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Garden Soil vs. Potting Soil

Garden Soil vs. Potting Soil – What is the Difference?

If you are a beginner gardener, you may be wondering, what is the difference between garden soil and potting soil? Soil is soil, some may argue, however, this is not true at all.

Using the wrong type of soil can hinder the growth of a plant. The soil that is good for growing tomatoes may not be good for growing onion, and the soil that is good for growing plants outdoors may not work for indoor gardening.

(You may also want to read this article on the best soil for growing tomatoes in pots)

In fact, knowing the right medium to use is key to growing well nourished and thriving plants.

So, today we are looking at garden soil vs potting soil to explain what they are, the difference between the two and when to use garden soil or potting soil.

Garden soil vs. potting soil

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What is the Difference Between Potting Soil and Garden Soil?

Potting Soil

Potting soil is rich in nutrients that are suitable for growing vegetables, flowers, herbs, and other plants in containers or pots.

Potting soil has no natural soil. It’s made of peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, coco coir and pine bark.

Perlite and vermiculite help to make the mix less compact, while improving drainage and aeration (proper flow of water and air). This is because they make the soil loose and light.

Due to peat moss (one of the best soilless media), the mixture has high acidity levels, and you have to add limestone for the PH to remain balanced. Since potting soil is light in weight, it doesn’t retain moisture for long, so you will have to water often.

Potting soil most often doesn’t contain soil; this explains why it is referred to as a soilless mix.

Potting soil, soilless or not is sterilized through heating or the use of chemicals, and this eliminates pathogens as well as valuable microbes.

It does not contain fungus or other pathogens that cause diseases, making it safer for potted plants.

However, it doesn’t contain valuable microbes it also lacks essential nutrients and minerals. Thankfully, the plants have moss to feed on.

What is Potting Soil is Suitable for?

Potting soil is suitable for growing plants in containers and in an indoor setup. Unlike garden soil, it is mostly limited to certain types of plants, because not all plants can be grown in containers.

Do not use potting soil in raised bed gardens or flower beds because not only is it too expensive to be used in a large expanse of land, but it also does not contain enough nutrients to feed the plants.

Garden Soil

Garden soil also called topsoil comprises soil as well as compost and other organic materials, all of which help plants to grow well.

It contains living organisms such as microbes like bacteria, fungi, nematodes, protozoa, among others. These microbes also leave their excretion in the soil, thus boosting their fertility

However, garden soil does not contain added nutrients or mulch. Since soil is the main component, it is much cheaper than potting soil.

Garden soil is also more compact and heavier than potting soil.

What is Garden Soil Suitable for?

Garden soil is suitable for flower beds and for growing plants in raised beds.

Do not use garden soil for potted plants because it is too heavy and compact and doesn’t have the right drainage and aeration for container plants. It doesn’t allow the proper flow of water and air. So, if used in containers it won’t allow the plant roots to breathe.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Use Garden Soil as Potting Soil?

Yes, you can, but it’s not the best idea. Potting soil is loose, sterile, and specifically made for growing crops in containers. To use garden soil as potting soil, make sure you amend by adding the necessary nutrients to improve its fertility and texture.

Should I Use Garden Soil or Potting Soil?

It depends on what you are using it for. Potting soil is best suited for containers or indoor plants, while garden soil is best used for raised beds or flower beds. 

What Happens If You Use Garden Soil Instead of Potting Soil for Potted Plants?

Garden soil is heavy, contains pathogens, and may lack the necessary nutrients for your potted plants. So, it could lead to the death of your plants. The best option is to buy potting soil, make your own, or amend the garden soil before using it for container plants.

How Do You Keep Potting Soil Moist?

You can keep potting soil moist by adding wood chips or other mulches to the surface of potting soil.

How Can One Lower PH levels in Soil?

The best way to do this is by increasing the nitrogen level. This is achieved by the use of manure, compost, or other organic amendments. Once the nitrogen levels go high, the PH level will decrease.

Potting Soil vs. Garden Soil – Conclusion

It is important to use the right soil to plant and grow your plants if you want them to thrive. Use potting soil for growing your crops in containers and garden soil for raised bed garden and flower beds.

Difference between potting soil and garden soil

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