With the container gardening season fast approaching, many gardeners are getting ready to fill containers with soilless mixes. If you have lots of containers, you know how expensive it can be to use prepared, bagged mixes. It is certainly more frugal to mix your own.

A standard recipe for a medium-textured mix is given below:

  • 50-60% peat moss
  • 20-25% coarse sand or perlite
  • 20-25% ground pine bark
  • Or
  • two parts peat moss
  • one part perlite
  • one part coarse sand

Make sure materials are moist before mixing, particularly the peat moss.

5-10% garden soil should be added to support the heavier plant and provide a heavier, more stable container. Dry soil can be sifted through a quarter inch mesh screen and mixed with these ingredients.


Commercially available potting mixes are usually soilless; they are made up of different ingredients including vermiculite, perlite, shredded bark, sawdust, etc.

These mixes are convenient to use, lightweight, and weed and disease free. However, there is no regulation by the Government over the content of such mixes, and quality can vary widely.


Fertilizer is the most obvious addition to potting mixes. Use a water-soluble fertilizer at regular watering intervals through the season.

Another addition to your mix may be a hydrogel, which is a crystal-like polymer that absorbs and holds water. Individual particles will absorb between 60 and 400 times their dry weight in water, depending on the specific type.


This absorbed water is then slowly made available to plant roots to prevent or delay water stress. This product is useful in small containers and hanging baskets that tend to dry out quickly .