Potting Soil Mix for Vegetables

Best Potting Soil for Vegetables – How to Choose

Vegetable container gardening is becoming more popular over the years. But many container gardeners make the mistake of using the wrong type of soil for their vegetables. What is the best potting soil for vegetables? What kind of soil should you avoid if you want to grow vegetables in containers? Read this article as we discuss everything about potting soil for vegetables. 

A Brief Background of Vegetable Container Gardening 

Vegetable container gardening is the practice of growing vegetables in pots or other containers instead of growing them in the field. It has many advantages over field gardening. Some soil-related benefits of container gardening are: 

  • Compatibility of Soil: In container gardening, there is a soil mix for every plant, so gardeners do not have to worry about the suitability of their garden soil. 
  • The freshness of the Soil: New nutrient-rich soil is free from contamination and diseases, so your vegetables will grow faster and healthier. 
  • Transferring Vegetables: Potting soil is lighter than garden soil so that you can carry potted plants indoors with ease. 

Should You Use Garden Soil for Container Plants? 

The simple answer to the question above is no, but it depends on several factors. Garden soil is not recommended for potted vegetables for reasons such as: 

  • Garden soil gets compacted easily. 
  • It does not drain water quickly. 
  • It has uneven moisture and temperature. 
  • Soil from the garden may be contaminated or contain pests and weed. 
  • Garden soil is heavy, so you may find it difficult to change plant location. 

All the cons of garden soil in container gardening can discourage you from using garden soil for your potted plants. What can you do, or what should you use? Here are two options to choose from: 

  1. Sterilizing and amending garden soil for container gardening 
  2. Buying or making potting mixes for vegetables in your containers 

How to Reuse Garden Soil in Container Gardening 

Here are the steps involved to reuse garden soil in containers: 

First, Sterilize the Soil 

This step is the essential first step for reusing garden soil. You must sterilize the soil to kill any harmful microorganism or nematode that is present. Many gardeners sterilize soil by baking it at 180°F for 30 minutes. 

Next, Amend the Soil 

Many people think that you would only amend nutrient-depleted soil however amendment improves the quality of poor soil types such as:

  • Soil with too high or low pH 
  • Soil that is not well-drained like clay 
  • Soil that does not hold nutrients like sand 
  • Contaminated soil or soil with microbes that harm plants 
  • Nutrient-depleted soil 

Regular garden soil is not porous enough for potted plants (especially vegetables that you grow indoors). Also, moisture and temperature can be uneven. The soil in the field is large enough to drain excess water below the root of vegetables, but in pots, water remains at the bottom (root zone) while the surface is dry. 

To use garden soil in container gardening, you must amend the soil so that it can become more porous and drain water easily. You can mix two parts of soil with one part perlite or vermiculite to improve its structure. You could also mix one part garden soil with one part coarse sand. 

There you have it. After sterilizing and amending garden soil, you can reuse it in pots. Remember to add nutrients if need be. 

Potting Soil and Potting Mix for Vegetables 

Though they are two different products, potting soil and potting mix are products with blended ingredients that gardeners use to grow vegetables in pots. Most “potting mixes” are made without soil, but if it is labeled as “potting soil,” it is made with soil and other ingredients. 

Benefits of potting soil/mixes over garden soil in container gardening are: 

  • Free from pests and weed seeds: If not properly sterilized, garden soil can carry pests and weed seeds.  
  • Retention and drainage ability of the ingredients: Potting mix ingredients such as perlite and vermiculite can drain water easily, while ingredients such as peat moss and coconut coir can retain moisture in the pot 
  • The porosity of the mix: Potting mixes are porous, so moisture and temperature are fairly even in the container 

Potting mixes are indeed recommended for container gardening. You can buy them online or at a local gardening shop. Or you can make your potting mix by yourself. 

Note: Making potting soil or mix instead of buying is only economical on a large scale 

How to Make Your Own Potting Soil 

What you need: 

  • 1 gallon of sterilized garden soil 
  • 1 gallon of perlite or vermiculite 
  • ½ gallon of peat moss or coconut coir 
  • 1 quart of organic material such as compost or manure (optional) 
  • Hand trowel and wheelbarrow or a large bin to mix the potting soil 

When you have everything, mix them thoroughly in the wheelbarrow. Using a wheelbarrow permits you to move the potting mix that you have mixed to your preferred location. 

Note: Remember to use sterilized and amended garden soil.  

How to Make Soilless Potting Mixes 

What you need: 

  • Fertilizer 
  • 1 gallon of peat moss 
  • 1 gallon of perlite, vermiculite, or both 
  • 1 quart of shredded tree bark or sawdust 
  • ½ gallon of nutrient-rich materials like compost or manure (optional) 
  • Hand trowel and wheelbarrow or any stable platform to mix the potting soil 

When you have gathered everything, mix them evenly. 

Note: If you do not want to use compost or rotted manure, you need fertilizer to feed your potted vegetables. 

Now that you know everything about potting soil/mix, you are ready to start container gardening. Do you want extra tips? 

Potting Soil Tips 

Here you go: 

  • Remember to perforate pots and containers for drainage 
  • Use alkaline materials like limestone to increase your potting soil pH 
  • If you are not using garden soil or compost, fertilize your vegetables regularly 
  • You should use garden soil in the potting mix if you want to grow top-heavy plants 
  • If the water in your pots does not drain easily, place rocks at the bottom (inside) of the pot 


In container gardening, you should not use garden soil except when you sterilize and amend it. The best potting soil for vegetables is well-drained, porous, and light. You can mix compost and other organic materials with potting mix ingredients so that your plants will have nutrients. When you have your soil picked out or mixed up, it’s time to learn how to make a vegetable garden.

Which do you prefer? Will you buy or make your potting soil/mix? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. 


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