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Can I Use Soil Out of My Backyard to Grow Indoor Potted Plants?

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When you start an indoor container garden, you may be tempted to save bucks and a trip to the store by using garden soil from the backyard to fill your pots. Unfortunately, no matter how fertile and rich the soil, it isn’t suitable for use with indoor plants. Instead of using soil that’s already on hand, take the time to select the proper potting soil mix for the plants you’re going to grow, so you can give them a healthy head start.

Garden Soil Drawbacks

If you’ve had good luck with your outdoor soil when growing plants in the yard and garden, you may question why you can’t use that same soil in a pot. Unfortunately, container plants have different requirements than do garden plants. According to “Fine Gardening” magazine, garden soil doesn’t hold enough air, water and nutrients to sustain potted plants. Garden soil is more heavy and dense than potting soil mixes and may become too compacted to create a hospitable environment for container plants. It may also be depleted of essential nutrients and fail to hold enough water — or hold too much water — for your plants’ needs.

Soil Mix Benefits

The University of Illinois Extension advises that container plants require soil that provides proper aeration and drainage while still retaining enough moisture to sustain the plants. They also require a careful balance of nutrients to feed the plants as they grow. By choosing the proper soil mix, you eliminate unnecessary problems, such as the inadvertent introduction of weed seeds, pests and diseases to indoor plants, which can occur when you use garden soil. Commercial potting soils are specifically formulated for the needs of container plants, and the mix can be tailored to the type of plant you’re growing.

Potting Soil Basics

Oftentimes, potting soil mixes do not contain any soil at all and are known as soil-less mixes. Artificial media, another name for soil-less mixes, are typically a combination of several ingredients suited to helping indoor plants thrive. Perlite and vermiculite add aeration to the mix, peat moss and sphagnum moss aid in moisture retention, and sawdust and shredded bark provide a soft bed for the roots and stem of the plants. Plants in potting mix usually require supplementary feeding with fertilizers formulated for potted plants.

Garden Soil Possibilities

If you’re determined to use garden soil for planting container plants, sterilize the garden soil first by spreading it in a flat layer in a glass or metal baking pan and placing it in the oven and heating it to a temperature of 180 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Ensure that the soil stays at that temperature for 30 minutes. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool before use. Use the soil to create a potting mix by combining one part each of soil, peat moss, perlite and compost.

  • University of Illinois Extension: Using Soil and Soil Mixes
  • Fine Gardening: Soil in Containers Should Be a Good Mix
  • Colorado State University Cooperative Extension: Start Seed and Transplants in Sterilized Soil
  • Fine Gardening: Potting Soil Recipes

Amie Taylor has been a writer since 2000. Book reviews, gardening and outdoor lawn equipment repair articles and short fiction account for a handful of her published works. Taylor gained her gardening and outdoor equipment repair experience from working in the landscaping and lawn-care business she and her husband own and operate.

Can I Use Soil Out of My Backyard to Grow Indoor Potted Plants?. When you start an indoor container garden, you may be tempted to save bucks and a trip to the store by using garden soil from the backyard to fill your pots. Unfortunately, no matter how fertile and rich the soil, it isn’t suitable for use with …

Make Garden Soil From ALMOST Any Dirt

Introduction: Make Garden Soil From ALMOST Any Dirt

This is a general guide to preparing dirt for gardening. All the instruction you need for a given type of dirt is put into one “step” of this instructable. So identify what type of dirt you have then open that “step” for further instruction.

Materials:
-Your existing Dirt
-Compost
-Sand, Peralite
-10-10-10 Fertilizer

Tools:
-5 gallon bucket
-Shovel
-Dirt rake
-Wheelbarrow if available

Total Cost:
-Completely variable, but the whole point is to keep it as cheap as possible.

Step 1: General Principles/ Understanding the Guide

This guide is will help you design you own soil to grow the most broad spectrum of plants possible. This means it won’t work for everything, but if you want to grow a vegetable garden, plant a tree, or plant flowers this dirt will probably be excellent for you. At some point I’ll probably make an Instructable that goes into much higher detail helping troubleshoot soil problems and make optimum soil for specific plants. Check my other instructables.

Generally garden soil should be well draining and nutrient rich. The goal of this project is turn whatever you do have into that, as economically as possible, or you would have just bought miracle grow at hardware store.

To mix your soil any flat surface and a dirt rake is suitable, but concrete is ideal.

I use 5 gallon buckets as a common measurement tool since everyone has those available, and wheelbarrows come in many sizes, but if you are doing it on a larger scale like I do, just use a 5 gallon bucket to measure or think of them as 1 part this, 2 parts that, and just guesstimate on the fertilizer proportions.

Coarse sand is used to help your soil drain better, but Peralite is ideal. Its that light weight white stuff, but its expensive. Use either one or a combination of both.

Use compost or manure, for organic material. Most manure is not actually straight manure anyway, like if you get the $2 bags at Home Depot, it is pre-composted so it doesn’t smell.

I give 2 recipes for each type of dirt available so you can mix it appropriately for planting in ground, pots, or in a TeraHydro Box, which personally I would recommend.

Mix your soil well, use for your garden, and treat like Miracle Grow which doesn’t need fertilizer for a few months.

Step 2: Loose Sandy Dirt Into Soil

Chances are you have tons of weeds already, its not horrible dirt.

Planting in Ground:
-5 Gallons Sandy Dirt
-5 Gallons Compost/ Manure
-1 cup of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

Planting in Pots or TeraHydro Box:
-5 Gallons Sandy Dirt
-5 Gallons Coarse Sand/ Peralite
-10 Gallons Compost/ Manure
-2 cups of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

Step 3: Hard Clay Dirt Into Soil

Congratulations you have the worst dirt available lol.

Planting in Ground:
-5 Gallons Clay
-5 Gallons Sand (coarse)
-10 Gallons Compost/ Manure
-2 cups of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

Planting in Pots or TeraHydro Box:
-5 Gallons Clay
-10 Gallons Coarse Sand/ Peralite
-10 Gallons Compost/ Manure
-2 1/2 cups of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

Step 4: Dark Moist Dirt Into Soil

Congratulations you have the most fertile dirt available you’d expect to find anywhere.

Planting in Ground:
-5 Gallons Coarse Sand
-5 Gallons Your Dirt
-1 cup of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

Planting in Pots or TeraHydro Box:
-7 Gallons Coarse Sand/ Peralite
-5 Gallons Your Dirt
-1 cup of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

Step 5: Compost Into Soil

Have you been composting and now you want to garden with it?

Planting in Ground:
-5 Gallons Coarse Sand
-5 Gallons Compost
-1 cup of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

Planting in Pots or TeraHydro Box:
-7 Gallons Coarse Sand/ Peralite
-5 Gallons Compost
-1 cup of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

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Make Garden Soil From ALMOST Any Dirt: This is a general guide to preparing dirt for gardening. All the instruction you need for a given type of dirt is put into one "step" of this instructable. So identify what type of dirt you have then open that "step" for further instruction. …