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I've tried a few times to grow potted herbs in my apartment with varying success, and I suspect it is related to the potting soil. I have basil and rosemary that are thriving in pots filled with MiracleGro Potting Mix, but I planted chocolate mint, spearmint, ginger mint, thyme, and tarragon in pots with MiracleGro Moisture Control potting mix, and those all died extremely quickly (within a week - one of the mints turned completely brown and shriveled within two days).

I followed the directions from the tags the seedlings came with (regarding sun exposure and watering), and I was careful not to damage the root bundles when I potted them, so the only thing I can guess is that the Moisture Control potting soil did not get along with these plants.

Does anyone know why that is? Is there something about the pH level or nutrient levels in this particular soil that make it ill-suited for herbs? Are there certain things I should look for on the labels when purchasing potting soil in the future? (I live in a city and have a very limited selection of potting soil types and brands in my local hardware stores/target.)

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5 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I haven't used the MiracleGro Moisture Control potting mix myself, but some indoor gardeners seem to think that it's too moisture-retentive and compacts, causing drainage problems: see comments by gardengal48 here. I think this is likely to be the reason why the second group of herbs you planted, failed. Very few plants can survive if their feet are constantly wet

Although herbs' nutritional and moisture needs vary a little from one type to another (see Growing Herbs at Home, with a useful table describing their growth characteristics here), most of them can be expected to do well in a good quality multipurpose potting mix. If possible, I would avoid a peat-based one, as it loses moisture very quickly and, if allowed to dry out, can be quite hard to wet again.

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Thank you for the external links - I had had heard some complaints about MiracleGro generally, but I was wondering if anyone really knew why. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one with this problem. There's some good info in your links; I think I may try @Mike Perry's formula for potting mix. –  Laura Jul 22 '11 at 13:52
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Adding onto "Mancuniensis" answer, herbs generally prefer a "loose" free draining type of soil. Think of where those plants grow natively, they don't like having their "feet" wet (as given in "Mancuniensis" answer).

Do you have good drainage holes in your pots, containers? Just another factor to take into account.

If the "MiracleGro Potting Mix" has worked well for you, I would stick with that, or if you wanted to mix your own, you could try here for a good general purpose potting mix formula.

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Thanks for the suggestion on mixing soil; I may try that rather than going back to store-bought. (And yes, the pots do have decent drainage.) –  Laura Jul 22 '11 at 13:45
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Miracle Gro Potting Mix has too much fertilizer in it and it tends to kill the young plants because it burns their root system. Try a potting mixture that does not have fertilizer in it. Good Luck.

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I've switched all of the plants in my apartment to Conrad Fafard Professional Potting Mix. It seems to work well for everything I currently have - ivy, pothos, snake plants, palms - and has a nice balance of draining well while retaining plenty of moisture.

I plan to try the organic version of this potting mix with my new herbs (no chemical fertilizers in the pots of plants I'm going to eat!); I found a garden shop where the owner recommended this over the seven or eight other brands they carry.

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The OP is growing indoors and the biggest problem is the lack of direct sunlight. Lack of sunlight will lead to

  • a weak plant
  • very wet soil because of insufficient evaporation.

So I suggest an extra loose potting mix ratio of 2:1:1 Peat:Perlite:Vermiculite . Peat is quite loose when dried but it can get too wet so I put a extra portion of perlite and vermiculite which are both soil enhancers to help the drainage. And please use a pot with a lot of big holes.

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