Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Inexpensive Soil Mix

For years I've been buying Pro-Mix, really excellent, commercial grade stuff for my potted plants. But it's expensive, and I have to travel to a certain nursery just to get it.

I finally get it, I've been doing it all wrong. People who really know what they're doing, mix their own potting mix using stuff they have readily available. With experience you begin to get the feel of what is good and what's not good for your plants, so there's really no excuse for paying big bucks to have a "pro" bag your mix. 

To me, "readily available" means something I can get at my local hardware store. Something not pre-mixed and marked up. And then I ran into this...........

It's a bag of inexpensive topsoil from Lowe's. It's really pretty and fluffy, mostly decomposed pine bark and some sand. For my smaller containers I mix 5 parts of this stuff to 1 part perlite. Perlite breaks down eventually, so for large containers I add an additional 1 part expanded shale (this stuff never breaks down and it makes sure your roots have available oxygen, especially when the organic portion of your soil begins to break down.) It's an investment, so I try to buy a lot of this. The biggest drawback is the heaviness of the shale, and the fact that I have to go to one certain nursery to buy it. So now I"m on the lookout for another product that will do what expanded shale will do.

So far I'm having great success with this mix!


  1. Where have you been buying your expanded shale? Maas nursery usually has it in stock, though their price is not ideal. Southwest Fertilizer has the best deal on it that I've found in Houston, and even more than one brand. I believe I've seen it at Wabash as well... just some other options for you.

  2. Just bought 5 bags of expanded Shale at Wabash on Washington Ave. less than $11.00 per 40 pound bag --added it to a new garden bed along with some compost. The shale seems to be perfect for what I need to deal with heavy clay soil. Time will tell but for now I am very optimistic.

  3. I bought expanded shale at Cornelius. It was a 40 - 50 lb bag for $6. It was on sale, they sometimes have a 50% off everything sale, usually during the off months.