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Woman Polling Small TreeHow to Spend Less On Potting Soil

If you have lots of containers to fill, especially large pots and planters, save money big-time by blending your own potting soil. It takes just minutes!

By Veronica Lorson Fowler
The Iowa Gardener

Save moola on potting soil and still give your container plants the best growing medium possible.

Potting soil is the best medium for growing most container plants. It’s lighter and richer than garden soil—the perfect blend for the healthiest plants. But it can be expensive, especially if you have large pots and planters. Here’s how to minimize your expenses:

• Buy in large quantities. Buy quality brand-name potting soil in big bags. (Cheap potting soils tend to have poor-quality blends of ingredients that don’t help plants in the long run.) Keep clipped or tied shut when not using so it doesn’t dry out. I might be hard to re-wet, depending on its composition.
• In large pots and planters, you really need only 8 inches or so for most annuals. Fill the bottom with ordinary garden soil.
• If weight is an issue, as it is in windowboxes and large containers you want to move around, put a few plastic soda bottles (lids on) in the bottom to take up space at minimal cost.
• Or invert a plastic pot over the drainage hole to minimize the amount of potting soil needed.
• If you use lots of potting soil, mix up your own. Far cheaper than buying several large bags.

A Recipe For Homemade Potting Soil

2 parts compost*
2 parts sphagnum peat moss
1 part perlite

Blend together with a trowel or small spade in a wheelbarrow. Adjust proportions as desired to create a consistency you like.

Variation: If desired, add Osmocote or another granular fertilizer as directed on the package and mix in. It will slow feed your plants for several weeks.

Variation: If desired, add water-retaining polymer crystals to the water, as directed in the package. (Be careful not to put in too much or you'll have a mess once you water. Use very, very sparingly, following package directions.) I find this cuts my watering by as much as half.

* Preferably from your compost heap. Or purchase in bags. Read the labels carefully—they're confusing. Go for a product labeled simply "compost."  Avoid products labeled as a composted manure since it will be too rich.

Or purchase in bags. Read the labels carefully--they're confusing. Go for a product labeled simply "compost."  Avoid products labeled as a composted manure since it will be too rich.


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