Having your own potting mix recipe can save you a lot of money and allow you to create custom blends according to your plant growing needs.
Potting mix is a tough subject because it varies so much with each region. For some people it is easy to get their hands on the materials needed to make their own potting mix recipe.
If potting up a lot of plants, like I do each spring in my backyard nursery, than making your own potting mix is usually much more economical than purchasing premixed potting media.
The only downfall with making your own potting mix vs. buying professionally bagged mixes is that it will take some trial and error before you find the mix that works the best.
Luckily, I have done a lot of experimenting for you and have come up with a simple and reliable potting mix recipe…
My Homemade Potting Mix Recipe
My homemade potting mix recipe is constantly changing. But to keep it simple it mainly consists of two things: Shredded aged pine bark mulch, and compost.
I use about 80% shredded aged pine bark mulch, and 20% compost to start my pile.
The trick is to make sure you order at least twice as much potting mix as you need.
The extra potting mix will continue to break down and next spring when it is time to order more potting mix you will barely need any compost.
Since your existing mix has been breaking down all year it is already taking on properties similar to compost.
All you will need to do in the spring is add in another big batch of shredded pine bark mulch and mix everything together.
If possible, mix your potting mix pile a couple of times a season to help create uniformity and incorporate oxygen into your mix.
This will prevent harmful gasses from forming due to lack of oxygen. Keeping your pile longer instead of higher will also help this.
What Is Shredded Aged Pine Bark Mulch and Where Do You Get It?
Aged pine bark mulch is the actual bark of a pine tree. Commercial companies take the bark, shred it, and age it for a couple of seasons. This is the main ingredient in my potting mix. It is also the main ingredient for most commercial growers.
Chances are it will be the hardest ingredient for you to find. I highly recommend doing what I did.
I sent an email to about 15 local nurseries and growing operations to find out what they use for a potting mix and what suppliers they use.
Just explain to them that you are a local hobby grower and are having trouble finding good sources for bulk potting mix. You will be surprised at how much great advice you get.
You will see a trend forming in information and eventually you will get the supplier information you need.
The supplier I use for my pine bark mulch I would have never heard of if I didn’t get recommendations from local growers.
What If You Can’t Find Local Shredded Aged Pine Bark Mulch?
You have a couple of options. If you have thousands of plants to pot up, you could always get a large quantity trucked in from out of state.
Another option is to use shredded bark mulch that isn’t pine. Even though pine is the best, you could still use aged spruce, hemlock, and other hardwoods.
Lastly, if you have smaller quantities it might make more sense to buy large bags of commercial potting mix.
Pro mix for example is a large potting mix company that has several different products that plenty of commercial growers rely on.
What’s Most Important for a Successful Potting Mix Recipe?
No ones homemade potting mix recipe is going to be the same, not even close. The most important thing to remember is that you want a potting mix that has good drainage. Drainage is the most important part!
If your potting mix is constantly wet then your roots will rot and kill your plants. Your plants will also be subject to many more diseases if they are in a wet environment.
I find it is best to error on the side of too much drainage. You could always increase your watering, but you cant turn off mother nature when it decides to rain for two weeks.
That is why shredded pine bark mulch is such an important ingredient. It helps to improve drainage.
A little bit of compost is good for having some water retention and also provides nutrients to your plants. But, make no mistake, the main source of nutrients for your plants is a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote.
How Do You Know If Your Potting Mix Recipe Is Good?
It really takes some experimenting!
Get a bunch of containers and fill the containers with different ratios of bark mulch, and compost. Use different types of bark mulch and compost and even experiment with different suppliers.
Just make sure you stay away from bark mulch products that are dyed. Dyed mulch can be harmful to plants when used in a potting mix.
Water each container so that it is completely soaked. Check back in an hour and lift each container.
You don’t want the container to be too heavy.
Empty the containers and squeeze the mix with your hands.
Does it wring out like a sopping wet sponge? If so then that is a poor draining mix!
Like I said before, I usually error on the side of too much drainage, so I would choose the potting mix that is on the lighter side.
Once you have your potting mix down, it is time to pot up your plants!
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