How To Make Your Own Inexpensive Potting Mix
Raised beds and container planting is growing in popularity fast. Mainly because this is a great way to grow a lot in a minimal space and without needing to dig up a big patch of yard. Typically a good sized garden is at least 12′ x 12′. Not everyone has the room for this or can handle the physical labor it takes to cut it, till it, remove all the rocks, shape it into rows and then let’s not forget the maintenance. On the other hand, container gardening can also get pretty expensive. You have to purchase all that dirt to fill those containers. Potting with dirt from your yard is not recommended because it is heavy and dense, it will compact in the pot and minimize the oxygen to the roots.
I have two large gardens, but also wanted to try the raised bed method as well as plant in some pots. So , knowing that buying all that potting mix was going to be expensive, I set out to find an alternative. I came across a “recipe” online, but when I priced everything it called for, I might as well have just purchased Miracle Grow mix. Instead, I made my own recipe and , well as you can see below… it works AMAZING.
Here is why it works:
- The mix is considered “soil free” , soil free actually contains no dirt. It stays more loose and let’s your roots breath!
- The mix is light and allows water to reach the roots, using less water and making sure they get enough
- 1/3 of the mix is compost, that means it is super nutrient rich
- There is no rocks or debris hindering root growth
- Root vegetables THRIVE in this mix because it is free of rocks/debris
- Sphagnum Peat Moss – gives structure
- Vermiculite (Or Perlite) – lightens the mix, careful when opening this bag it is light, airy and kinda dusty
- Compost , this can be your own or purchased – gives nutrients
What to do :
- Figure out how many pots or beds you are doing and use this Calculator to help you , having more on hand is ok so there is no need to try to get it down to the exact.
- Get a container or tote large enough to fit the 3 ingredients so that you can mix them well
- Search for the best deal! I bought ALL my ingredients online on Amazon because the selection is amazing and it was a lot less expensive, even with shipping. I am an Amazon Prime member so I receive FREE 2 day Shipping on some items.
- Mix All the ingredients . The ratio is simple- Equal parts. So one cup of each for a small pot or 1 cubic ft bag of each for more
- Loosely fill your containers , plant according to seed packets or use transplants.
Note * This soil free mix is loose, you will not be able to transplant once in the container, so make sure you are using this for their permanent home.
You can plant ANYTHING in this mix, just make sure your container size is big enough for your plant type. For example : an Eggplant will need an 18″ container, I did use a 12″ and a one gallon for a few of mine. They are smaller plants producing less but have grown great.
Frugal Tip – Go to your local Dollar type store and purchase the round dorm sized laundry baskets for $1. Line with plastic trash bag, poke holes in the bottom. Instant plant container! I used 4 of these.
My total cost for enough soil free mix for 12 containers and a 4 x 4 x 6′ deep raised bed was under $20.
If you want to give your home a natural and wild touch, a good option is to build a terrarium which can be placed in any corner of your home and transform the whole room. In this OneHowTo article, we’ll show you how to make a cheap terrarium so you can decorate your home without spending a lot of money. You just need a bit of moss, a glass bottle and a lot of imagination! The best thing about this craft is that you can customize it and include anything you like. Awesome, right?
To make a low-cost terrarium we will use materials that you can get easily without needing to pay a penny. Here’s what you need to make your terrarium:
- A glass container (it can even be a bottle of wine halved so you can take advantage of both ends. In this OneHowTo we show you how to cut a bottle).
- A potted plant that you want to place inside the terrarium (if the glass container is large, you can choose to put smaller plants in to achieve a much more natural and wild appearance).
- Some moss which will act as the terrarium base.
- Stones (that you can get from any walk in the woods).
First, create the base for your terrarium by putting some stones inside and then covering them with some moss at the bottom. You can add more layers of moss and stones (this will always depend on the size of your terrarium container). When the layers are finished, just place the plant pot on the moss.
To give the effect of terrarium, it’s important that afterwards you add moss around the plant, otherwise it just looks like you’ve got a plant inside a glass container. You achieve a wild and natural look when you scatter moss inside and mix it with the plant.
To give a unique and personal touch to your terrarium, in this OneHowTo you can look at how to customize a glass container when you’re making your creation. You can paint it, stick stickers on it, write a few words or just add a touch of color that matches perfectly with the decor of your home.
In this OneHowTo article you can find how to paint glass bottles.
To make a cheap terrarium simply select what you want to include in your new decorative object and give free rein to your imagination. For example, in autumn or winter you can add some dried pine cones inside or broom (i.e. typical Christmas plants with red beads). In spring and summer, you can choose to add dried flowers and give a more appropriate touch for the time of year.
If you like tropical terrariums it’s best to buy exotic flowers and put it in an area of the home with a lot of moisture and sunlight. This will prolong their life to the fullest and keep that tropical feel in your home.
If you’re looking for alternatives to glass terrariums, take a look at our guide on how to make a DIY succulent terrarium. You might also be interested in how to plant succulents in individual containers.
If you have any tips on how to make a cheap terrarium, please tell us in the comments section.
If you want to read similar articles to How to Make a Cheap Terrarium, we recommend you visit our Gardening & plants category.
Add instant color and texture to any part of your garden, porch or balcony with the art of container gardening! Gardening in pots allows you to have gorgeous plants surrounding you, no matter how big or small your space is. Follow these 10 simple steps to make your very own paradise in a pot.
1. Choose a container
There are many container options available, so choose one that fits your style. Choose from glazed clay pottery, natural looking stone pots, brightly colored plastic, rustic metal containers or find a truly unique container. Make sure that your container has good drainage because soggy roots will kill your garden. No drainage? No problem. Either drill your own or line the bottom of the container with several inches of broken terracotta and small stones. Keep in mind that your plants will grow better in a larger container rather than a small one. More soil means more space for roots to grow. More roots mean prettier flowers!
2. Prepare your container
If your container is large and you are worried about the cost (or the weight) of filling the entire pot, simply turn sturdy recycled plastic pots upside down in the bottom of the container or use packing peanuts. If you don’t already have pots to use, we carry a selection of cheap insert options available in-store. Make sure not to choose a flimsy pot to use or the weight of the watered-in soil can collapse your garden
3. Fill your container with soil
Choosing the right soil for your container garden is essential. The better the soil is, the better your plants’ roots, foliage and flowers will grow. We recommend Eko Organic All Purpose Potting Mix. Made locally here in Colorado, this potting mix has more nutrients than what you would find in other bagged mixes. Fill your container until the soil reaches couple of inches from the top. Make sure not to mound your soil, it should be about one inch beneath the top once finished. This will act as a water reservoir, giving your plants more time to hydrate themselves.
4. Add a good starter food
We love to use Bio Tone Plant Starter on what we plant both in the ground and in containers. This microbe-enhanced all natural plant food includes both endo & ecto mycorrhizae. You’ll grow a larger root mass to help plants establish quickly and promote bigger blooms, and Bio Tone reduces transplant loss.
5. Pick your plants
Choose plants that go together, not only by color but also those that need the same growing conditions. Planting sun-loving plants in a shaded area container, or visa versa, will be a disappointment after all your work.
6. Prepare your plants
Get your planting project off to a healthy start by “cleaning” your plants first. Pick off any spent blooms or yellowing leaves. If any of your plants are root bound, score or carefully cut the roots which allows new roots to grow from the cuts. Pinch back any plants that are too tall or leggy. To trim your plants, cut directly above the node of leaves that sits at the height you desire. This will encourage side, instead of vertical, growth.
Position your tallest plants in the center of the pot, and the trailers around the edge. As you plant, make sure not to compress the soil. Instead of pressing the soil down, move it to the side to make room for your plants. Fill the soil back into the remaining space so that the plants are tucked securely in place.
Give your new plants a nice long drink. You want the water to run out of the drainage holes of the pot. If you don’t have drainage holes then you’ll want to water less you so don’t turn the soil into a bog.
Quite honestly, the simplest trick to great containers is to routinely fertilize them. Choose a fertilizer high in phosphate, which encourages blooming. We recommend Fertilome Rooting & Blooming.
As the season progresses, be mindful to keep up on the maintenance of your container garden. Deadheading flowers will not only help your garden stay disease free, it will also encourage new flowers to form. Cut back the plants in your container garden if they get too wild so you can keep the desired shape and form. Or… let them go crazy and see just how big they will get!
I never can manage to come up with them myself, but I love super duper simple DIY projects. I have such admiration for people who see something and then, boom, a couple minutes later they have turned it into something totally different. Quick, easy, no muss or fuss: three-step projects are awesome. I’m going to make it my mission to hatch ideas for some this summer. This is a fantastic example, and it will serve as the inspiration for my goal.
Currently based in the UK, Tempest from Ellomennopee is a PhD student by day, artist and blogger by night. She came up with this ingenious little project for displaying air plants in her bathroom, where no other plants would survive. Admittedly, the key to this project is coming across the right vessel: Tempest used her shampoo bottle tops, which have an awesome bullet shape, but now that I’m on the lookout, I actually see several promising options in my pantry and bathroom. Keep your eye out, and with a little spray paint, a nail and some string, you too can have these little hanging planters. They are cheap, adorable, recycled and perfect for displaying this peculiar yet popular plant. Thanks for sharing, Tempest! — Kate
Have a DIY project you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)
Read the full how-to after the jump . . .
Perhaps because of the pervasive austerity trend, low-maintenance plants like tillandsia and other air plants (epiphytes) have made a comeback. Since they don’t require soil or a lot of maintenance, air plants are also perfect for city dwellers. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful ways to display air plants in glass vases and mini-terrariums, but taking the plants out to be watered and then rearranging them seems too fussy for me. My solution was to put them in my bathroom (where no other plants will grow) so they are adequately watered by shower steam. Enjoy! — Tempest
- clean plastic bottle lids (I used shampoo lids from the Umberto Giannini product line)
- spray paint of your color choice
- air plants (can be bought online here, or found at most garden shops)
- hammer and thin nail (or something to pierce a hole through plastic)
1. Pierce a hole in the top of the plastic lid with a nail.
2. Apply several layers of spray paint to the lid (drying between each coat) to achieve the desired colour in a smooth finish.
3. Thread a piece of string through the hole in the lid and gently tie a knot around the air plant.
4. Hang near your bathroom window so they can get sunlight and will be watered by steam, or be prepared to water them now and then by either soaking or misting with a spray bottle.
Everybody wants to get into composting, but if you live in a rental or apartment where that’s not exactly appreciated, then starting a worm bin could be a good alternative.
Worm bins won’t have any smell if managed correctly, and it’s pretty easy to get started on the cheap. I looked at several methods before starting my project, and this was the simplest version.
DIY Rubbermaid Worm Bin Material List
- 3x Rubbermaid Containers
- 1x Rubbermaid Lid
- Cooler Drain
- Drill w/ Paddle Bit
- Red Wiggler Worms
- Food Scraps
It’s perfectly possible to make a worm bin using only a single tote, but by using a stackable system, it makes it much easier and less messy to manage it. Why? Well, in a single tote system harvesting the worm casting for your plants and drain any leachate is kind of a chore and the stacking system makes it easier.
How To Make It Step-By-Step
Drill Holes In The Bottom Of TWO Totes
Get your drill and fill the bottom of two of the totes with holes. These holes let your worms move between totes to get the food scraps AND they let your liquid waste drop down into the final bin (the one without holes in it).
Drill Holes In The Side Of The Totes
After stacking your totes together, you should see how they will stick up slightly above each other when stacked. In the top of the two totes you drilled holes for in the bottom, also drill holes a long this side edge.
Your worms need oxygen and holes in the sides will provide them with plenty of air. Putting them at the top makes sure that there is now seepage of nasty stuff on to your floor.
Add Your Cooler Drain Plug To The Bottom Tote
Now take your bottom tote (the one you didn’t drill holes in) and use a paddle bit to make a hole for the drain plug. This goes in the front of the tote on the bottom. The tote will need to slightly hang over the edge of a shelf or table so that you can use the drain plug to drain access liquid from your worm bin.
How To Use The Rubbermaid Worm Bin
When you start out with this system, only your top tote will have anything in it. This is where your worms, soil, and scraps will go. If you’ve already got a smaller worm bin, you can dump the contents right in here.
Continue to add material until your tote fills up and then move it to the second position in the stack, moving the empty tub up to the top position. Eventually, the worms will run out of food in the middle tote and move up into the top tote through the holes you’ve drilled to get to the food.
Once this happens, you’ll be left with only premium worm castings for your garden in the middle tote, which you can then empty and start using for your vegetables, fruits, and trees.
The bottom tote is for collecting liquid. Worm bins need drainage for the health and success of your colony. However, this liquid is not the same as “worm tea”, and while it can be safely dumped into your compost. Worm seepage is unlikely to be very beneficial to your plants directly because it only occurs in overly wet conditions which can lead to the production of bad bacteria.
Bob learned about farming from his grand dad. So, the decision to leave the city and start homesteading was not a difficult transition. He now lives with his wife and two kids on their 30 acre property in Ohio.
By Bob Womack
Bob learned about farming from his grand dad. So, the decision to leave the city and start homesteading was not a difficult transition. He now lives with his wife and two kids on their 30 acre property in Ohio.
Grow Boxes are self-watering, low maintenance gardening containers for small spaces. They are reusable, last for 5 years or more, and are great for vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers.
- One 32-gallon plastic storage container with lid
- Eight 1-gallon nursery pots
- 2-foot section of 2-inch PVC pipe
- Duct tape
- A long piece of wire
- Garden soil mixed with compost
- 1 large plastic garbage bag
- 6 clothes pins (spring type) optional
Place the 8 nursery pots inside of the container, open ends up.
Next, you’ll work on the lid. The lid becomes the floor that the soil sits on and is supported by the eight 1-gallon nursery pots. The lid must fit down inside the container, so you’ll have to cut about 1 ½ to 2 inches in from the edge. Don’t worry if you don’t match the contours of the container perfectly because we have duct tape!
Now drill ¼ inch holes about 2 inches apart all over the lid for drainage. Drill 5 or 6 holes in the lower 6 inches of the PVC pipe. With the lid resting on the nursery pots, draw circles for the corner holes approximately where the 2 corner nursery pots will end up. Cut these holes out. This is where the soil will go through the lid all the way to the bottom of the container. Cut another hole in the lid large enough for the PVC pipe that is used to fill the water reservoir. Use duct tape around the outer edges of the lid where it doesn’t match up with the side of the container and around the edge of the hole for the PVC pipe. This prevents soil from slipping down into the reservoir below.
Drill side drainage holes. These holes should be drilled through the side of the container just below a point level with the lid when it is resting on the nursery pots, which is about 6 inches above the bottom of the container. These holes are the part that makes watering this container fool-proof. You pour water down the PVC pipe. When water comes out the drain holes, the container is full.
Drill a hole on each long side of the container above the lid. Fix a wire tie across the middle of the container to prevent the container from bulging when full. Put the PVC pipe in place.
You’re ready to add the soil. Place your container in its final location, because once the soil is added, it will be very heavy. Start in the corners and fill the holes with the nursery pots under them and pack the soil down a bit. This is how the water is “wicked” up to keep the soil that is above the suspended floor moist. Add a few inches of garden soil (a little soil will go through the holes but not enough to matter). Pack it down a bit then fill the container with soil. Water the container from the top to moisten, not saturate the soil (this is the only time you’ll water from the top). Pack it down again . Spread two cups of dry fertilizer (not the type for dissolving in water) in a narrow stripe, about 3 inches wide down the middle of the container then cover the fertilizer with soil. Use a fertilizer such as 15-5-10 or 13-13-13.
Cover the surface with a black plastic garbage bag to prevent rainwater from washing away nutrients and to reduce surface evaporation. Snap on the rim of the lid that was cut out (or use the clothes pins). This will keep the plastic bag in place.
Now cut holes in the plastic for the PVC pipe and for planting seedlings in the container. The number of plants depends on their mature size and the space they need.
Water the container by filling the reservoir through the PVC pipe. When the plants are small, you can water once a week. When the plants are about 5 feet tall, water approximately every other day depending upon temperatures and amount of sunlight the plants are receiving. Make sure there is water in the reservoir.
Make it portable by placing it on casters. Keep it on a patio or in a school garden. Use it for quick or continual harvests of annuals and perennials.
Click to view planting chart for grow boxes
Download a printer-friendly version of this page: Grow Boxes (pdf)
I love different container gardens and this one is big but not expensive. It is cute and a wonderful way to have a larger flower planter this summer. I’ve republished because I still love this planter!
Are you looking for a fun and funky new planter? Do you want a more unique planter? But, don’t want to spend a fortune? One that you can customize a bit? Here is what I did.
I have these on my deck.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy for details.
Not very exciting, is it? When the flowers are really full grown this actually does look good. Not great, but good. We had to build the wood box to cover the dryer vent and guide the lint under the deck. It’s an unusual size and fairly large. The large planters I was looking at cost hundreds of dollars. So I just bought smaller, cheap ones and filled the space. I’d be willing to spend hundreds on furniture that I’d have for years, but not a planter. A container who’s main job is to hold dirt. Who has a limited amount of useful time each year since I live in Wisconsin. I was wandering around my local big box hardware store and saw an galvanized washtub. It was priced around $29. Compared to planters this size, this was a really cheap price! I went home, took some measurements and needed something just a few inches bigger. Was at my local TJ Max and saw the perfect one! I didn’t hesitate and bought it right away. I’ve learned that others will also covet your treasure and it will be gone in a few minutes.
I did think it looked a little plain so I dug around my garage and found some sisal rope. Perfect! I hot glued some on and I think it really adds to the look.
My planter will be in a shady area of my deck and last year I liked the look of a hosta and red geraniums. It really brightens up a shady area. The hostas will grow big and will look so beautiful. And the geraniums, they will be such a pretty splash of red. Oh, I can’t wait! Now, just a couple of words of advice. Make sure you have drainage. All I did was use a nail and hammer to make a few holes on both sides.
And, I put some plastic containers in so that they would help me save on soil (and make the planter lighter).
I’m so excited to watch this planter grow and fill in!
If you are looking for a gavlanized tub like this, Amazon has them!
It’s so much nicer than what I had before! And it didn’t cost me a fortune. I love finding cheap ideas that look expensive and on trend! Just adding the sisal rope made it look so much prettier, don’t you think? Have you come up with any great looking planters?
If you’re looking for a hardy herb that will produce a harvest all season-long, and can withstand just about anything you can throw at it then look no further than chives. I’ve been growing this wash basin of chives for so many years I can’t for the life of me recall where I got the tub or the plant. All I know is that it is one of the few perennial herbs that I can count on to withstand an inconsistent and sometimes bitter winter in a container and additionally be the first plant up and providing garnishes for early spring soups.
Every spring I try and find a new way to fill in the gaps left by the plants that don’t have the fortitude of chives and give the planter a place of prominence as the first pretty thing to look at out on the rooftop deck. This particular planting received a lot of positive attention this spring so I thought I’d share it with you.
I use just about ever part of the plant. The early buds and fully open chive blossoms taste great in salads or steeped in vinegar to make a salad dressing.
Here’s what I’ve got growing in there right now:
- Chives – The centrepiece. Perennial so I did not have to buy them this year. However when I did they were probably only $1 at the local Horticultural Society Plant Sale. Chives multiply like crazy in the garden and are one of those plants someone is always looking to pass off for free.
- Thyme – Two kinds: Lime and silver. This is one of my favourite combinations. It’s not coming through in the photo but the lime thyme has a slightly yellow undertone that contrasts well with the silver variety. These plants cost $2 each and will provide a constant stream of clippings all summer long. They will not survive winter in a container however I get more for my buck by digging them up in the fall and transplanting to an in-ground garden. Last year’s container plants are currently thriving at my community garden plot. The lime variety does have a lime flavour that we like in fish soup.
- Violas – Two kinds, but I don’t know their names. One is a deep purple and the other is a combination of soft purples, cream, orange, and yellows. I put in 4 plants totaling just over a buck. The viola flowers are edible too. I pinch off the freshest flowers to eat in my salads. They will start to fade as the heat of summer intensifies but sometimes come back for a second round s the heat decreases in early fall. You can always fill in the gaps with another flower (I’m thinking a pink zinnia this year) or cascading nasturtiums that are also edible.
Total cost to me: $5. Plus some vermicompost and compost added to the container before planting. The wash basin was free and the container soil was purchased years ago.