What is the best potting soil for container tomatoes, cukes, etc.

ksrandall(8)July 10, 2010


Does anyone know of a really good pre-made potting soil mix OR potting soil RECIPE for container veggies? I'm disillusioned by Miracle Gro Potting Soil. All of the MG soil bags I've bought this year have contained things like gnats and sticks. Plus the Organic Choice "potting soil" (brown bag) becomes too hard over a short period of time. To me, a good potting soil must be soft enough so I can put my finger in the dirt to check the soil moisture.

In past years, MG bags contained a soft potting mix and plants in past years haven't had any problems. Personally, I think the Miracle Gro company is cheaping-up their product in order to keep company operating costs down(thanks to the bad economy).

I did check out Pro Mix Bx but that brand is way to hard to find in my area and ordering the stuff online is too expensive for my budget. FYI -- I'm a college student.

I don't mind making my own potting mix. I just need to know the ingredients and how much of each ingredient I need to add.

I'm currently growing Roma tomatoes, Mammoth Sunflowers, Burpless Tendergreen Cucumbers, Sugar Pie Pumpkins, and Crimson Sweet Watermelons.

I'm looking for a lightweight potting mix that stays soft in the container so my veggies won't have a hard time growing in the containers.

Thanks in advance for your help,

KS Randall

Federal Way, WA

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col_sprg_maters(Front Range 5)

Try Lowes 'Sta-Green potting mix with moisture control' to start with. The bag it is in is a little weak, but its a decent mix for the price.


    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 11:43AM
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Can you get Fafard Commercial mixes (not the retail mixes)?

Fafard 3B works well or Fafard 52 if you can find it and want a larger pine bark component.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 9:07PM
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KS Randall, I'd suggest doing some searches on "gritty mix" and to read the threads on soil and water. I didn't think to find the links before posting, so unless someone nice does so, you'll need to search.

The gritty mix works exceedingly well for most of my plants (very few exceptions). All my veggies are very happy in it. The components are not terribly hard to get, but it can take some looking to get all of them. There are many, many posts about finding the ingredients, what they should look like, etc. The cost is not excessive at all.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 7:59PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Hi ksrandall,
I am useing both the 5-1-1 and the gritty mix. I am really pleased with both!

The 5-1-1 is used alot for annuals. I have tomatoes in it and they are doing very well.

The girtty mix(1-1-1) is used alot for long term, woody plants.

Here is a link which will explain both of them with tons of reading. It's well worth it!


Here is a link that might be useful: gritty mix and more

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 8:18PM
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From left to right:

Fafard 3B
Fafard 3B
1 bag 3B + 1 bag pine bark fines
1 bag 3B + 1 bag pine bark fines
1 bag 3B + 2 bags of pine bark fines
1 bag 3B + 2 bags of pine bark fines
70% coconut coir + 30% perlite

(I normally don't start any scotch bonnet pepper plants in the summer (it is too hot, buggy, and rainy) but this year thought I would give it a shot plus do more in the fall. They last longer than 1 season. We don't get freezes.)

Here is just a sampling of some of them.

Fafard 3B --great right out of the bag
Actually had flowers and now fruit way ahead of others by 7 or 8 days.

They have the greatest height and most dense foliage.

One of the 4 plants I did with 2 to 1 ratio (PB to 3B) is just as tall and full but one is much shorter for some reason.

I expect all of the extra pine bark component ones to do well.

The 2 PB to 1 Fafard 3B ratio should be good over the long haul. (They also make a mix called Fafard 52 which I only was able to find once. It was 60% bark.)

Fafard 3B is 45% peat and 30% pine bark (one site said 25 % pine bark). I am hoping this also will hold up well --I have used peat based mixes with no pine bark with good results so the pine bark should make it even better as the mix degrades.

Coir is plugging along--not quite up to speed with the others but still doing OK. It is the final one of the group. The transplants seedlings I did in coir did awful.

There are very good potting mixes on the market and pre mixed makes it super easy . Or buy your own ingredients and mix yourself--that can work equally as well too. Your choice.

For many annuals like vegetables --longevity of the mix if you are dumping in raised bed after one season or not reusing is not all that crucial as long as the mix is well draining but nutrient retentive as well.

L.O. Can you post pics of your vegetables in the gritty mix? How many times do you expect to reuse?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 12:56AM
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I've been very satisfied with the potting soil from Walmart. It's the Expert in the yellow bag. It stays loose, holds water well, but also drains well. It never has sticks and clutter in it.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 7:50AM
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Hi, everyone! Thank you for all the responses so far!

@ farkee -- I've never heard of Fafard soil and I've never seen it sold in any of the stores in King county.

@jojosplants -- I'm really hesitant using any soil that has bark as its main ingredient. Doesn't bark retain moisture? Hot weather and sunlight are rare where I live, so wet soil stays wet for a long time.

Western Washington state is very wet and rainy. The Icelandic volcano eruption really screwed up the already-bipolar weather system and so now it's rainy and gloomy more often. Plus there are billions of fungus gnats outside thanks to the wet conditions. I've had to dust the seedlings' soil with cinnamon and water with a 3% hydrogen peroxide / water mixture to keep the bugs away. Basically, it is critical that the soil has good drainage and isn't too heavy.

Anyhow... I'm coming to the conclusion I might have to make my own potting soil mix. The stores only carry miracle gro and the other types of potting mixes available are not for vegetable plants.

The seedlings are currently in miracle gro seed starting mix and they are doing very well. Should I try a soiless peat moss mix when it comes time to transplant the plants to their final containers? If so, what other ingredients do I need and what amounts of those ingredients should I use?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 4:54PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

How well soils drain and how much water they retain is DIRECTLY related to the size of the particles in the soil. Since bark is generally always larger than peat/compost/coir, a soil with bark as it's primary fraction will drain better and hold less water. Bark breaks down much slower than either of the aforementioned three as well.


Here is a link that might be useful: I'll take you to where you can read more if you click me.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 8:05PM
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Farkee, will try to remember to snap some pics and post. My okra was put in late but is growing nicely and the tomatoes (also in a bit late) look gorgeous. The lettuce is already gone and I didn't snap pics and I didn't plant any other veggies this year.

I am using some in a Smart Pot and the rest in SWCs. I amended it for the SWC, though, by adding peat to help it wick. I couldn't get it to wick enough without it. I also didn't screen the PB fines for the SWC mix.

I am not sure how long I'll use it. Since I had to add peat and because it's self watering, I'd think I'd be lucky to get 2 years. The regular mix, in the Smart Pot, I will hopefully use for 3 years, depending. But, I won't know until each spring when I look at it and see how much it's decomposed. Since I have to drag all the ingredients up to my roof and do not have an easy way to bring them up or down, the longer I get, the happier I will be! On the other hand, after using a peat mix in the SWC, I'm not about to sacrifice the gains I made by using this mix, either. My tomatoes are much better looking that they ever were in a peat mix in the SWCs.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 5:16AM
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I can't seem to find how to send you a message. Maybe because I'm on my phone and not a computer? I know this post was from last year, but I live in Oklahoma and really want to grow scotch bonnets this year and haven't had any luck finding the plants. I've only found 1 place online but they require you to order more plants than I need. Do you have any smaller plants I could buy from you? My email is bsfc44@att.net. Thanks, Julie.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2011 at 4:16PM
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