Introduction: Make Garden Soil From ALMOST Any Dirt

Picture of Make Garden Soil From ALMOST Any Dirt

     This is a general guide to preparing dirt for gardening.  All the instruction you need for a given type of dirt is put into one "step" of this instructable. So identify what type of dirt you have then open that "step" for further instruction.

Materials:
-Your existing Dirt
-Compost
-Sand, Peralite
-10-10-10 Fertilizer

Tools:
-5 gallon bucket
-Shovel
-Dirt rake
-Wheelbarrow if available

Total Cost:
-Completely variable, but the whole point is to keep it as cheap as possible.

Step 1: General Principles/ Understanding the Guide

Picture of General Principles/ Understanding the Guide

     This guide is will help you design you own soil to grow the most broad spectrum of plants possible. This means it won't work for everything, but if you want to grow a vegetable garden, plant a tree, or plant flowers this dirt will probably be excellent for you.  At some point I'll probably make an Instructable that goes into much higher detail helping troubleshoot soil problems and make optimum soil for specific plants.  Check my other instructables.

     Generally garden soil should be well draining and nutrient rich.  The goal of this project is turn whatever you do have into that, as economically as possible, or you would have just bought miracle grow at hardware store.

     To mix your soil any flat surface and a dirt rake is suitable, but concrete is ideal.

     I use 5 gallon buckets as a common measurement tool since everyone has those available, and wheelbarrows come in many sizes, but if you are doing it on a larger scale like I do, just use a 5 gallon bucket to measure or think of them as 1 part this, 2 parts that, and just guesstimate on the fertilizer proportions.

    Coarse sand is used to help your soil drain better, but Peralite is ideal. Its that light weight white stuff, but its expensive.  Use either one or a combination of both.

    Use compost or manure, for organic material.  Most manure is not actually straight manure anyway, like if you get the $2 bags at Home Depot, it is pre-composted so it doesn't smell.

    I give 2 recipes for each type of dirt available so you can mix it appropriately for planting in ground, pots, or in a TeraHydro Box, which personally I would recommend.

    Mix your soil well, use for your garden, and treat like Miracle Grow which doesn't need fertilizer for a few months.

Step 2: Loose Sandy Dirt Into Soil

Picture of Loose Sandy Dirt Into Soil

Chances are you have tons of weeds already, its not horrible dirt...

Planting in Ground:
-5 Gallons Sandy Dirt
-5 Gallons Compost/ Manure
-1 cup of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

Planting in Pots or TeraHydro Box:
-5 Gallons Sandy Dirt
-5 Gallons Coarse Sand/ Peralite
-10 Gallons Compost/ Manure
-2 cups of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

Step 3: Hard Clay Dirt Into Soil

Picture of Hard Clay Dirt Into Soil

Congratulations you have the worst dirt available lol...

Planting in Ground:
-5 Gallons Clay
-5 Gallons Sand (coarse)
-10 Gallons Compost/ Manure
-2 cups of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

Planting in Pots or TeraHydro Box:
-5 Gallons Clay
-10 Gallons Coarse Sand/ Peralite
-10 Gallons Compost/ Manure
-2 1/2 cups of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

Step 4: Dark Moist Dirt Into Soil

Picture of Dark Moist Dirt Into Soil

Congratulations you have the most fertile dirt available you'd expect to find anywhere...

Planting in Ground:
-5 Gallons Coarse Sand
-5 Gallons Your Dirt
-1 cup of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

Planting in Pots or TeraHydro Box:
-7 Gallons Coarse Sand/ Peralite
-5 Gallons Your Dirt
-1 cup of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

Step 5: Compost Into Soil

Picture of Compost Into Soil

Have you been composting and now you want to garden with it?

Planting in Ground:
-5 Gallons Coarse Sand
-5 Gallons Compost
-1 cup of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

Planting in Pots or TeraHydro Box:
-7 Gallons Coarse Sand/ Peralite
-5 Gallons Compost
-1 cup of 10-10-10 Fertilizer

Comments

SuzanneT31 (author)2016-07-01

So my husband built me a very nice raised garden bed so I could have room for my vegetables to grow. Since the size of it was much larger than my previous garden bed, he purchased "fill dirt". I had no idea what fill dirt was until I arrived home and noticed that it has a lot of rocks and some sand and bits of clay. I didn't want to be appear ungrateful & decided that I sometimes worry over nothing. So I went ahead and transplanted all of my vegetables & then planted my remaining seeds. I'm worried that my 12 tomato plants (which had tomatoes growing) are going to die along with everything thing else that 've transplanted. I did add fertilizer to each of the spots for the plants. Am I worrying for nothing or should I try to move the plants for a third time to a new spot with regular garden soil? Ugh...this was the first time in 3 years that I decided to grow vegetables...The picture of the cabbage is where all of the other plants were previously. Have I just screwed up any chances of having vegetables this year or is there still hope? Thank you in advance everyone for your advice and helpful thoughts.

KrystálL7 (author)SuzanneT312017-01-02

Hi Suzanne,
Did you have much luck? I have found through my own trials and errors that dirt and soil are very different. Soil is 'living' and has it's own little ecosystem of beneficial microorganisms, insects, worms, bacteria, fungi etc, which live off of dead organic matter like manure, compost etc hereas dirt is essentially deactivated soil which needs life added to it. Plants struggle to grow in dirt because dirt hasn't got the organisms in it needed to aerate it, or create the essential nutrients the plants need, plants also have a symbiotic relationship with bacteria and fungi both of which help the plant absorb nutrients and make nutrients available to the plant. But where you have dirt you have potential soil, so you just need to add compost, manure both green and brown in the right ratios like above, and the organisms will thrive and start breaking down the matter into vital nutrients for your plants. I hope this helps :)

JenB50 (author)2016-05-28

Most excellent! Thank you!

SniperWoLf007 (author)2011-07-19

Heh heh yaaayyy!!! I have the worst soil imaginable!! =D Well nothing a shovel and ur advice cant fix. Thanx for the ible.

AngryRedhead (author)2010-03-18
Ehhhhh, Step 1 should be to test your soil for nutrients and sand/clay/silt/organic matter content.  Step 2 should be to amend appropriately for the plants you want to grow.  Don't forget that there are over 30,000 identified soil types, and for every soil type, there are native plants living in it.
 

don't forget PH

lemonie (author)2010-03-17

Are any of these photos of your soils (which ones)?

L

brian3140 (author)lemonie2010-03-17

No sorry. Not sure if it really matters whose soil the pics are of lol, but I don't have all of these types available to me this year, so I used generic images.  I have worked with virtually all soil and dirt types though, so I can clarify on anything else if you didn't understand something.

lemonie (author)brian31402010-03-18

Can we see your stuff, or is that not possible?

L

Vailhem (author)brian31402010-03-18

 Great post! Thanks for adding.

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