It's time to vote on our 2017 photo contest! Vote for your favorite photos of the year here!

Home-made Potting Soil

Stratford, TX(Zone 6b)

Well, check out my blog for more background in the coming days, but after the move and the killer freezes, and losing over 250 species of potted plants, I am ready to begin again. I'm finally back on Dave's Garden and ready to be back in the dirt!

I am hoping to recycle some of my copious amounts of used potting soil.

I have access to horse manure that has "aged" over one to two years (as well as fresh to six-months old - straight from the horse's {end-opposite-the-} mouth, compliments of our old mare, Sassa), and copious amounts of wood-stove ash, mostly oak ash, and some manure enhanced-topsoil available to me. I also have some caliche and small gravel and probably some sand at my disposal as well.

With these ingredients, what kind of ratio of old potting soil, manure, and ash would I need to use, of course keeping in mind that I will need to use fertilizer several times a month as well. I plan on trying to get an all-purpose soil to start with, that I could alter as needed for various types of plants.

Thanks for any help, and check out my trade lists, as I am ready (once we have our last spring freeze, which is tonight, God willing) to begin trading and replacing some of my favorite plants!

And just to make everyone jealous, the picture is of my new laptop which my hubbie bought as an early birthday present for me! That should help me get over my depression of losing all my beloved plants! It is the HP Garden Dreams laptop, which arrives Wednesday!

Angie (RxAngel)

Thumbnail by RxAngel
Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Angie, I would use a 1 to 1 ratio for general purpose soil amending as necessary for individual plant needs. But I would wait on the manure to cure for at least 6 to 8 months....allows heat to cook weed seeds etc and ensures it won't burn roots.

Nice laptop....hope it gives you the incentive to start anew.

Hanceville, AL(Zone 7a)

I'm sorry you lost your plants. Mine are like family, or at least a family pet. Luciee

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

you aren't re-using it pots, are you? Hopefully in beds or raised beds.

I have to mix and the feel the result. If the potting soil already holds a lot water and has fine texture, and you're adding more compost, will it drain enough and be aerated enough? Maybe the composted manure will make it clumpy and you'll get drainage that way.

If it seems to need more drainage, that sand sounds good, or gravel up to 1/8" or a little bigger. Unfortunately, adding just a little sand may not help much with drainage if the rest of the mix is fine (small particles).

Would you consider buying some fine or medium pine bark mulch, or screened fine bark fines? They sure open up a soil and make it drain faster and hold more air. A little sand or gravel PLUS bark fibers is a very good combination for improving drainage: they seem to help each other stay "fluffed up".

If you buy inexpensive mulch, it will have some very coarse chunks, so you might want to screen it through 1/2" or 1/4" hardware cloth, and chip or mow the big pieces, to get more use out of it. Or screen it and just save the big pieces for top-dress mulch.

P.S. If you buy cheap mulch that has sat out int he rain in a big pile for a long time, it may have gone anaerobic and started to ferment with bad by-products (unlike aerobic composting). If it's smelly, maybe spread it 3-4" thin to let air in and let rain wash out the acids and alcohols and such.

but cheap mulch can be $3-3.50 per 2 cubic feet, and "good" mulch can be $7-8.

Maybe that doesn't matter so much when diluted with soil in a bed, which can always be flushed by watering. But using smelly bark mulch in pots or with seeds or tiny roots without flushing first can get toxic for too-tender roots.


Hanceville, AL(Zone 7a)

I dug up some good rich dirt and am fixing to sterlize it in the oven. (Stinks!!) I am going to heat it for 60 min. at 350 degrees and hope that kills everything. Any suggestions? I used to do this, but now I have found Dave's garden, I have read different things. I am going to put a potato about the size of my fist on top, and when it gets done, the soil should be done. Luciee {;^)

This message was edited Apr 2, 2012 10:05 AM

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

luciee - I don't know anything about sterilizing soil, but 60 minutes at 350 sounds waaaay to hot to me - I think you'll end up with burnt soil.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Angie - I think you're headed down the wrong trail. You might find the link helpful.

Good luck.


Hanceville, AL(Zone 7a)

Honeybee, (I like your name) I burnt some once and smoked up the house. I was sterlizing that batch too high. Trying to get done in a hurry. This is going to be all right. I am using it for starting seeds. If weeds come up in it, I will know that I did not cook it long enough. I read about this in flower garden magazine back in the 60's. I put the 2 potatoes on top and they were my lunch. L8r Luciee {;^)

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or sign up to post.