When Life Gives You Free Pots, Make Potting Mix

So this weekend I was fortunate enough to receive a lot of free pots. I mean a LOT. I’m talking probably 25 smallish terra cotta pots, 3 huge barrel type planters like this, a handful of assorted medium sized pots, and then two HUGE black plastic pots- probably 25 gallons, like this.

I wasn’t planning on doing much container gardening this season, however, when life gives you free pots…

So I headed on over to lowes/ home depot and loaded up on everything I would need to make some potting mix, along with some seeds that I wanted to plant into the pots.

I stocked up on some basil, swiss chard, summer squash, pole bean, and a few varieties of tomato seeds.

I have already planted one of the tomato seeds into the 25 gallon pots, and I added a tomato cage for once it starts growing big.

Now, I don’t like tomato cages very much. I think that there are much better ways to hold up tomatoes. However, along with the free pots I also received 8 free tomato cages. As we all know, I’m cheap and love free stuff, so I’ll be using the tomato cages that I have instead of going out and buying some other supports.

Speaking of cheap, there’s a reason that I make my own potting mix. It’s a little more work than buying pre-made mix, but it saves me a ton of money.

*You can find my recipe for seed starting mix here*

Materials for potting mix

  • Perlite/ vermiculite- the perlite is usually cheaper, so that’s what I buy. $16.97 at home depot.

  • Peat Moss- $11.48 at lowes.

  • Garden soil- $6.97 at home depot. I like this brand because it’s fairly inexpensive, organic, and has no added fertilizers. It also contains wood chips- you can read about why those are beneficial here.

  • Compost/ fertilizer (optional)- I use this brand. It’s local and organic, and does a great job of feeding my plants. I honestly can’t remember how much the bag costs- it goes a long way, and I bought the bag last summer. You can add a scoop of fertilizer directly to your potting mix, or you can fertilize your plants regularly after planting.

  • Shovel

  • Bucket

  • Large tote bin or pot

Instructions for potting mix

  1. Use a bucket of any size for your measuring cup. I think the one that I use is about 2 gallons.

  2. Use your bucket to measure out 1 part perlite/ vermiculite, 1 part garden soil, and 1.5(ish) parts peat moss.

  3. Add compost or fertilizer if you wish.

  4. Mix everything together inside of a large container (I use a big tote bin) with a shovel. This is the hard part- it’s a good amount of work to get all of this mixed together, you will definitely be sweating. And dirty, very dirty.

  5. Voila, you’ve got potting mix! I find it helpful to mix mine up in a tote bin, because then I can just put the lid on for storage- easy.

So, is it really worth the work for making potting mix? For me, yes. Unquestionably. If you’re using large amounts of potting mix, this is absolutely the way to go. However, if you’re only going to fill a couple of pots, go ahead and just buy it pre-mixed. This only saves you money if you’re going to use it all.

For the price breakdown, the perlite is $16.97, the garden soil is $6.97, and the peat moss is $11.48. That comes to $35.42 for 7 cubic feet of potting soil. Now your regular bag of miracle grow potting soil is $13.47 for 2 cubic feet. Which comes out to $87.55 for the whole 7 cubic feet.

So, by making my own potting mix, I’m saving about $52! That’s a whole lot. Not to mention that I get to control exactly what fertilizers and nutrients go into my potting soil. That’s a win win, my friends.