Garden Soil Vs. Potting Soil

Although dirt may not appear to be fascinating, it is crucial to the health of your plants and garden beds.

Potting soils, for example, is a growing medium designed for plants grown in containers that have different needs than plants cultivated in the ground.

Even though they may appear the same, a fresh potting mix and garden bed soil vary significantly.

soil with shovel

Knowing the difference between potting soil and garden soil can help you provide your plants with the nutrients they require for thriving.

In our guide, you can learn the difference between miracle grow potting soil vs. garden soil and what you need to do to get the best for your indoor or outdoor container plants. By the end, you’ll see they’re not created equal, but you will find actual soil has benefits as long as you keep it in your flower bed. (Find the Best Soil For Tomatoes)

You will also find how to mix soil found in-ground garden beds with things from garden centers to make your own soil mix for outdoor gardens and all your container gardening.

Can You Use Garden Soil As Potting Soil?

Part of the secret to keeping your plants healthy is matching the right soil to the right plant and function.

Here’s all you need to know about the differences between garden soil and potting growing mediums so that you can have healthy plants and happy gardening.

Potting Soil

You might be shocked to learn that most potting mixes and potting soil don’t include any soil because soil can transmit fungus and other plant pathogens that can damage your plants. Potting mix is fungus-free and safer for potted plants because it is sterile.

Potting soil, often known as a good potting mix, is a mixture of materials used to grow plants in pots, such as composted bark, sphagnum peat moss, earthworm castings, bark, perlite, vermiculite, mushroom compost, or coir.

The organic matter such as the compost or moss s enough to feed the plants, while the vermiculite or perlite keeps the mix loose and well-draining so that it doesn’t clump around plant roots or retain too much water, which prevents roots from breathing and kills plants.

Fertilizers or water-retaining crystals can be added to some potting mixtures, and you can find some mixes tailored toward succulents, cacti, orchids, or for seed-starting. It is wise, however, not to use potting mix in flower beds or your raised beds.

You’ll find it too expensive, and it lacks nutrients and beneficial microbes to feed plants in the following seasons. However, the potting mix is great for hanging baskets and window boxes as they retain moisture without adding too much weight.

Garden Soil

This is topsoil that has been supplemented with compost and other organic materials to make it more nutrient-rich for plants.

It comes with a thicker texture than potting mixes and will hold more water. Because it doesn’t contain more expensive components such as perlite, vermiculite, or moss, it’s less expensive than potting soil.

When planting flower beds, garden soil is the way to go as it is completely free. Garden soil can also be used in homemade potting soil, and all it takes is a few additions and a dose of fertilizer, and you can use it in all areas of your garden.

However, it would help if you were careful when using it in containers as it lacks suitable drainage. (Find the Best Soil PH Test Kit)

Should I Use Garden Soil or Potting Soil?

Garden soils are for use with in-ground plants, yet they will need annual amendments to replace lost nutrients and keep the soil compacting even as it is free. While it can vary from garden to garden, and one can have clay soil while another doesn’t, there are lots of benefits of using garden soil.

In some instances, based on circumstances, the use of potting soil vs. garden soil can be a personal choice. Here are a few of the benefits and drawbacks of garden soil.

garden soil

Garden Soil

Potting soils are designed to meet the demands of most plants in terms of pH, drainage, and basic nutrients.

Unless you use a purchased product, which can be expensive in large quantities, garden soils vary, and the amounts of soil amendments change, and you may need to add more nutrients than a gardener in another area.

You can add a lot of organic matter in the form of compost to your garden soil, and you’ll find there are advantages to sticking with garden soil. It is easily renewable, and you can easily adjust the texture, content, and nutrient density by adding food scraps.

Garden soil can also pack well around the roots, thus enabling them to develop a thick root foundation. Outdoor plants thrive in garden soils, which are often clay, sandy, or loamy soils. However, you can see that adding natural things such as compost can vary soil composition for moisture retention during the growing season.

You can use it in containers with perlite and peat moss to add further porosity and better drainage. Native plants prefer unaltered garden soil’s pH as these native plants have adapted to that particular soil and pH.

Adjusting garden soil can be straightforward if you find nutrient deficiencies; adding something like a kelp meal can help balance nutrition in a new garden.

The pH of veggies is 6.0-8.0, which you’ll find suitable for ornamentals or fruit trees in larger gardens. However, adding compost or well-rotted manure to your garden bed improves soil structure and nutrient content.

potting soil

Potting Soil

Potting mixes contain water retaining compounds while also promoting drainage and aeration. You can often find peat, vermiculite, perlite, coconut coir, and other items used.

Potting soil doesn’t compact the same as garden soil, and thus plants can cope with living better in containers as a result.

You can make your own with garden soil and potting mix, so you have the best of both. Mix garden soil with potting mix or potting soil, add you have the best of both.

Read labels and see if it contains soil; if it does, you can use it for outdoor raised beds or outdoor containers but not for inside pots. (Read Does Potting Soil Go Bad)

Indoor plants like soil-free potting mixes, yet this growing medium or potting mix isn’t suitable outside as the potting soil is too light for outdoor garden beds.

It’s possible to choose garden soil for outdoor containers or raised beds with nutrient-rich soil.

You’ll need many adjustments to mix in, yet most potting soil and potting mixes are designed to be used straight from the bag, and you add the plant. Some potting soil mixes comprise fertilizers, worm castings, bone meal, and other soil-improving ingredients.

The final potting soil benefit is that it can be a “sterile potting mix” and ideal for seed starting, which can be susceptible to disease. You can find some variations tailored for heavy feeders as these will require more nutrition and water than you find in gardening soils.

Potting soil cons are expense, and some are not suitable for organic gardening because of synthetic ingredients.

What Happens If You Use Garden Soil In Pots?

All of these factors work in-ground plants grow and thrive. Contrary to popular belief, utilizing garden soil or topsoil in containers often has the Plants in pots in garden soil typically suffer.

The fundamental reason is that garden soil is substantially denser than container medium; it can also have a very wide range of acidity.

Here are a few things that can happen when using gardening soil in pots.

  • Compaction — The insects we are used to keeping garden soil loose aren’t welcome in potted plants, and without them, dense soil becomes too compact for ideal root growth.
  • Poor drainage — Packed soil slows water flow and causes poor drainage, and thus you end up with root rot.
  • Lower oxygen availability — Roots need oxygen to survive. Using garden soil in containers will reduce beneficial air pockets.
  • Using natural soil mix in containers can also introduce pests, diseases, and weed seeds to your plants.
  • Native soil can also be deficient in nutrients or have an unfavorable pH for container plants.

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