You Must Use a Good Potting Mix

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When you look at the root system of a Bonnie plant, you’ll find a “soil” mix that grows healthy roots. You may be surprised that it is not real soil from the earth—it is a potting mix (also called potting soil) made from composted bark, peat moss, and other ingredients that do not include earthen soil.

Use quality potting soil for your container gardens.

For your potted plants to grow a healthy root system, you must use good potting mix. Don't cut corners. This mix is nice and fluffy.

Why? Consider the artificial growing environment in a pot. Potted plants are watered daily and roots need to fill the pot. Garden soil would compact under those conditions, inhibiting root growth, and it would probably introduce insects and diseases, too.

A good potting mix is one that is fluffy, holds moisture, and gives plant roots the perfect balance of air, moisture, nutrition, and anchor. Roots need air, as well as water, to grow. If the potting mix is too dense or too wet, plant roots will be stunted or even die. To avoid problems, you must use a good potting mix.

The potting mix industry grew from the need of professional growers, like us, to grow healthy plants in containers for folks like you. The first commercial mixes were developed decades ago. Over time the products improved and became available to home gardeners so that now your favorite garden center probably sells several potting mixes or potting soils (the names are interchangeable). We suggest that you buy a high-quality potting mix for best results. Buying cheap potting soil is one of those times when a bargain may not be a bargain. Poor potting soils often contain muck or sedge peat, sand, and actual dirt, and may be heavy from lots of water.

How do you recognize quality? Read the label and look for quality ingredients such as aged bark (or composted forest products), perlite, vermiculite, lime, sphagnum peat moss (not sedge peat), and a wetting agent (helps soil stay uniformly moist). Other ingredients might be gypsum, peat humus, and compost. Optional ingredients include moisture-holding polymer and fertilizer. A few even include pesticides; avoid those for vegetables and herbs. Products labeled “bagged topsoil” and “compost” are cheaper, but reserve them for working into the ground, not for pots. In a pot, where watering happens often and plant roots need to fill the container, you need a lighter medium.

What about mixes with fertilizer included? Some potting mixes include just enough fertilizer to give plants a charge when they’re starting. Mixes designed to feed for several months run out sooner in hot weather with frequent watering. You can add time-released granules or try a soluble fertilizer such as Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food.

Potting soil should retain water.

A good potting medium will hold water without letting it puddle up or drain completely through. Test the soil to see how well it drains.

One way to test a soil is to see how it drains. When soil is placed in a pot and watered, the water should start draining out within five to ten seconds. If the soil becomes soupy or water drips out slowly, you’ve chosen the wrong soil.

You can look for products certified by The Mulch and Soil Council, a voluntary program assuring certain standards. Several of the major brands of potting soils participate in this. For details about standards and a list of certified products, visit www.mulchandsoilcouncil.org and look for “product certification.” Don’t discount your favorite soil just because it is not certified. This program is voluntary. However, it gives inexperienced gardeners or those with doubts about their soil some basis for judging.

Obviously, we want you to use the best soil possible because good soil and good plants are key ingredients of successful gardens.

26 thoughts on “You Must Use a Good Potting Mix

  1. I bought a lauris noblis plant they gave me for bay leaves but it looks like a shrub and i tried looking up bay leaves i find bay laurel with not much info i can understand. some of my leaves are turning yellow do i need to repot it

    • Hello Barbra,
      If the plant is becoming root bound, you may need to repot it. Depending on where you live, this plant can get HUGE! – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  2. i want to grow watercress because they say its good for you but i cannot find it why or where can i find it

    • Hello Barbra,
      Bonnie Plants does not produce watercress at this time, but I googled and found many companies offering seeds. This is a watercress growing guide from Utah State extension. -danielle, Bonnie Plants

  3. live in macon Ga. you know our weather after true leaves appear tried to transplant using different potting soil bad luck .before i try last one please eval. miracle-gro potting,if no good then i will not waste my money. THANK YOu

  4. Hi there;

    Do you consider Black Gold® Natural & Organic Potting Mix a good potting mix since some say is potting soil and other said is a mix? In the description and ingredients it said this is what is had:
    Description:
    Enriched with earthworm castings, it contains mix of peat moss and compost in addition to perlite and pumice to ensure good aeration.
    Ingredients:
    Earthworm Castings, Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss, Compost, Perlite and/or Pumice

    Would this soil or mix will be enough or would i have to add something alse or may be look for something else? and i allready have the Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food. Im ready to garden.

    Thank you for the time on reading my post and for the help in any way. God bless you and continue the great work you keep incurage those like me to see it possible to have a gardner in pots for those in rental place, small places to grow our food in containers.

    Thank you again..

    • Hello,
      It sounds like you have your mix ready to go! I would not add anything but the plants (and needed fertilizer) :) Be sure and pick out the Right Size Pot for your veggie needs. Have a great harvest! – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  5. PLEASE HELP! Hey there, I’m a gardening noob and this year I have several varieties of hot peppers I started from seed. I want to grow them in containers (I have 3 gallon pots and 5 gallon buckets) and it is time to transplant them pretty soon. However, I have been on about 100 websites and have read 100 different things so now I’m totally lost and confused!! I absolutely no idea which kind of potting mix/soil to use. My yard soil is not good at all so I have been buying bags of some compost & manure, top soil, miracle gro sphagnum peat, and miracle grow garden soil but it can get expensive fast. I see videos with people using all compost to grow theirs, some that swear by a mix of 1/3 peat, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 compost, and also ones that people say that peppers like less organic matter. I have also read about people adding all sorts of things to their mix such as sand, limestone, azomite, vermiculite, perlite, epsom salt, sulfer and so on. So I’m completely lost as to an appropriate mix for my peppers :( Can I please get some advice from the pros ? Additives, ratios, brands, Ph levels? Any help you could offer will be greatly appreciated!! Thanks so much.

    • Hi Shannon,
      This article on You Must Use a Good Potting Mix should answer most of your questions. You are right not to use soil from your yard in containers – it will pack down and will not drain well. Good luck! – danielle, Bonnie Plants

  6. I was reading about using a Potting Mix that has a time-release fertilizer. I live in North Texas (DFW area) and my Mix says that it fertilizes for up to 9 months. If I use the Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food will I burn it up? I don’t want to over fertilize…but being new to this…I’m not sure.

    Thoughts?

    • Hi Lorri,
      Great question! Some potting mixes include fertilizer to give plants a charge when they’re starting. Mixes designed to feed for several months run out sooner in hot weather with frequent watering especially in containers! Just keep an eye on the plants – if hey remain green, healthy, and productive, they may not need the extra fertilizer. If they start to look a little pale, the starter fertiizer may have leached away, and it’t time to start applying your liquid fertilizer. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

    • Hi Wendy,
      Since Bonnie Plants does not produce fruit trees, we do not have a how-to on the website for growing them. But, the University of Florida Cooperative IFAS has extension has a great publication on growing tree fruits in containers.
      -Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  7. Hi!,I just bought Rosemary herbs and just transferred them in a big pot.your Bonnie plants products were really great and am planning to collect more of Bonnie plants ( herbs ).

    Am just wondering,if you sell Holy Basil and Lemon grass?

    Best regards,

    Lyn G.

    SC,USA

    • Hi Lyn,
      Congrats on your herb garden adventures! If you would like to see the variety listings of what we grow, click on the banners at the top marked “Herbs” or “Vegetables.” A drop-down menu appears of the many options. However, it does vary by region and season, as we make varieties available that are known to perform best in your area. We do not currently offer lemongrass or holy basil, but we do have 7 types of basil. Click on the Herb menu to see what else you can add to the collection and check out our In the Kitchen page for recipes and uses. Happy growing, Mary Beth/Bonnie Plants

  8. Hi, I’m a novice gardener making only a container garden and love your plants. Do you recommend I use some rocks in the bottom of my planters (I’m using cedar planters) before I add the potting mix, to allow for more drainage? I’m growing 2 varieties of peppers(pot 1), yellow squash, japanese eggplant(pot2), sweet mint, basil and italian parsley(pot 3) Thanks, Brenda

    • Hi Brenda,

      Yes, you can use rocks to help with drainage and reduce the amount of soil you need, however, this can make your pots very heavy. Another suggestion is to use plastic plant pots turned upside down in the bottom of the pot. Our pots are biodegradable, of course, but maybe you have plastic ones from other planting? I hope this helps.

      Happy growing!
      Kelly, Bonnie Plants

  9. I just discovered your website and I’m enjoying the comments and the information on gardening if very helpful. Thanks, Espy

  10. When I buy your plants at the store, they look really strong and healthy. Can you share with us what’s in your potting mix? I’ve tried various commercial brands, but have not been satisfied with them. If I could use the same kind of mix you use, perhaps I’d have better plants.

    Thanks and best regards,
    Carlos

    • Hi Carlos,
      Thanks for the compliment! Our potting mix is especially created for us on a larger, commercial scale and isn’t something available to consumers in store. It is formulated specifically for keeping plants and our biodegradable pot in the best condition before coming home to your garden. You’d benefit best from a high-quality potting soil that has a great balance of sphagnum peat moss, compost, peat humus or even aged compost. Also try our natural plant food in the Little Green Jug!
      ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

      • I’ve tried just about every commercial brand I can find, but I find them too heavy, without enough breathing room for the roots. I thought if I knew what’s in yours, and the correct ratios of ingredients, I could buy the individual ingredients and mix my own. I already use your fertilizer, and it really makes a difference. I used to use cotton seed meal, but it’s become difficult to find. So the only problem I have yet to solve is the potting mix.

  11. I am just frail elderly senior citizen, born and raised on a farm, and love to grow veggies etc in pots in my yard. My Daddy used to grow Shallots in his garden each year. I can’t seem to find any. I live close to Walmart South of Dothan, and buy from them some of your plants from time to time. I wonder if you have Shallots? Or know what I might find some? Thank you so very much. I have some beautiful green lettuce growing in an old storage box on my porch and recently planted in the same box some Basil and dill. In other boxes, I bought your plants from Walmart and raised plenty of tomatoes and hot peppers on my front porch. That is about all I am able to do. Thank for the info, if you know where I might find some Shallots.

    • Hi Nita,

      We’re so glad you’re enjoying your garden and Bonnie plants. We do not carry shallots but offer many onion varieties, including leeks. We always like to hear what plants our customers are interested in growing, so we’ll put shallots on our list to consider. Thank you!

      Kelly, Bonnie Plants

  12. l make my compost with fruit and vegetable skins,coffee grinds,and whatever scraps l may have,mixed with peat moss,and a dash of lime,let it forment and use it . how does that sound?

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