Hairy Dirt, Worm Poop, and Volcanic Rocks: Potting Soil for Beginners

The start of a new growing season can come with a lot of questions, especially for beginner gardeners. Though a lot of the best gardening tips come from trial and error, one thing all successful gardeners know is that the soil is the most important factor when gardening.

Understanding Basic Potting Soil Ingredients

Worm Castings, Perlite, and Coco Coir on a garden table

From seed to harvest, high-quality soil is the foundation of a healthy, abundant garden. Mixing and maintaining high-quality soil that is rich in nutrients, well-draining, and lightweight may seem like a daunting task for a beginner, but it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Knowing how to create your own potting soil blend is the best thing you can do for your garden.

Illustration of a woman in her garden

Basic Potting Soil Recipe

There are many different recipes for potting soil mixtures, but a high-quality, all-purpose mix that can be altered to fit the needs of any plant is the basis for blending potting soil.

High-quality, all-purpose soil mixtures should all have a few common properties: they need to be lightweight and well-draining, but also need to have the ability to retain proper moisture and nutrients.

To create an all-purpose soil that can be adjusted to fit the needs of any plant, the first thing you’ll need to do is to gain an understanding of the key ingredients in potting soil and how they work together.

Almost all high-quality potting soil blends share the same basic ingredients: Coco coir or peat moss (which is less sustainable), perlite and/or vermiculite, compost, and sometimes granulated fertilizers and limestone.

Hands holding coco coir over a bucket

Coconut Coir

Coco coir is an organic compound that is a byproduct of the coconut fiber industry. It’s made from the coconut husk, which was once considered unusable when harvesting coconuts.

This “hairy dirt” is a fibrous and sponge-like material that is added to potting soil blends to help retain moisture and improve soil drainage. It has a low p.H. level and contains no bio-nutrients, so this means that you’ll need to add nutrients once seeds produce leaves.

Coco coir comes in compressed dehydrated, lightweight bricks and discs that must be rehydrated before use. We have an amazing line of Coco Bliss coco coir products, including bricks, discs, and chips!

Hands holding perlite over a bucket with potting soil.


Perlite is a mined form of volcanic rock, which may surprise you considering that it is a lightweight, white material that looks a lot like Styrofoam. Perlite can hold up to four times its weight in water and is added to potting soil blends for its water-retaining properties.

Perlite Bliss from Plantonix can increase the soil’s pore space and improve drainage as well.


Vermiculite is a mined mineral that can be used with, or in place of, perlite. Though they both have an amazing water-holding capacity, vermiculite will also add calcium and magnesium to potting soil blends.

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Illustration of a women applying fertilizer on a plant in her garden


Natural fertilizers are added to potting soil blends to increase nutrients. Coir-based potting soil blends don’t contain many nutrients, so these need to be supplemented to support plant growth.

Worm Castings

Worm Bliss (Worm Poop) by Plantonix is an amazing chemical and compound-free fertilizer made through manure-free, indoor worm casting, making it safe to use on any plant.

Not only can this fertilizer be used on nearly any type of plant, but Plantonix worm castings are chemical and compound free so they can also be used directly on your plants without burning them.


Compost is used to lighten potting soil blends by increasing the pore space, allowing for better aeration and drainage. A good, well-aged compost should be added to potting soil blends to increase nutrient content and promote healthy plant growth.

It’s not recommended to use compost when blending seed-starter soil.

Other Potential Ingredients In Potting Soil

  • Limestone - Limestone can be added to potting soil blends to neutralize the p.H. 
  • Coarse Sand - Coarse sand can be added to improve drainage of potting soil blends, as well as to add weight to potting mixes.
Illustration of a guy sitting on a question mark wondering about his garden

How To Blend Potting Soil

The best quality potting soil should be light and fluffy, with a well-blended mixture of ingredients. It shouldn’t shrink or draw away from the sides of the container when it dries out.

It should be lightweight and well-draining, but also be able to retain enough moisture and nutrients.

With a little instruction and adaptation, it’s not hard to create a good, all-purpose potting soil blend. 

Basic Soil Blend

Basic Potting Soil Ingredients:

  • ~60% Coco Bliss
  • ~40% Perlite Bliss 

Be sure to rehydrate the coco coir and allow it to dry prior to use. Blend soil in a large wheelbarrow, bucket, or another container. Ensure that the materials are blended well, using a pitchfork, hand rake, or another tool.

This “hairy dirt” and “volcanic rock” combination is great for starting seeds because it doesn’t contain a lot of nutrients. Be sure to provide seedlings with Worm Bliss or other fertilizer once they develop their first true leaves, to promote growth.

You can also adjust the amount of coco coir and vermiculite to retain moisture.

All-Purpose Soil Blend

One of the major benefits of creating an all-purpose soil blend is that it gives you the ability to adjust it to fit the needs of any plant.

The ability to add fertilizer, Worm Bliss, Coco Bliss, Perlite Bliss, or other ingredients to adjust the water-retaining abilities, nutrients, and drainage of an all-purpose soil blend will save you time and money.

All-Purpose Potting Soil Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon of Coco Bliss coco coir
  • ½ gallon of fine compost 
  • ½ gallon of Perlite Bliss
  • ½ gallon of vermiculite
  • 2 cups of coarse sand (for weight and drainage)
  • 2 cups of Worm Bliss worm castings (fertilizer)

Mix the soil in a cement mixer, large wheelbarrow, or other large container. It’s always best to blend potting soil mixtures well to allow for the best results.

Use a pitchfork, rake, tiller, or other garden tool to blend the soil together. 

Helpful Tips

Tips for Adjusting All-Purpose Soil

  • For better water retention, add extra Coco Bliss coco coir and/or vermiculite.
  • Add extra Perlite Bliss or coarse sand for extra drainage.  
  • For extra nutrients or a nutrient boost, add more Worm Bliss or time-release fertilizer. 
  • Add soil sulfur to lower the soil’s p.H. 
  • Add lime to raise the soil’s p.H. 


Creating an all-purpose potting soil blend that works as a basis for any type of plant can be a pretty simple process once you know where to start. With a proper understanding of the core ingredients and how they work together, mixing a light, fluffy, all-purpose potting soil blend can be pretty straightforward.

Creating a potting soil blend from scratch will allow you to control many important factors of the soil, such as moisture retention, drainage, amount of nutrients, and the p.H. balance. 

Blending potting soil is a skill that even beginners can master. As with all things gardening, there are no perfectly written rules to ensure the best results, every time.

When blending soil, a lot is learned through trial and error, but we hope this beginner-friendly guide taught you the basics about hairy dirt, worm poop, and volcanic rock.

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