Garden centers and hardware stores sell top soil pretty cheap. The more specialized mixes
, however, can cost you big-time depending on the size of your garden beds or the number of containers you need to fill. The last time I purchased a large bag of container potting soil, I remember the price tag made me do a double-take.
Yes, these ready-made soils are convenient. But have you considered mixing your own to save some money? It's pretty easy and there are tons of "recipes" out there on the web and in gardening books. It works like this: buy a basic, cheapo potting soil and mix in special ingredients as you need them depending on what you're planting.
Here's a very simple mixture I have used many times:
1 part cheap potting soil
1 part finely ground pine bark mulch
Mix together and store in a plastic garbage bag. That's it! Most commonly-grown plants don't need any additional nutrients than what is already in the potting soil. The mulch holds moisture and prevents the soil from compacting. This one is courtesy of my hero, Felder Rushing
, author of Tough Plants for Southern Gardens
. Southern gardeners: this book is awesome
! But I digress...
More specialized mixes abound. The Artistic Garden's site
has several, while HGTV has an article on the subject
as well as a few handy hints
that should get you started.