Will this work?

Butternut, WI(Zone 4a)

Question: Can I make my own potting soil with what I have available on my property.

Northern Wisc: Zone 4

My 20 acres
-Rocks every where: will be planting in 5 gal buckets and trying the rain gutter system ,mainly interested in Tomatoes.
3 Acers mature Cedars
7 Acers Pines
7 Designated Wisc wet lands Pine, Aspen and tamarack
3 Homestead

Have an abundance of moss and the downed trees rot very quickly. My thought is moss,decomposing tree material (not sure if pine would be ok) maybe some perlite along with anything that would be suggested.

Thank you

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Do you have a compost pile or area where you put leaves etc? Compost provides great nutrients for your plants.

here are a few links with info on making your own potting soil. They offer a number of suggestions.





Butternut, WI(Zone 4a)

Thank you TheMoonHowl I will certainly look at the links.

I have to laugh Just last night I took this shot of some LED lighting (only 40 watts) after the snow, as I was setting up the camera I could hear wolves howling.

Photo is untouched except for the moon and big dipper in the left.

Thumbnail by NorthernWisc
Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Aw nice shot. I love the trees looming toward the house.....never know what might happen during the full moon....grin. That sound is unmistakeable and lovely.

After you read through the links, if you have questions, just reply here to discuss them. I am sure other uses will be happy to add their experiences and advice to the mix.


Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Tomatoes are hot weather plants and the heat is required to help set the fruits and this also helps the insects, flying or crawling needed to help pollinate the fruits.
For the required temp reason in summers warmer weather, the soil normally gets dries out pots, large or small, therefore I would recommend self prep of the soil you wish to use in your large container required if you cant plant out into the garden soil.

(I live in Scotland and cant grow my tomatoes outdoors due to too short a warm season and un-predictable / fluctuation in my weather here so have to grow all tomatoes, cucumbers etc in my greenhouse in larger pots, last year due to lack of sunlight I had few red tomatoes and very poor pepper crop, not worth all the care and attention, outdoor Courgettes ect we damaged mostly by mould because we had too much rain and cool days)

I do have to make my own compost for growing these (we class as tender summer Veg) so I compost everything pos from my kitchen waste, anything that is UNCOOKED, NOT man made and things like larger fruit veg unused, I chop up to help speed up the composting process, when it's full ready (NO smells) I mix in some garden soil, add some general Multi Purpose garden feed (not too much, some Vermiculite to help keep some air into the soil and also helps hold a little moisture, But I still have to water sometimes every day (stick a finger into the soil to feel if wet or dry and water accordingly.
You may also have to use a liquid tomato feed a couple of times a week once the fruit has set, start of half strength feed and increase after a few weeks, I water in the feed 2 times half strength per week and as more fruit develope and plants grow larger, I may feed more often, the foliage colour and feel will tell you healthy plants or not, just don't over feed.

IF you want to grow in rows outdoors you can add kitchen waste to the bottom of your trench along with wet newspapers and grass cuttings but don't throw all the grass cuttings in the one place. mix this up with shredded newspapers ect, too much grass clippings can go smelly IF not mixed with stuff that allows air (paper, Twigs ect) this airflow helps air get into soil,.
Buy Filling the bottom of the trench with waste then add soil, you should get a better soil with some nutrients, matter to help hold onto moisture and help build up a more open healthy soil as each year you add more compost,
Animal manures are excellent, for the same reason as before however, you have to make sure this matter is added when it has rotted down, no smell and when you rub it in your hands it crumbles like a good healthy soil, dont use any domesticated animal dropping as these are meat eaters usually and this will attract your wolfs, and any other animals who will want to dig up your new tended garden.

Hope some of this info helps you out, I am sure there will be others who will give some other in-put but I take your soil, zone and environment into consideration, a bit like my own and really just offer you some hints and tips for starting you off, you will like us all, learn as you go along, never forget to ask all the questions you need answers to as this is also how we all learn things to suit our own needs.
Good luck. WeeNel.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

Love that photo

One problem in making your own with what you have is BUGS and/or disease. Homemade soil or compots for potted plants have to be sterilized before use.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Good point Blomma...I included a link on soil sterilization in the response above.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

Years ago (the 80's) when I owned and operated a small commercial greenhouse in Nebraska, I mixed my own. Professional potting mix back then consisted of 1 part peatmosss, 1 part perlite. Plants that needed a more moist soil contained vermiculite. I purchased the ingrediences and mixed in a large barrel. I added plant food granulates since neither ingrediences contained plant food.

The mix is lightweight with excellent drainage.

Clinton, IN

If you go to the self contained box garden forum and check out the ebucket thread there is at least 2 or 3 different home made mixes and ways to make the buckets work better. Good luck. Fred

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

If you make your compost bin's or heaps properly, the heat generated when the waste matter is decompsing into compost, all bugs and diseases are killed off,
You never add any diseased material to the bin/heap, you dont add any uncooked or cooked foos as this will attract vermine and you dont add any plant matter that has seed heads or they will germinate with the heat and then as you spread the compost on / in the soil all these mentioned are put into the garden soil.
I never sterilise any soil and know no one who does, I also know there are good bacteria in soil too as well as good bugs, insects ect that are friends to gardens so, I guess it all depends on your garden, what your growing ect, I have a wide range of plants, shrubs, veg, tree's ect that have never had sterile soil anywhere close to them, 10 acres is a lot of sterilising to carry out BUT, that dont mean for others this might be a very important part of their garden regime or even necessary in there environment.
Good luck anyway, hope you can find a way to get the results you want, dont give up though as there are many, many different ways to grow stuff and finding what suits you and your needs can take several tries.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Hi Nel. I think Blomma is talking about sterilized soil for seeds and seedlings and containers. Most times a good compost heap will generate more than enough heat for the garden, but you do not want stray weed seeds showing up in your seed trays. For some it is just a matter of preference....

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

the moonhowl,
Yep, you are right. The question of this forum was about making your own potting soil. And that is what my direction was about. My recipe of peatmosss and perlite is weedfree, bugfree, and disease free.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

I never noticed that the question was about seed compost, I took the question to be asking about making compost for PLANTS (as listed in Question) so ofcource your both right, you should never try to germinate any seeds in home made compost, for a start this would be far too rich for germinating seeds and the added problem of bugs or disease IF not made or left to rot properly. Once the seedlings / small plants reach the size where they are large enough to be transplanted into larger pots or containers then home made good quality compost would in my opinion be the best you could give and as I said, with some plant feed given to growing plants when required.

For Tomatoes however I would be a bit worried about using tree waste as compost, especially Pine as this type of composted waste can very quickly alter the PH in the soil and would maybe make the soil too acidic for any type of tomato's.

If Nothern Wisc has a lot of tree litter I would store till required for pos paths between her rows of pots to keep the weeds down but not directly into the soil inside the pots.

So I guess between us all we have managed to sort out the difference between the needs for seeds that are to be germinated and the next stage, after germination as the requirements then change regarding soil conditions for more mature plants like tomato's.

Thank you both for bringing this to my attention, I like some other people who read the threads, will be be happy with knowing the different requirements for growing out plants from seed through to maturity.
Best regards, WeeNel.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Hey Nel, the OP is planning on growing tomatoes in 5 gal buckets..... This way NorthernWisc has all the info from starting seeds to getting the plants going....and hopefully having a great harvest.

More good info from the global village at DG.....GRIN

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Thanks The Moon, your a Star. have a great garden season this year. WeeNel.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

GRIN....this one is just for you WeeNel


Butternut, WI(Zone 4a)

Thank you all for the many ideas:

I have found the person that had the bucket system.
The link below shows what I am going to try this year.

Search Larry Hall on utube to see his systems

Thumbnail by NorthernWisc
Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Looks great Northwest. Lets all know how you get on, who knows, you might become the Tomato grower of the century ha, ha, ha, but no kidding, your home grown Fruit / veg etc taste so much better than store bought ones. I'll be thinking about you when the season gets underway here.
Best of luck. WeeNel.

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