A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Best Soil for Herbs in Pots
Last updated Sep 10, 2021
If you are looking to grow the best herbs possible, it is essential to know what kind of soil you should be using.
There are many types of soil out there, and they all have their pros and cons.
Choosing potting soil for your herbs
Culinary herbs can be planted in pots, but you should know some about potting soil before choosing the right one.
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Herbs can be selective when it comes to proper soil for their needs.
You will need a rich, loose type of soil that allows for good drainage, especially if your pots sit outside on your porch or patio during warm months.
Some herbs prefer damp conditions, while others like it dry.
To complicate matters further, some herbs don't mind both wet and dry soils during different seasons of the year!
For example, parsley is considered to be at its best in moist soil.
However, in the fall, it may also appreciate drier conditions to enhance its flavor.
As with most aspects of gardening, no one soil is ideal for all herbs, but the following types are usually good bets.
Soil that is specifically formulated for potting can be used for your potted culinary herbs.
These soils are rich in nutrients and usually include either perlite or vermiculite as a medium to improve drainage and aeration.
It may also contain sand, peat moss, bark, coir (coconut husks), or other ingredients contributing to proper aeration and drainage capacity and moisture retention.
Soils specially formulated for garden use do not drain well enough for happy plants growing in pots.
Sand and Perlite/Vermiculite: together, they make an excellent potting soil
Soil from the garden may also be used to plant herbs, but it must be enriched and loosened with organic matter such as peat moss, bark, or compost before it will work well.
When planting organic potted herbs, you will want to use 'organic' soil whenever possible because pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) could leach from non-organic potting soils into your plants!
So it is important to note that even though there are many benefits for making your potting soil mix if you choose to make your mix from scratch instead of buying a premade product containing organic potting soil at your local garden center, it is a good idea to look for a commercial product made with organic soil.
It is important to note that soil pH level is not as important for plants in pots, as they do not have as much room for their roots and root rot is more likely with potted herbs (especially if you keep them on a patio or porch).
Never use garden soil or fertilizers for outdoor landscapes indoors because these products are usually intended for ground-level planting and will most likely burn your indoor herb plants.
Soil rich in clay should be avoided because it holds too much water and does not drain well.
Never use soil from a flower bed where weed killer has been used: The chemical residue could prove harmful to your plants.
1. Peat moss with vermiculite
Organic potted herbs are a great idea, especially for someone who wants to have fresh herbs around their house all the time.
However, it is crucial to keep in mind what type of soil you use when planting organic potted herbs - not just any soil will do.
The easiest way to make your unique blend of potting soil is by mixing peat moss with vermiculite and possibly some perlite or composted bark - also called 'soil conditioner.'
Many gardeners swear by this mix when they are making their own unique custom potting soils.
There are countless recipes out there, which your local garden center might be willing to help you with - if they don't have their recipe for sale.
Another option that many gardeners like to use is 'perlite.'
It helps make soils lighter and looser.
And if your soil is too dense, it will make it hard for plant roots to get the oxygen they need, causing them to suffer or die.
So perlite can also act as a sort of natural aerator when used in potting soil.
However, it seems plausible that using just enough peat moss and vermiculite would generally give the same effect without requiring one to buy perlite.
3. Commercial potting soil
Since most people like to grow plants indoors where there aren't existing soil conditions, commercial potting soils are ideal for improving the deficiency.
Most potting soils are sterile, which means that it has been chemically treated to eliminate any possibility of plant pathogens growing in the soil.
The answer depends on where you get your commercial potting soil, specifically whether or not it contains composted bark or other material meant to fertilize the plants while they grow.
These mixes will need less additional nutrient supplementation than those without composting materials (although this should not be too difficult).
Commercial potting soils should already come with fertilizer mixed into them; therefore, you won't need any additional fertilizers until you begin harvesting leaves or seeds from your indoor herbs.
As long as they come with a soil pH of between 6 and 7, you're good to go! However, be sure to purchase potting soils that contain perlite as the primary ingredient.
Perlite is a naturally forming volcanic glass that can absorb water up to 8 times its weight.
When added into potting mixes, it not only makes for better drainage by increasing aeration within the soil's profile (it looks nice too), but it also reduces susceptibility to root rot and overwatering.
Here we compile a list of the best potting soils for herbs that are available on Amazon, choose these, and you never have to worry again about potting soils.
Aerating the soil
Whether you use a store-bought potting mix or your homemade blend, it won't matter much for most herbs if the soil is loose and well aerated.
Aerating the soil can help reduce disease issues because good air circulation will dry out wet soils more efficiently.
You don't have to use a unique tool to aerate your potting soil either; poke holes through it with a pencil or screwdriver (wear gloves).
Be sure that you're not going deep into the root zone of the plant when you do this, as you risk damaging them!
During periods of active growth, it's recommended that you water down your indoor herb garden every other day or once per week at most. However, be sure that the soil you're using adequately drains to avoid waterlogging.
Properly watering your potted herbs
Just as important as it is to have well-aerated and drained potting soil when growing herbs in pots, you also need to make sure your plants get enough water, or else they might suffer from root rot or nutrient deficiencies.
Be careful not to overwater either because the roots will suffocate and die, which will lead to dead spots in your otherwise wonderful indoor herb garden!
Suppose your herbs are planted in a commercial potting mix with composted materials included (i.e., manure). In that case, it's recommended that you wait until the soil's surface feels dry before watering it again.
The best soil for herbs in pots is dependent on what types of plants you are growing.
For example, the best potting mix for cacti would be different from growing tomatoes or peppers.
There is no perfect answer here because it will depend on your personal preferences and needs.
Some gardens may want a more natural feel with just composted bark mulch, while others might need something that drains better, like perlite or vermiculite mixed into their garden beds.