How to Make Potting Soil With Topsoil


Good potting soil fulfills the needs of seeds and plants. Contrary to popular belief, fertile soil may be detrimental to germination, though it undoubtedly benefits growing plants. Seeds need light, water retentive soil or soilless mix of low fertility, while established plants--which also require moisture retention and do not like to be compacted--will thrive in a well-drained, slightly denser soil enriched with plenty of organic matter and nutrients. This recipe--based on a soil mix suggested by the Master Gardener Newsletter from the University of Illinois Extension Service--may be adapted for seeds or plants.

Step 1

Sift the topsoil through a scrap piece of ¼ inch wire mesh to remove larger stones, insects or other debris.

Step 2

Put one part each topsoil and peat moss in an appropriately sized container.

Step 3

Add ½ part sand and ½ part either perlite or vermiculite to the mix.

Step 4

Stir everything together and moisten well with water. The soil should be damp, but not soaked. If you should accidentally use too much water, merely spread the soil out on a pad of newspapers or a plastic sheet in the sun for a couple of hours to dry.

Step 5

Allow the mix to set for a few hours (to allow water to soak into the peat moss and vermiculite or perlite) before using.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not over water, and always water seeds and seedlings from the bottom to prevent disturbing delicate stems and to avoid damping off (a killing fungus caused by too wet conditions).

Things You'll Need

  • 1 part topsoil
  • 12 inch square or larger piece of 1/4 inch wire mesh
  • 1 part peat moss
  • 1/2 part sand
  • 1/2 part perlite or vermiculite
  • Manure tea (established plants only)


  • University of Illinois Extension: Master Gardener's Newsletter - Basic soil recipe

Who Can Help

  • Tipnut: Make Your Own Organic Potting Soil
  • BNet - Find Articles: Potting Soil Basics
  • University of Illinois Extension: Growing Media (alternative mix)
Keywords: potting with topsoil, make potting soil, homemade potting soil, topsoil potting soil

About this Author

Deborah Stephenson is a freelance writer and artist, who brings over 25 years of both professional and life experience to her writings. Stephenson features a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She is an anthropologist & naturalist, and has published a field guide on Michigan's flora & fauna as well as numerous political and environmental articles.