When growing tomatoes in containers, the right potting mix can make the difference between failure and success. A great potting soil is light, sterile, holds moisture and does not compact. Even though it’s possible to buy ready-mixed potting soils, you can even make your low-cost mix for growing tomatoes.

Potting Soil Principles

Potting soil should hold nutrients and water and provide a great support system for tomato roots while not compacting or introducing harmful microbes to the developing environment. Garden soil used in a container to develop tomatoes will streamlined, starving the roots of water and nutrients. After the soil compacts it takes on a tough claylike consistency which does not absorb liquids or water.

Potting Soil Materials

To create a good potting soil mix, combine a blend of organic and inorganic mediums. Inorganic ingredients such as perlite, vermiculite and mud create good drainage. Sand should always be clean and marketed for horticultural use. Sea sand has a high salt content and will harm plants. These mineral-based materials do not absorb, water letting it drain through. Organic materials such as compost, loam and peat moss provide support and nutrients. A good garden loam may be used as part of a dirt mix when blended with synthetic substances.

Potting Soil Blends

Various mixtures will function for container-grown tomatoes. One option is to simply combine equal parts peat moss, compost, perlite and a commercial potting soil mix. Or you can use equal parts peat moss, compost, perlite and loamy garden soil. For a more straightforward mix to get a tomato planter, mix equal parts garden loam, sand and peat moss. A slow-release fertilizer, added at planting time, provides nutrients to the plants. Determine how much fertilizer to use each pot based on the directions on the package label.

Sterilizing the Mix

When utilizing compost or garden loam, it is a good idea to sterilize the mix before using it to plant tomatoes. A simple way to sterilize the potting soil mix is to lay it out on a cookie sheet or in a baking pan in the oven for one hour. A temperature of 210 degrees Fahrenheit is effective for sterilizing the potting mix. Heating garden dirt helps get rid of bacteria and fungus as well as any weed seeds that might pop up after planting.

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