the pH of potting mix by about one unit (make it more alkaline), add 1 – 1.5 grams of dolomite (lime)/litre of mix. To lower the pH by about one unit (make it more acidic), add 0.3 grams of sulphur/litre of potting mix. Keep the mix moist and recheck the pH again a few days later.

 

Potting mix dries out like this without proper storage.

STEP 5: Store in a container WITH a lid to avoid drying out if not using it all immediately.

 

Add Nutrients (optional but recommended!!)

 

I used to add nutrients to the pot AFTER I’d added the plant, but opening up packets and containers every time was repetitive and time consuming. I have limited time in the garden so have developed systems that make it quick and easy to get my tasks done.  While making a batch of potting mix, I now also add minerals and slow release organic fertilisers. I blend these additional ‘ingredients’ into the mix all at ONCE so then all I have to do then is plant and water! The plants have everything they need to start growing.

Here’s what I add:

  • Rock Minerals – are essential. About 1 cup of NatraMin, a balanced dry mineral mix (or use crusher dust).
Rock minerals last for a long time in the soil and gradually release nutrients to your plants.

Plants need a balance of minerals for health & reproduction – just like we do.

 

I've had good results with complete powdered organic fertilisers like Nutri-Store Gold, Organic Link, Searles Kickalong Organic Food as well as pelletized Organic Xtra fertiliser.

Depending on what I have available at the time, I add about a cup to provide plants with an immediate and slow release of food.

 

  • Seaweed & Fish – These provide essential trace elements that boost root growth, plant health, disease resistance, transplant shock and many other benefits. Good value products I use are certified organic Eco Seaweed (convenient powdered seaweed concentrate which is easy to add to the potting mix); Searles organic range of Kelp & Fish liquid products and NatraKelp.

 

Add a "strong" quantity of seaweed and fish emulsion to the hot water according to directions when rehydrating the coir peat block. As it expands, scrape with a garden fork till fluffy and separated.

Add a “strong” quantity of seaweed and fish emulsion to the hot water according to directions when rehydrating the coir peat block. As it expands, it will be absorbed into the coir peat as a slow release fertiliser.

 

Finally, My Potting Mix Tips:


  • I make my potting mix in a large flexible bucket with handles. It makes it easy to carry to the potting area or garden.
  • If you want fast results, soak coir peat block in hot water to speed up hydration.

 

Keep a scoop handy in the container.

If you have some rehydrated coir peat left over, I recommend storing it in a sealed plastic box to keep it moist, with a scoop ready for use next time. I buy a large block that makes 60L of rehydrated coir and this lasts me ages.

 

  • Coarse washed river sand (salt removed) or builder’s sand can be substituted for vermiculite as an alternative ingredient for drainage – or to minimise cost, use a combination of both. “Coarse” is the key word – the rough shape and size of the individual grains of sand allow space for water to pass though. If the grains are too fine, smooth and round (like you find on the beach), water will cling to them and they’ll compact, drowning your plants.
  • Use sand if you need to weigh your container down e.g. for a windy balcony so it is less likely to blow over. Add more sand for a faster-draining succulent mix.
  • 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.

 

Terracotta pots ready for use

Container Hygiene – clean your containers when re-potting or before using with soap (biodegradable) and water. Always have clean pots and tools to avoid spreading disease before adding new mix.

 

  • 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 mix around your plants over time.

 

Feed your soil workers regularly using a watering can or hose pack.

To maintain the soil life in your potting mix, feed microbes kelp/seaweed one week, and then molasses the alternate week. Microbes are your silent workers – put ‘dinner’ on their table and they’ll have energy to work for you. Starve them and watch the health of your plants decline! Think ‘win-win’!

 

  • Some potting mix recipes suggest using perlite instead of vermiculite however I don’t recommend 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).
  • 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? What’s worked? What hasn’t? I’d love you to share your thoughts here.

 

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

© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2010-2013 – http://www.themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.

114 responses so far

114 Responses to “Easy DIY Potting Mix Recipe”

  1. Jetsetterjesson 13 Jan 2012 at 1:48 am

    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

  2. The Micro Gardeneron 13 Jan 2012 at 7:18 am

    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.

  3. Glenython 13 Jan 2012 at 10:32 pm

    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

  4. The Micro Gardeneron 14 Jan 2012 at 11:54 am

    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

  5. Debon 14 Jan 2012 at 1:27 pm

    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.

  6. The Micro Gardeneron 14 Jan 2012 at 1:36 pm

    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!

  7. Glenython 14 Jan 2012 at 1:57 pm

    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

  8. The Micro Gardeneron 14 Jan 2012 at 2:58 pm

    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.

  9. [...] in the nursery industry, but also is a popular choice for many home gardeners.)  Pine bark based potting mixes however have low moisture retention properties, meaning pot plants dry out more [...]

  10. [...] potting mix can be quite expensive particularly if you have lots of pots and containers so making your own new mix and re-using the old definitely is more satisfying, sustainable and [...]

  11. [...] of fresh compost, worm castings and if possible, vermiculite to retain minerals and aerate the potting mix.  Grade 3 Vermiculite (a puffed natural mineral called mica) available at garden centres and [...]

  12. Mark Valenciaon 04 Feb 2012 at 9:20 pm

    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

  13. [...] suitable quantity of potting mix (I make my own – you can use my easy DIY recipe or a mix you are happy with but I suggest you include suitable soil food like I [...]

  14. Sandy Perryon 01 Mar 2012 at 12:33 pm

    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!

  15. The Micro Gardeneron 03 Mar 2012 at 5:31 pm

    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.

  16. Sandy Perryon 04 Mar 2012 at 5:17 am

    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!

  17. The Micro Gardeneron 06 Mar 2012 at 2:15 pm

    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!

  18. [...] For vertical pallet gardens, add a quality potting mix rich in nutrients and moisture holding capacity. [...]

  19. [...] in a ‘bed’ of potting mix or soil rich in compost prepared for planting with a balanced ‘diet’ of organic [...]

  20. Taraon 25 Jun 2012 at 10:54 pm

    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!

  21. The Micro Gardeneron 26 Jun 2012 at 5:47 am

    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! :)

  22. [...] 1.    Cost-saving Plant Pots: Ever bought a plant and tossed out the plastic pot afterwards?  Think again!  Although these plastic pots are often not very attractive, depending on the size, they may be perfect to raise another plant in by adding more potting mix. [...]

  23. Chrison 08 Sep 2012 at 11:56 am

    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?

  24. The Micro Gardeneron 09 Sep 2012 at 1:57 pm

    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 Guidelines for Successful Seed Germination helpful too.

    Let me know if you still have trouble – hope this helps! Happy sowing. :)

  25. Out and About | Digging 'Dotteson 13 Sep 2012 at 12:57 pm

    [...] Source ingredients for, and make our own potting mix using the recipe from The Micro Gardener. [...]

  26. [...] foam boxes– these are filled with homemade potting mix and grow incredible edibles as micro vegetable and herb [...]

  27. Guide to Growing Spring Onions |on 27 Nov 2012 at 7:48 pm

    [...] sow seeds in home made seed raising mix to save money. Keep moist by misting with water and cover to maintain humidity. They germinate in [...]

  28. Mistion 01 Feb 2013 at 5:30 am

    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.

  29. The Micro Gardeneron 01 Feb 2013 at 6:41 am

    Hi Misti
    Thanks for your question. In your case, there’s a link between the Miracle-Gro product and your problem. 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!

  30. How To Make Your Own Potting Mixon 05 Feb 2013 at 4:08 am

    [...] Easy DIY Potting Mix Recipe Want to be notified each time a new tutorial is posted? Like Plant Care Today on Facebook and follow our Plant Care Today Pinterest board. [...]

  31. Mary Binderon 07 Feb 2013 at 10:57 am

    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!

  32. The Micro Gardeneron 07 Feb 2013 at 11:03 am

    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.”

  33. Tyleron 18 Feb 2013 at 8:26 am

    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!

  34. The Micro Gardeneron 18 Feb 2013 at 8:35 am

    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! :)

  35. Tyleron 18 Feb 2013 at 8:47 am

    nevermind on that last comment

  36. Lynneon 19 Feb 2013 at 4:22 am

    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?

  37. The Micro Gardeneron 19 Feb 2013 at 6:21 am

    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! :)

  38. Easy Guide to Growing Microgreens |on 10 Mar 2013 at 4:23 pm

    [...] Tray/container; certified organic/fungicide free seeds; spray bottle; seaweed solution; potting mix/growing medium; paper towel/chux cloth to line tray; plant [...]

  39. Marlaon 31 Mar 2013 at 12:45 pm

    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.

  40. The Micro Gardeneron 04 Apr 2013 at 7:21 am

    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.

  41. How to Grow Hydrangeas |on 21 Apr 2013 at 4:19 pm

    [...] a solid dry ‘brick’ that you can soak in water and will fluff up and can be added to your soil, potting mix or mixed with [...]

  42. KaylenePon 05 May 2013 at 6:24 pm

    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!

  43. [...] The Micro Gardener website: Easy DIY Potting Mix Recipe [...]

  44. [...] 3 – Dirt is not dirt-cheap, but it can be bought for less than full-price. If you need potting soil for your containers, or garden soil to amend your backyard garden, you’re going to have to get bargain hunting! I bought potting soil, big 1.5 cubic feet bags, for just $1 each after this rebate. But you’ll have to hurry because that ends June 2nd. Or perhaps you can save some money by putting together your own potting mix. [...]

  45. [...] The Micro Gardener website: Easy DIY Potting Mix Recipe [...]

  46. Make Your Own Potting Mixon 04 Sep 2013 at 7:01 am

    [...] Easy DIY Potting Mix Recipe [...]

  47. Kimon 07 Sep 2013 at 1:39 pm

    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

  48. donaon 16 Sep 2013 at 10:55 am

    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

  49. The Micro Gardeneron 17 Sep 2013 at 9:05 am

    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

  50. donaon 18 Sep 2013 at 12:08 pm

    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.

  51. The Micro Gardeneron 19 Sep 2013 at 2:14 pm

    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. :)

  52. donaon 19 Sep 2013 at 4:07 pm

    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

  53. The Micro Gardeneron 19 Sep 2013 at 4:17 pm

    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

  54. donaon 19 Sep 2013 at 4:33 pm

    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 Gardeneron 19 Sep 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Dona, I suggest NatraMin Original. Cheers.

  56. Gary Zerneron 20 Sep 2013 at 6:16 pm

    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

  57. Elyssaon 10 Oct 2013 at 12:41 am

    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?

  58. The Micro Gardeneron 10 Oct 2013 at 8:02 am

    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.

  59. [...] supermarkets and hardware stores. You can always make your own if you’re interested – here’s a good potting mix [...]

  60. Toddon 18 Oct 2013 at 12:53 am

    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?

  61. The Micro Gardeneron 18 Oct 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Hi Todd
    Great question and one I get asked a lot! Check out my post on Revitalising and Re-using Old Potting Mix for lots of inspiration and practical tips. Hope this helps!

  62. Jackon 17 Dec 2013 at 12:06 am

    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

  63. The Micro Gardeneron 17 Dec 2013 at 6:04 am

    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

  64. New Year New You - Sweetphion 13 Jan 2014 at 12:56 pm

    […] DIY Potting Soil, Month by Month guide to a better garden, seed paper by Botanical Paperworks, Square foot planting […]

  65. Katrinaon 16 Mar 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Great fact sheet!!!

  66. […] du lage egen, næringsrik, økologisk plantejord finner du oppskrift hos «The Micro Gardener«. Da står du sterkt i bidraget til naturlige hager og et godt miljø for bier, humler, […]

  67. Denise Josephon 23 Mar 2014 at 3:57 am

    What do you mean by adding molasses?

  68. The Micro Gardeneron 23 Mar 2014 at 8:11 am

    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!

  69. Steveon 27 Apr 2014 at 10:41 am

    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.

  70. Anne Gibsonon 28 Apr 2014 at 1:00 pm

    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

  71. Steveon 28 Apr 2014 at 3:30 pm

    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.

  72. Anne Gibsonon 28 Apr 2014 at 3:54 pm

    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.

  73. Catherineon 30 Apr 2014 at 5:06 pm

    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.

  74. Anne Gibsonon 01 May 2014 at 11:20 am

    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!

  75. Zeffuron 08 May 2014 at 2:49 pm

    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.

  76. Neco Torquatoon 16 May 2014 at 3:26 am

    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

  77. Anne Gibsonon 16 May 2014 at 12:15 pm

    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.

  78. Mike the Gardeneron 16 May 2014 at 11:15 pm

    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.

  79. Anne Gibsonon 17 May 2014 at 2:54 pm

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

  80. Uber Gardeneron 18 May 2014 at 11:53 am

    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.

  81. Toddon 20 May 2014 at 11:34 am

    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.

  82. Anne Gibsonon 20 May 2014 at 2:08 pm

    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!

  83. Anne Gibsonon 20 May 2014 at 2:29 pm

    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!

  84. […] 3. Fill with potting soil. I’m pretty happy with a combination of bagged potting soil and compost, but you can absolutely make your own DIY potting mix. […]

  85. Markon 12 Jun 2014 at 8:57 am

    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!

  86. Anne Gibsonon 12 Jun 2014 at 9:36 am

    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

  87. Markon 13 Jun 2014 at 10:27 am

    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 :-)

  88. Anne Gibsonon 13 Jun 2014 at 12:29 pm

    Sounds like it Mark. Keep me in the loop. Feel free to post progress pics on our Community Page on Facebook if you are on there: http://www.facebook.com/TheMicroGardener. We share lots of pics to inspire others plus heaps of tips every week.

  89. […] Easy DIY Potting Mix Recipe […]

  90. Carolineon 03 Aug 2014 at 11:12 am

    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

  91. Anne Gibsonon 04 Aug 2014 at 1:38 pm

    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

  92. Janon 09 Aug 2014 at 1:24 pm

    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

  93. Anne Gibsonon 13 Aug 2014 at 7:51 am

    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

  94. 23 DIY Projects for Your Gardenon 13 Aug 2014 at 7:29 pm

    […] Potting Soil Mix – If you have a lot of containers, you may be able to save money and get better soil by mixing up your own potting soil. […]

  95. […] the first step is: Have a good look at your garden soil or potting mix (bed) in containers to see if you need to adjust the […]

  96. Markon 14 Sep 2014 at 3:01 pm

    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.

  97. Markon 14 Sep 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Typo: pull my plants out and amend it?

  98. Anne Gibsonon 14 Sep 2014 at 6:12 pm

    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.

  99. Markon 14 Sep 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks Anne. I’ll still journal this project with pictures :-)

  100. Lisseteon 19 Sep 2014 at 6:30 pm

    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

  101. Anne Gibsonon 20 Sep 2014 at 12:09 pm

    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!

  102. lorraineon 21 Sep 2014 at 6:53 pm

    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.

  103. Anne Gibsonon 24 Sep 2014 at 7:18 am

    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

  104. Markon 25 Sep 2014 at 7:18 am

    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.

  105. Anne Gibsonon 25 Sep 2014 at 8:27 am

    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.

  106. Markon 25 Sep 2014 at 12:39 pm

    :-D What a great read!

  107. Sureshon 15 Oct 2014 at 11:37 pm

    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

  108. Anne Gibsonon 16 Oct 2014 at 11:25 am

    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.

  109. Sureshon 16 Oct 2014 at 1:33 pm

    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.

  110. Anne Gibsonon 16 Oct 2014 at 3:15 pm

    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!

  111. Sureshon 17 Oct 2014 at 10:45 am

    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.

  112. Anne Gibsonon 17 Oct 2014 at 11:49 am

    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

  113. Elliot Pilshawon 20 Oct 2014 at 8:02 am

    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

  114. Anne Gibsonon 20 Oct 2014 at 12:12 pm

    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

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