Best Soil for Herbs in Containers: A Beginner’s Guide

Getting the best soil for herbs in containers can feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack, or more accurately, a seedling in an acre of compost.

I mean, who knew that dirt could be so complicated? It’s just…dirt, right?

Wrong! If you think all soils are created equal then I hate to break it to you but your basil and rosemary might disagree. They’re picky little green things when it comes to their home turf.

The secret is out: not just any old soil will do. We need the best soil for herbs in containers. No need to fret – we got this taken care of!

Choosing a Good Potting Soil

Picking the right potting mix for your indoor herb garden is like choosing the perfect mattress. You want something that’s comfy, supportive, and doesn’t leave you feeling waterlogged in the morning.

Unlike ordinary garden soil (the lumpy old futon of soils), quality potting mixes offer superior drainage while packing all those tasty nutrients herbs crave.

make your own potting mix

Garden Soil vs Potting Soils: The Showdown.

Now don’t get me wrong; good ol’ earth from your backyard might seem tempting (and cheap.). But alas, it often leads to heartbreak with its tendency to compact easily, resulting in poor air circulation and oversaturation – quite literally drowning out any chance of success for growing herbs indoors.

In contrast? Oh boy. Quality potting soils, especially ones boasting organic matter such as peat moss or alfalfa meal, are like 5-star hotels for your favorite herbs.

They’re designed specifically with container plants’ needs in mind – offering great drainage yet retaining moisture perfectly balanced with essential nutrients… Sounds dreamy already?

Become an Earth Chef: Make Your Own Potting Mix.

If DIY is more up your alley, then making custom blends can give you peace of mind, knowing exactly what’s going into these pots. We have a simple recipe at the end of this post you can use.

Just learn the key ingredients necessary to make a wonderful potting mix first (which you’ll discover in this post) and then you can get started!

This homemade approach ensures only natural components touch those roots, making sure no nasty chemicals sneak into those flavorful fresh herbs when they make their way onto dinner plates later on… Bon appetit indeed.

Checklist of 4 Key Factors to a Perfect Potting Mix

  1. Good drainage properties – root rot is no joke, people.
  2. Aim for the correct amount of organic matter, nutrients, and beneficial microbes – think “compost” and “mycorrhizal fungi”.
  3. Natural Ingredients? Yes, please.
  4. pH level check – because even potting soil has its sweet spot.

Avoid Poor Quality Soils

Poor-quality soils lack vital components resulting in stunted growth and less vibrant indoor herb plants. Plus, over time they can become compact leading to poor aeration – crucial when both growing indoor herbs and their outdoor cousins.

In short, folks: invest wisely now by picking top-notch earthy goodness, AKA good quality potting mix, so you’ll reap healthy, robust green leaves later, ready to spice up any dish just waiting on the kitchen counter near you.

Key Takeaway: Starting an indoor herb garden? Remember, soil is key. Skip the backyard dirt and opt for organic potting soil packed with nutrient-rich organic matter. Ensure good drainage, add natural ingredients like alfalfa meal, and check pH levels. Invest in quality now for a bountiful harvest later.

Add Compost: The Organic Matter Miracle

Let’s face it, the right soil can make your indoor herbs go from ‘meh’ to ‘marvelous’. And guess what? Your potting mix needs a little bit of magic. That’s where compost and manure come in.

Cast a Spell with Compost

This decomposed organic material turns ordinary garden soil into nutrient-rich earth pots.

You could make your own homemade compost using kitchen scraps or manure (it takes several months but very cool to do) or grab bags from local gardening stores. Just remember, you want compost that has finished decomposing. It should look like the example below; brown and almost identical to soil.

add compost to your potting mix

Turn Manure Into Compost

Manure provides plenty of natural ingredients rich in nitrogen – perfect for leafy growth on flavorful herbs such as parsley.

Bear this in mind though: not all poop is created equal. You want droppings only from plant-eating animals because carnivores’ waste has potential pathogens more suited to horror movies than healthy gardens.

  1. Aged over Fresh: Aged manures composted properly won’t burn tender roots, unlike its fresher counterparts which’ve been known to cause root “sunburns” due to high ammonia content. And some plants never recover so be careful.
  2. The Alfalfa Meal Option: If you would rather not use animal products, alfalfa meal makes an excellent alternative offering slow-release nutrients ideal for sustained herb growth throughout their lifecycle.

Incorporate Perlite or Vermiculite

Ever heard of perlite and vermiculite? They are rockstars in the world of indoor herb gardening.

The Popcorn-like Powerhouse: Perlite

You see, perlite is this super cool volcanic glass that puffs up like popcorn when heated to high temperatures. It has a distinct white color and is full of tiny holes.

This lightweight material can be mixed into your organic potting soil to create spaces between particles for better drainage – kind of like adding fluffy pillows around your plant roots. This helps prevent water-logging, which could lead to root rot (a nightmare scenario for any proud parent of plants).

perlite in potting soil

Vermiculite: The Hydration Hero

Moving on, we have vermiculite – Made from heat-expanded mica minerals, this stuff acts as nature’s sponge, absorbing water and nutrients faster than you can say “indoor herbs”.

This means less watering work for you busy folks out there trying to grow fresh herbs while juggling everything else life throws at you.

vermiculite shavings for potting soil

Add Peat Moss or Coconut Coir

While perlite and vermiculite do a good job improving aeration, drainage, and water retention they may not give the potting mix the full support it needs. That is where peat moss and coconut coir come in to help add “structure” to the mix.

Coconut Coir: Sustainable Aeration for Healthy Roots

So, have you met coconut coir? Imagine taking the husk of a coconut and turning it into this fantastic, eco-friendly material that plants love.

With its unique texture, coconut coir ensures that our beloved plants have room to breathe and prevents overly wet roots! Plus, using coconut coir is a thumbs up for the environment, making it a win-win for both your plants and the planet.

Many times it comes dried out and you have to rehydrate the brick like in the pic below. They also make them into compostable plant pots.

coco coir pots and dried coconut coir bricks

Peat Moss: Balancing pH for Optimal Growth

Now, let’s talk peat moss. This stuff is nature’s way of keeping soil just the right amount of acidic, creating an environment where many plants thrive best. When you add peat moss to your potting mix, it’s like ensuring your plants have the best conditions to absorb nutrients.

Not to mention, it holds onto water just right, making sure plants get a consistent drink without getting waterlogged.

peat moss for potting mix

Mastering the pH Level of Your Indoor Herb Garden Soil

If you’re planning to grow indoor herbs, getting your soil’s pH level right is as crucial as finding that perfect pot. It can be the difference between a flourishing herb garden and one that looks like it’s auditioning for a zombie movie.

So buckle up. Here are some easy steps to ensure your container plants have just what they need in terms of soil acidity or alkalinity.

1. Understand What Soil pH Is All About

The first thing on our agenda? Grasping this whole concept of soil pH – essentially how acidic or basic (alkaline) your potting mix is. Most favorite herbs would rather kick back in slightly acidic to neutral conditions with a sweet spot around 6-7 on the pH scale.

In case you decided against organic potting soils and went all rogue using ordinary garden soil from outdoors, well then testing becomes even more critical.

2. Get Down And Dirty With Testing

We mean checking out exactly where your herbs stand when it comes down to their actual acidity levels.

You could go old school by purchasing an affordable home-based pH reader. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, you could send off samples for professional lab analysis. Although, the home test should do just fine and you can save yourself time and money.

soil pH tester

3. Adjust Based On Results

Finding too much or too little acid/base after test results shouldn’t worry you. There are plenty of ways to add natural ingredients like lime (to raise pH) or peat moss (to lower pH).

These adjustments will make sure essential nutrients are available to the roots, ultimately leading to healthy growth and delicious fresh herbs right on your windowsill.

Key Takeaway: Don’t let your indoor herb garden turn into a zombie movie set. Mastering soil pH is key. Understand it, test it and adjust as needed. Your herbs prefer slightly acidic to neutral conditions (pH 6-7). Go on, roll up your sleeves and get dirty – the payoff will be fresh, flavorful herbs.

How Much Should You Add to Each Element?

We suggest mixing about one-third volume of material from each section above into your potting mix before planting container plants. Doing so ensures good drainage without sacrificing the moisture retention necessary for growing flavorful herbs indoors.

Remember, my green-thumbed friends, an earth pot filled with well-prepared soil makes all the difference between sad supermarket specimens versus home-grown herbal heaven.

Recipe for Your Own Potting Mix for Herbs

As we stated above, mix equal parts of peat moss or coconut coir, perlite or vermiculite, and compost. Here’s the twist, then add in an organic mycorrhizal fungi source. These beneficial microbes help your plant take up more nutrients so they are robust and healthy!

Follow the instructions from the company to add the recommended fungi amount. Overall, this creates a light, airy medium that retains moisture but drains excess water.

My Favorite Pre-Made Potting Soil Brands

Low on time and need a pre-made potting mix already put together? These are some organic or all-natural potting soil mixes that I have personally used. If you can’t make your own, these are great alternatives and many include the mycorrhizal fungi already!

1. Fox Farm Potting Soil

2. Espoma Organic Potting Soil Mix

3. Dr. Earth: Pot of Gold Mix

Next Step! Know Your Container Size

Now you know how to make the potting mix (or buy the correct one for yourself) so it’s time to get a container. Gardening is a bit like Goldilocks’ porridge predicament. You need to find that ‘just right’ container size for your indoor herbs.

We have a whole guide on how to pick the correct container size for your herbs if you want to learn more! But to get a general idea, keep reading below.

herbs in various container sizes

Pot Size vs Herb Type: The Showdown

Different types of indoor herb plants have different root systems. Some skim the surface while others dig deep. Knowing which type of plant you’re dealing with helps determine what size pot will suit them best.

I will say there is a caveat. Sometimes, herbs are adaptable with a little help. If you keep the plant trimmed to the size appropriate to the pot (aka use the herb clippings for cooking, herbal remedies, etc..), the roots don’t grow as large below.

This is where you can play around with it a little. But, if you want to be safe, follow the growth instructions that come with the plant.

Tweak It Till You Make It

Rules? In gardening? More like guidelines. Feel free to experiment based on what works best under YOUR specific conditions because when it comes down to successfully growing indoor herbs, remember this golden rule: Bigger isn’t always better.

FAQs About the Best Soil for Herbs in Containers

Can you use any potting soil for herbs?

No, not all potting soils are suitable. Many herbs thrive in well-draining, nutrient-rich soil with a 6-7 pH level.

Should herbs be in terracotta or plastic containers?

Terracotta pots are ideal as they’re breathable and help prevent overwatering. However, plastic containers can work if drainage is properly managed. You want to make sure they are food-grade safe to avoid leaching.

Check out our container guide for herbs for more details.

Conclusion and Summary

Soil isn’t just dirt, it’s the lifeblood of your herbs.

Picking the right soil for your container garden is crucial to seeing those green shoots flourish.

Add in some compost or manure for an extra nutrient boost and don’t forget about perlite or vermiculite for drainage and aeration.

A pH test will tell you if your soil is herb-friendly too.

Now that you’re armed with all this knowledge, why not put it into practice?

You’re one step closer to creating an indoor oasis that benefits both body and mind! We wish you all the best.

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