Start with healthy soil if you’re starting from scratch with a new garden. After all, the soil is a plant’s life support system, allowing roots to extend out and absorb water and nutrients.
Potting mix comprising sphagnum moss, coco coir, compost or rotted wood, and perlite or vermiculite make up the most potting mix. Lime or slow-release granular fertilizer is sometimes added instead of organic matter.
All of the materials in this potting mix are suitable for use in the garden. Peat moss retains enough moisture, perlite/vermiculite loosens the soil structure, and compost/fertilizer replenishes other nutrients (compost also improves soil structure).
Garden soil and potting soil are designed to serve various purposes. For example, potting soil is used alone for container gardening, such as potted houseplants and window boxes, whereas garden soil is blended with natural soil and used in a raised bed.
Choosing the incorrect one for indoor plants might cause issues such as moisture buildup and soil compaction, which can cause root damage and plant development inhibition. (Learn How To Sterilize Soil)
The other way of potting mix in your garden or raised beds can help alter soil that isn’t ideal.
In our guide, you can learn more about can potting soil be used in the ground or strictly for potted plants.
By the end, you’ll see how many gardeners improve their garden mix in raised beds or large containers as well as veggie gardens to add nutrients and offer better drainage to clay soil in the uppermost layer of soil.
What is Potting Soil?
Potting mix is more than just earth put in a bag. It’s a combination of organic elements explicitly made for growing plants in containers.
You will use a mixture of sterile soil, moss, bark, compost, and probably a little sand.
Small bits of mica, also known as vermiculite, are used in potting soil to aid aeration and drainage. Vermiculite comprises thin layers that resemble little stones. It’s a natural substance that won’t harm your plants if it gets into your garden bed.
The microscopic white “foam” balls seen in many mixes are a regular source of concern or doubt in the world of potting soil. That is not Styrofoam, contrary to widespread assumption, and is entirely natural.
Perlite, a white material created from inflated volcanic rock, is what you’re looking for. It’s incredibly light and porous, and it’s used to improve drainage in potting soil and your garden bed or containers. If you’re going to use potting soil on the ground, you won’t have to worry about this. (Learn How Much Does A Yard Of Topsoil Weigh)
Benefits of Potting Soil
There are various reasons why you should use potting soil for your houseplants or any outside container plants.
Potting soil is a lightweight growing medium that provides better drainage and root development than regular dirt, which is especially important when establishing new plants. In addition, it is very light because of the organic material used, making it excellent for fine roots to grow without being suffocated.
Potting soil of higher quality is also more sterile, as it should be devoid of weed seeds, insects, and other plant pathogens. That means your plants will be in a better environment.
Returning to the original question, potting soil in outdoor garden spaces poses no specific risk or danger.
Not all dirt is the same, even if the soil looks the same. Topsoil, not potting soil, is ideal for offering a healthier environment.
Topsoil is more akin to dirt in a bag and is meant for use in the garden on a large scale. While potting soil is a superior product, it is much more expensive than basic dirt.
You don’t have to worry about the potting soil from the ball of dirt surrounding the roots if you’re transplanting any indoor plants with potting soil in their pots to an outside bed. There will be no negative impact on the environment.
Drawbacks of Potting Soil in Outdoor Soil
Garden soil, which has been lightly processed, retains microbes in the existing soil such as bacteria, protozoa, fungus, actinomycetes, and nematodes, as well as those left behind from composting.
Some bacteria in the mix support outdoor plants by helping absorb nutrients and water from the native soil. The heat generated during composting kills most weed seeds and hazardous bacteria in garden soil. Those who survive are significantly outnumbered by those that live in native soil.
“Soilless mix” is a term used to describe potting mixes. As a result, it lacks two essential elements of genuine soil: minerals and bacteria.
Potting soil manufacturers sterilize the mixture using heat or chemicals to kill weed seeds and eliminate potentially harmful microbes and bacteria.
The potting mix contains some plant food without helpful bacteria that aid in nutrient uptake and plant growth.
Differences of Garden Soil and Potting Soil
Garden soil is made of natural topsoil or sand mixed with bulky organic material that is quite affordable.
Composted bark from mill operations, used mushroom compost, and composted cow or chicken manure are all common garden soil ingredients.
Coarse organic matter you find in garden soil will improve water retention capacity of sandy soils. It can also loosen texture in heavy clay soils, allowing for better root development in garden beds.
Meanwhile, there is no natural dirt in the potting soil mix. Instead, it’s a blend of peat moss, ground pine bark, and either perlite or vermiculite that’s been appropriately created. Because this mixture is excessively acidic, limestone is added to bring the pH level back into balance.
A wetting agent is used to keep the mix from drying. Peat moss and ground pine bark are difficult to wet once dry.
Finally, there is a small bit of plant food in potting soil. Because of these elements, potting soil is an excellent substitute for actual soil in container gardening. (Learn How To Add Phosphorus To Soil)
If you wonder, can I use dirt from outside to grow plants indoors, then you’ll find other ingredients that make potting soil and potting mix a better option?
Likewise, because topsoil is often cheaper in bulk, most gardeners don’t use potting soil for their in-ground veggies; instead, they use topsoil. If you’re planting vegetables in topsoil rather than potting soil, make sure it’s mixed 50/50 with the dirt already on the plot, and then add fertilizer as needed.
All this can lead you to ask, can you mix potting soil with garden soil? You can easily use potting soil with garden soil or topsoil. While the mix may help keep your soil moist and fix poor drainage in container gardens. Once you add organic materials to your topsoil mix, you wouldn’t see the difference between the soils as they all combine into one.
Alternatives to Potting Soil Mixed With Garden Soil
If you want to improve your outdoor gardening space by utilizing potting soil in the ground, a few more natural things will perform better.
The most prevalent are manure and compost, which provide your soil with various organic materials and nutrients.
With a simple outside bin and your kitchen scraps and yard trash, you can manufacture compost on your own. Manure should be gained from a garden center or a local farmer unless you have enough area for a few farm animals.
For simple drainage or to lighten clay-heavy soil, aerate the soil with sand, peat moss, shredded bark, or gravel.
Other chemicals that address specific plant requirements can help nutrient-deficient garden beds.
Here’s a quick rundown of the most outstanding options:
- Coffee Grounds
- Seaweed emulsions deliver potassium
- Fish emulsions – nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus
- Potash will reduce soil acidity (pH)
- Coffee grounds introduce nitrogen
- Blood meal offers nitrogen
- Bone meal presents nitrogen and calcium
- Dolomite lime releases calcium
- Epsom salt is an excellent source of magnesium
Do you have any doubts about which nutrients you require? Before you go out and buy fertilizer, get a simple soil test kit and find out. These are easy to use and can tell you whether your soil is deficient in specific nutrients (nitrogen, potassium, or phosphorus).
To notice the color change, gather some soil, add water, and the reagent from the kit. You may also measure pH with a similar type of kit.