Not sure if garden soil can be used for indoor plants? This article answers the question’ “Can I use garden soil for indoor plants?”
If you are a passionate gardener growing indoor plants, chances are, you purchased the soil for the plants from a store when you started because you were told that was the way to go. It’s also very likely you are constantly trying out new plants and exploring different techniques.
And you must have toyed with the idea of filling your planting pots with that dark, rich soil from your garden because you didn’t have the time to rush out and buy soil for the new plants you wanted to cultivate indoors. After all, the veggies you planted in the garden are thriving like a dream. So what could possibly go wrong with using garden soil for indoor plants?
Can I Use Garden Soil For Indoor Plants?
Can you use garden soil to grow your indoor veggies and herbs? A non-committal answer would be sure, why not? There is no law against doing that. But a better answer would be that garden soil is not the best option for your indoor plants. Many gardeners even consider it a terrible idea.
We would discuss the reasons you must avoid using garden soil, your best option, and how you can quickly and easily make the recommended potting soil at home.
Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Garden Soil for Indoor Plants
Garden soil density and texture
The density of garden soil is one of the biggest points against its use for growing plants indoors. The weight, combined with the texture, is the foundation of so many other drawbacks.
One of such negatives linked to the density is the fact that the soil has either too much moisture or at the other extreme is too hard and dry for growing plants indoors. The dense soil prevents proper aeration or the oxygen flow that is necessary for healthy plants.
Again, because of the compact density of garden soil, too much water is easily retained. This is bad for potted plants.
Even garden soil with a seemingly dry surface can be deceiving. Dig just a few inches below the surface and you might likely find it waterlogged. That much water, with no place to drain off in a pot, drowns roots and prevents potted plants from taking up adequate nutrients.
Not enough nutrients
No matter how dark and rich your garden soil is, with thriving plants on it, it just doesn’t have all the vital nutrients required for growing plants indoors.
Weeds and unwanted seeds
Even if you spent tons of money and time on weed control and eradication, any patch of garden soil would still contain countless weed seeds. In the garden, the seeds are prevented from sprouting into weeds by other established plants.
Digging up and transferring some of that soil to your planter pots or containers is practically giving the weeds a new lease of life. Right off the bat, you’d be faced with the nuisance of growing weeds competing for space with your plants.
Pests, bugs, etc
Garden soil contains all kinds of living matter that are beneficial or harmful to plants. Many of them such as bugs and fungus spores would grow in your pots too. The growth could even be exponential since you transferred them from an ecosystem where there was a balance to check their growth.
The main point is, you don’t want to introduce these life forms into your home considering the unpredictable ways human health can be affected by them.
So if it’s not advisable to use garden soil, what is the best option? Before we go into that, let’s list the vital soil qualities suitable for growing plants indoors.
Qualities of Good Indoor Plants Soil
Drainage – For indoor potted plants to grow well, good soil drainage is a non-negotiable quality. Water must be able to flow through the soil easily. Without it, the roots get drowned in too much water leading to root rot and other problems.
Ability to regulate moisture – As well as being good at draining excess water, a good potting soil must have to ability to keep the moisture content at optimal levels. This ensures that the soil is never too dry and uncomfortable for plants.
Great aeration – Plant roots need air to grow. In the confined and restricted space that is the pot, this becomes critical and only the right soil with the perfect mix of ingredients can ensure proper airflow in and out of the soil.
Right nutrients – With space at a premium inside a pot, it is important that only nutrients vital for plant growth are present. Anything extra is simply taking up space and using up soil resources. Soil that is specifically made for indoor gardens should have all these nutrients in the right proportions.
What is the Best Soil for Indoor Plants?
Potting mix, not to be confused with potting soil, is the best option in terms of soil type for growing plants indoors.
One outstanding property of a potting mix is that it doesn’t contain soil. This soilless mix is capable of absorbing moisture well while simultaneously resisting compaction so that the soil doesn’t become too dense. Equally important is the fact that they don’t dry out quickly.
And since they are made in sterile conditions, there is zero chance of dealing with bugs, pests, or disease issues.
The most critical considerations when getting your indoor potting mix from a store is to ensure that it contains all the vital ingredients. These are:
Peat moss – Similar to a sponge, it is an organic material that helps retain soil nutrients and improve the structure of the potting mix.
Vermiculite – It is made up of several minerals whose primary function is to increase nutrient and water retention. Vermiculite also promotes the absorption of nutrients like calcium, ammonium, potassium, and sodium in plants.
Perlite- This is a lightweight material made by heating volcanic glass. Its primary purpose in the potting mix is to promote soil aeration.
Some manufacturers also add sand and calcined clay, these are optional ingredients though.
The next question that comes to mind is where the plants get their nutrients since the potting mix is soilless. Most manufacturers add some amount of fertilizer to their potting mixes before bagging them to be sold.
Keep this in mind when buying the potting mix. If after checking the label there is no hint of fertilizers in the ingredients, you’d have to provide the fertilizer yourself. And while you are at this, make sure to use only organic fertilizers for best results.
Simple DIY Home Potting Mix
A good potting mix is not hard to make if you have all the ingredients. Making one yourself can save you some money and you’d have the confidence of knowing your plants are getting exactly what they need to grow indoors.
What you need:
Vermiculite, peat moss, and perlite
- Use the mixing bowl to measure out the peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite into the Wheelbarrow in a 4:1:1 ratio. That is, 4 parts (or 4 bowls) of peat moss, mixed with 1 part each of perlite and vermiculite respectively.
- If you need more, simply increase the quantity of each ingredient while sticking to the proportions.
- Use a clean, sturdy rod to mix them thoroughly. At this point, the potting mix is very dry.
- Wet the mix with water and keep mixing.
- Don’t pour too much water. What you are aiming for is a wet mix, not one that is too soggy.
- To test if water is enough, scoop a handful and squeeze. You want just a few drops of water dripping out.
You now have your potting mix. Except for fertilizers nutrients.
- If you can get worm castings (worm poop!), add about 2 cups to the potting mix. It is a great organic fertilizer. You can search online how to make worm castings at home. It is quite easy.
- To make the potting mix rich in plant nutrients, add about 2 inches of compost to the potting mix.
- Your potting mix is now ready to be transferred to the pots.
Tips on using your potting mix
– Put the potting mix in shallow pots or planters for plants with shallow roots
– For deep-rooted plants, use the potting mix in larger pots
– Get extra nutrients when the plants are older