If you dream of gorgeous, stunning, and overflowing hanging baskets and potted plants, then make those dreams come true this year by filling your containers with the perfect potting soil!

perfect potting soil
Using a simple 4 part potting soil mix, our container plants have thrived at the farm.

Having the right soil in containers makes all the difference. With great soil, a plant’s root system thrives below the surface. And when roots thrive, so will the plant!

Great potting soil should be filled with all of the necessary nutrients a plant will need throughout a growing season. It should be lightweight, but still have structure. It also needs to drain properly, but still be able to retain moisture to keep roots nourished throughout the hot summer season.

Although there are hundreds of commercial bagged mixes available, we have always made our own at the farm. Not only is it economical, it also gives us the peace of mind of knowing exactly what is in it. Especially since we grow a fair number of heirloom tomatoes and peppers in containers around the farm. If we are going to consume what we grow, we want to know exactly what is in our soil. But even more than that, we just simply have better results making and using our own organic blend.

Over the past seven years, we have tried all sorts of combinations for our potted mixes. Without a doubt, there is always one, simple, 4 part combination we come back to time and time again. We like to call it the perfect potting soil, because it always seems to keep our hanging baskets and potted plants thriving all summer long.

How To Create Perfect Potting Soil

You can create this potting soil mix in any quantity. We fill a one gallon pail for our “parts”, and then mix the ingredients in a wheelbarrow. The real key is to keep the portions the same as you expand or diminish the recipe.

Pulverized Soil – 4 Parts

perfect potting soil
The right soil will lead to healthy beautiful plants!

A great mix starts with pulverized top-soil. Pulverized top soil can be found in bulk or in bags, and is usually very inexpensive. The key is that it is pulverized!

Starting with a fine soil mix is a big must. If soil is too clay-ish or compacted, it will make it hard for a plant’s root system to expand. It also makes it hard for the roots to absorb nutrients. Pulverized topsoil should be super-fine and crumble easily when held.

Compost – 4 Parts

When it comes to all things incredible, compost is the king! Compost is the perfect additive for potting soil because it is teaming with life! Compost is filled with life-giving nutrients that plants can easily convert through their root system to grow strong. It also adds structure and holding power to the soil mix.

Compost holds as much as 10 times its own weight in water, so it helps keep plants protected on hot days. Be sure to use compost that is completely aged and broken down. This, much like with the pulverized top soil, will keep your soil mix loose and friable.

Perlite – 1 Part

perfect potting soil
Perlite is made by super heating volcanic glass

Although a surprise to many, perlite is actually a 100% natural substance. It is volcanic glass that is then heated and popped, much like popcorn.

The result is a substance that is super lightweight. The open pores of perlite help potting soil with both water retention and drainage. They can hold water many times their own weight just like compost. They also keep the finished mix lighter than if just soil and compost were used.

Perlite has a PH of 7, which is perfectly neutral. Just another reason it is the perfect lightweight additive.  Product Link : Horticulural Perlite 

Worm Castings – 1 Part

This is the big one when it comes to making perfect potting soil! Worm castings have made an astounding difference in the health and looks of our potted plants. Like perlite and compost, they are lightweight and absorb water, making them perfect for potting mixes.

Quite simply, they work wonders as an all-natural, slow release fertilizer. We mix in one part with ever batch of potting soil we make to keep our plants thriving all year long.  Product Link : Worm Castings

Happy Gardening! Jim and Mary. To receive our 3 Home, Garden, Recipe and Simple Life articles each week, sign up for our free email list. You can also follow us on FacebookTwitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. This article may contain affiliate links.


11 thoughts on “How To Create Perfect Potting Soil For Containers and Hanging Baskets

  • February 28, 2018 at 9:32 am
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    I would like answers to the previous questions also please

    • February 28, 2018 at 10:05 am
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      No problem Andy – we answered below in the comments. Thanks!

  • February 27, 2018 at 9:09 am
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    I would ask the same questions as all of the above. I am looking forward to your answers. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and dreams, and your expertise on Gardening.

    • February 28, 2018 at 10:04 am
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      Thanks Sherry – We have answered below now in the comments. Sorry – it was a busy week with the book launch! 🙂 So glad you enjoy our articles!

  • February 25, 2018 at 5:54 pm
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    Your picture shows vermiculite instead of perlite. Which do you use? Vermiculite holds more water than perlite but also provides good drainage.

  • February 25, 2018 at 2:53 pm
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    I like the mixture you have, but if I already have soil in a pot, what do I do? Is adding compost and castings enough? I hate to just throw out soil and then throw more $’s in the trash.

    BTW, I do love your site and probably like 95% of your posts are related to my interests.
    Papa J

    • February 28, 2018 at 10:03 am
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      Thanks Papa J and so glad you like our posts! This is a great question. For pots that are already planted, mix in a 1/4 cup or more into the first inch or so of the soil. It will still act as a great slow release fertilizer and help. We did this the very first year when we had already planted and it worked very well! Also – as the season progresses, so the same thing with a few teaspoons of castings every three to four weeks to boost them.

  • February 25, 2018 at 11:03 am
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    I do not have a compost pile. What can I buy that will be what your recipe calls for

    • February 28, 2018 at 9:59 am
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      Bagged compost is available in stores or even online and can be used as a substitue. There are a lot of mixes out there, and they have come a long way from what they used to be.

  • February 25, 2018 at 9:59 am
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    Is “pulverized topsoil” labeled as such, or do you just have to find one that fits the description? Any brand recommended? Thanks.

    • February 28, 2018 at 9:57 am
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      When you buy bagged topsoil, it is usually labeled as a fine or pulverized mix. It is usually easy to tell if not. Just make sure that it is extremely loose and friable and not heavy clumped. If you buy in bulk, you need to ask for pulverized. Hope that helps!

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