Gardening

How to make a homemade organic potting mix for tomatoes

Potting mix is the most essential part of growing tomatoes in the portable medium like pots, buckets, containers, plastic bags, and baskets.

The best way to curtain your cost by making your own potting mix. Many cost-conscious gardeners do it their self to reduce their cost into half rather buying an expensive commercial potting mix from the garden center.

It is an easy mix and you can modify the mixes as you required.

Potting mix or soil is different from the garden soil. Potting mixes perform well in containers and raised bed. On the other hand, garden soil performs better in the ground.

Typically, you can find two types of potting mix such as soil-based or soil-less.

homemade organic potting mix for tomatoes

Soil-based potting medium

This is an old classic method which contains sterilized loamy soil or garden soil, peat moss, coarse sand or builder and often used for ready-mix concrete and perlite or vermiculite. Some slow released organic fertilizer also added to the mix.

Add an equal part of the ingredients for your soil based potting mixes.

Soil less potting medium:

Modern methods followed by soil less or peat based potting mixes which contain peat moss or coconut coir, perlite, bone meal, ground limestone, and fertilizers. Mixing these additives with proper portion will make a perfect soil less potting mix for you.

Ingredients of store brought potting mixes and their works

Store brought potting mixes usually provide the following ingredients in their packets. Besides, you will get also sterilized and diseases free potting mix if you only buy some branded and expensive potting mix.

Peat moss:

Sphagnum peat moss is one of the major components of commercial potting mix. This is a lightweight potting mix. Besides it is well drained, well aerated and good water holding capacity.

However, it has low nutrient value and pH level also lower than average. Typically, it has a pH level between 3.5 to 4.5 in scale.

Coco coir:

Coco coir or coco fiber is a by-product of coconuts and a great substitute of peat moss. This won’t be available unless you live in Central America or India. 

Coconut coir has a well water holding capacity and lasts longer than peat moss. It contains more nutrients value, well-drained and pH level around 6 to 6.5 in scale.

Coco coir is a little bit expensive than peat moss.

Perlite:

Perlite is a white color volcanic rock, very lightweight but good water holding capacity. It ensures good drainage and aeration system. This is an inorganic material and has a neutral pH of 6.5 to 7.5.

This is another ingredient commonly found in store brought potting mix.

Vermiculite:

Vermiculite is a spongy inorganic substance that can soak water 3 to 4 times of its size. It is dark brown to golden brown in color. Vermiculite is created from magnesium-aluminum-iron-silicate mineral.

It helps to develop a good drainage system and retain water but has a poor aeration system. It has a neutral pH of 7.

Vermiculite is not available naturally unless you spend money.

Sand:

Coarse sand develops drainage system and increases aeration to the potting mix. It also adds some weight to the mix.

In your store brought potting mix you may get some sterilized coarse sand.

Limestone:

Limestone helps to neutralize the pH level and calcium deficiency in potting mix.

Compost:

This is undoubtedly the most vital ingredients for the potting mix to supply necessary nutrients. Besides, it has a well water holding capacity which ensures healthy plant growth.

Fertilizers:

Only the branded potting mixes provide good quality fertilizer in the potting mix.

Ingredients for organic homemade potting mix and their works 

Composted wood chips:

Composted wood chips ensure the aeration system of your potting mixes. It also lightens up the mixes and slowly broken-down into it as well as increases the pore sizes.

Wooden chips absorbed enough nitrogen from the mixes when broken down, so add some small amount of fish emulsion, blood meal or alfalfa meal helps to fulfill the nitrogen deficient during composting chips.

Homemade compost:

You can make your homemade compost from your kitchen garbage and it will be a wonderful nutrient source for your potting mix.

You can also use old aged poultry manure or cow manure to make your own compost. Besides, garden weeds are nice ingredients to make your homemade compost.

Leaf mold:

Leaf mold or rotted leaves are the excellent ingredients for homemade potting mix. This is a good substitute to peat moss or coco coir. It also works like vermiculite or perlite.

Making leaf mold is a lengthy process. It will take around two years to get well decomposed potting mix.

So, once you get your leaf mold ready it will save you enough money.

Grain hulls:

Rice and other grain hulls (wheat and oat) also work like leaf mold for potting mix. Follow the same process as leaf mold to decompose them. 

Rotted sawdust:

Sawdust is an excellent lightweight ingredient for homemade potting mix after rotted. In that case, you just need to collect sawdust from untreated wood. Sawdust from treated wood contains chemicals which are harmful to the plants.

Sterilized sand:

Sterilized sand ensures the proper drainage system of your homemade potting mix. You can sterilize your coarse sand in an oven at 160 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour or directly fry the sand in an old fry pan for an hour.

Garden loam:

Garden loam is balanced ingredients.  It absorbs the water slowly to take the plants water from the soil but avoid waterlogged. So, sterilized garden loam is a good ingredient for your organic potting mix.

How to mix up your own homemade potting mix for tomatoes:

Tomatoes are one of the hungry plants among the other vegetables. So, you need to add more nutrients and other organic matters when mixing up the potting soil.

However, according to the gardener experts, a good potting mix would be lightweight, well drained, well aerate, retain moisture, and provides necessary nutrients supply.

So, based on the above conditions you can make your own potting mix and ensure healthy harvest as follows:

Step 1: Pasteurization:

Branded commercial potting mix are well sterilized and so they don’t contain any diseases.

As well as, when you make your homemade potting mix you should pasteurize the ingredients before mixing them together. It will confirm diseases free potting mix like a commercial mixture.

Step 2: Combine the mixture

The best benefit of the homemade fertilizer is you can control the mixture as you required.

Add

  • Three-part compost
  • One-part topsoil or garden loam
  • One-part wood chips or sawdust or leaf mold or grain hulls
  • One-part coarse sand

Mix properly the above ingredients and fill up your containers. Thoroughly mixing the ingredients will give you a good result.

If your potting mix has a poor drainage system add some coarse sand and leaf mold to develop drainage.

To develop the aeration system and water retention capacity, add more sawdust or leaf mold or wood chips into the mixture.

Making a lightweight potting mix add one-part wood chips, one-part leaf mold one-part compost, and one-part garden loam.

You can add a different combination of ingredients for different types of the potting mix based on your garden need.

 Step 3: Provide liquid fertilizer

The potting mix doesn’t contain enough nutrients to feed your plants over the season. Moreover, feeding your tomatoes continuously may decrease nutrients from the potting mix.

So, provide some liquid fertilizer in different parts of the plant’s growth will ensure you healthy harvest.

Store brought or homemade potting mix: Which one is suitable for home gardeners?

As a beginner gardener, I recommend you to choose the store brought potting mix for a smooth startup.

To make your own homemade potting mix with organic ingredients you must need to wait for a long time. Besides you have to face some challenges and considering some other issues. Such as proper knowledge, enough place in your garden, available ingredients, enough time and most important is patience.

As a result, you may lose hope to continue gardening next time.

Typically, it will take around two years to produce your homemade organic ingredients which are the good substitute of the commercial potting mix likepeat moss, coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, and compost.

Besides, starting on a small scale with 2-4 containers with your preferred plants will help you to understand the growing circle. After the end of the season, you will learn with practical experience, which nobody can tell you.

So, I think the store brought potting mix is suitable for beginner gardeners?

On the other hand, you can choose homemade potting mix from the beginning if you are-

  • An experienced gardener
  • Try to experiment with new things
  • Want to save money
  • Enough space in your garden
  • Available ingredients
  • Enough patience to wait for at least two years
  • Wish to work hard to prepare the ingredients for potting mix
  • And, want to produce medium to large level harvest.

Is that possible to save money by making my own potting mix?

My answer is yes!

No matter how big or small your garden is, you can save money by making your own potting mix.

But you need to wait for a certain period of time (around two years) to start your own potting mix with your homemade organic ingredients.

Once you finish making your homemade ingredients (like rotted leaf mold, wood chips or sawdust) you can easily minimize your cost by making an organic potting mix using those rotted ingredients.

Now, in the two years gap before getting your own potting mix, you may use store brought potting mix for your tomato plants.

Obviously, it will cost some money but consider it as the process of minimizing the cost of making your own potting mix. 

### Difference between garden soil and the potting soil

The difference between garden soil and the potting soil can be determined considering the following factors:

Weight:

Garden soil is heavier but it doesn’t matter because you don’t have to move it randomly.

On the other hand, the potting mix is lightweight and easy to move if you need.

Water holding capacity:

Garden soil has better water holding capacity than potting mix. On the contrary, the potting mix needs good aeration and drainage system. It doesn’t hold water for very long.

Drainage system:

Potting mix comparatively has a better drainage system. Soaking water in containers encourage diseases. As well as, you can also ensure a better drainage system in ground soil with an amendment.

Nutrients:

Garden soil contains enough nutrients and holds some organic matters naturally on it. On the other hand, the potting mix doesn’t contain available nutrients unless you add some. 

Diseases:

Garden soil tends to affect more by some diseases on the other side potting mix less affected by the diseases than garden soil.

Soil amendment:

Every time you have to prepare potting mix for your tomatoes and other plants.

As well as garden soil also need some amendment to get better performance.

Soil test:

Both types of soil need a soil test to measure the nutrients value. A soil test helps to determine how much nutrients do your plants demand.

Conclusion:

Making homemade organic potting mix is a lengthy process and kill your valuable time. But after making a successful pile of organic ingredients will help you dramatically reduce your gardening cost.

Sources and Citations:

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