using garden soil for potted plants

dookiefaceMarch 9, 2009


I am new to this whole gardening and soil mixing. After doing a bit of research, I am starting to put this into practice.

I found some cheap scotts garden soil on sale so i thought why not make this garden soil into potting soil..

So i put 1cf of garden soil in a bucket and threw in some coarse sand perlite and lime into it.. i threw in about half the bag of sand and half bag of perlite.

I am not sure if i should add anything else or if it is the right texture. I want it to drain fairly well and not compact.

But, i am wondering if this type of mixture is fine for my potted plants.

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If you continue your research here, you'll find the general consensus is that garden/topsoil is probably going to be much less than an ideal choice because of its tendency to compact, it's lack of aeration, and its high water retention when employed in container soils. What works in the garden is often best left there when it comes to soils.


Here is a link that might be useful: Click me if you want more details

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 9:41PM
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I wouldn't use it. Al here is pretty much the expert on container gardening here and he's always polite.. I would suggest looking up some of his threads or doing a search on "soil discussion" or "turface" to get some more information on what might be better for house plants.

Generally you should avoid using any "soil" in container gardening/house plants. It simply won't provide the aeration and drainage required.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 12:27AM
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Dan Staley

I would be surprised if there is an intro hort class/website/text anywhere on the planet that advocates garden soil in pots. If there is one, the teacher needs to be replaced.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 10:14AM
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A very long time ago, I tried using garden soil in a container... it turned into a lovely lump of clay concrete in the middle of the pot, and every watering just ran over and around it, but never saturated the pot-shaped lump. It was a complete disaster! It did teach me an important lesson, though... garden soil is just that, garden soil. It's for use in gardens, not pots!

I recommend reading Al's article on Container Soils... using Al's recipe for gritty inorganic mediums for containers has made me a much more successful gardener!

Leave the garden soil where it belongs... in the garden! :-)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 11:19AM
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To Dan, re: garden soil in containers.

Unfortunately, there are loads of websites that advocate topsoil, compost, and regular sand in containers. (Google "topsoil containers", and you'll get a bunch of those recommendations). If I remember correctly, even a previous (not sure about the current) edition of Sunset Western Garden Book suggests topsoil, sand, etc. in containers.

Bad recommendations, I think most of us would agree. One day I'll take some pics of two native bush lupine seedlings I transplanted into containers. One is in a pinebark/peat/perlite mix, the other in my native, sandy soil. The plants are 1-year old now, and the differences are PROFOUND!


    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 12:22PM
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Dan Staley

If I remember correctly, even a previous (not sure about the current) edition of Sunset Western Garden Book suggests topsoil, sand, etc. in containers.


I have the last three Eds, rg, and none of them say this, fortunately. I know several of the consultants to the book personally and they would have screamed bloody murder had this entered print.

To the 'websites' point: My attempt at brevity resulted in confusion, apologies. I meant to convey 'formal introductory horticulture class' - type website.

There is no 'wisdom' button on The Internets, there is only information. This sad fact allows the spread of misinformation everywhere. One must be careful to use trusted and respected information, and use our critical thinking skills to identify 'trusted and respected'.


    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 12:58PM
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Thanks Dan, 'guess I "disremembered" a Sunset reference to "bad stuff" in containers!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 1:11PM
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