Simple Gardening Hack: Save $ on Potting Soil

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Oh I love flowers! It's so hard when it's too cold for lantana and rose moss, my easy care staples for color in the Texas heat. I like big pots of flowers to set around, but it costs a lot to fill them up with potting soil; it's a waste of soil really, if your plants don't use the bottom half. So this is a really very simple solution, and it will save you some cash, the planet, and your back! You will kick yourself for not thinking of it before!

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Step 1: Gather Supplies

I get most of my flowers from friends' yards, or when they are on sale at the nursery. Go find you some flowers or plants from your neighbors and make some new friends. Heck why not take them one of your plants as well??

1. A big container- punch or drill holes in the bottom if needed for drainage

2. Some cheap flowers (mine were marked down at a nursery- 30% off b/c all the buds were pretty much opened. I actually found them with my nose when I walked into the greenhouse!) Stock plants in bloom are very fragrant, and they overpower everything around! Always ask at the register if there's some kind of discount available (I'm cheap!) and most of the time the salesperson will tell you if there's one available. My salesman was very generous.

3. Dirt or potting soil if your dirt is no good like mine!

4. Water

5. Gloves optional

6. Hand shovel optional

7. Styrofoam/plastic/any kind of filler that won't deteriorate

Step 2: Chunk 'em In!

Recycle those milk jugs, old styrofoam coolers, just break 'em up, smash 'em and fill up almost half of your container. Dump in your dirt. Be sure to allow enough soil for the plant to spread. Plant your flowers. Water. Keep in mind the soil will settle a bit so expect to add some to account for what will sift down between the plastic filler. I love finding alternate uses for stuff like plastics. Recycle your waste! Save our planet!

Step 3: Fill It Up!

I don't want to insult you with the simplicity of this instructable; but I have been filling these big containers up for years until my cousin came by and told me she just uses old styrofoam to fill her large containers halfway! It will save your back, because your container is not too heavy to move if you need to move it. It will save you $$ because you aren't having to constantly buy potting soil and lug the big packages home, then drag them to your area to pot.

So you've saved some $$, saved the planet, saved your back, and I bet you made some new friends! So sit outside in your lawn chair awhile and enjoy your spot of color and smell the flowers! Watch your neighbors drive by and oogle at your beautiful yard/patio/flowerbed!



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    8 Discussions


    2 months ago

    Have u ever had any issues w/drainage? I just happen to watch a youtube video last week, about how water flow gets hampered when trying to transition from one medium to the next, particularly soil w/a bunch of rocks at the bottom of the pot. He said that everything that we’ve all heard about was a lie, regarding putting bigger pieces of material at the bottom, to help w/drainage. He followed it up w/a lab test, but wasn’t quite real-world circumstances, because he had exaggerated one of the controls, to emphasize his point.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 months ago

    You know, I've read the same thing, that it doesn't help drainage, but the styrofoam pieces never have hindered drainage. I've used rocks as well at the bottom, haven't had any drainage problems with any of my potted stuff.


    Hi Hepzi, most plants need adequate soil to grow, so it depends on what you want to plant. Foxtail ferns seem to fill up whatever container I put them in so I would fill the whole thing with soil for this fern, or a sweet potato vine, lantana. Others, like rose moss, daisies, stock, petunias, etc don't need the whole barrel of soil. If it grows well in a pot let that be your guide as to how deep to fill with soil. Good luck with your gardening!


    3 years ago

    Another idea for filler would be old bricks, gravel, broken pottery etc.

    1 reply