Difference between potting soil and garden soil

Plants thrive in dirt or soil, and nursery workers, gardeners, and farmers have to look into the soil properties they want to use since there are different soil types. Different plants can only thrive in certain soil types. When preparing a garden, you have to consider the soil type. Let us check out, the difference between potting soil and garden soil.

There are six soil types: muddy, chalky, sandy, sedimentary, loamy, and peat.

The soil arrangement in your yard will depend significantly upon where you live. Soil types differ from each other depending on the organic matter present in the soil; the sand, mud, residue, sediments, etc., are present in varying amounts.

Finding the right soil type that allows plants to thrive is crucial. Coming across different soil types may cause you to wonder which one would be suitable for your garden.

First, you need to know that garden soil won’t do well in containers or pots, and potting soil won’t benefit you if you use it in your garden.

Potting Soil vs Garden Soil
Potting Soil vs Garden Soil

Soil selection also depends on where you plan on growing your flowers and vegetables. Topsoil and potting soil differ in their usage and composition. Gardening soils and potting soils are different in many other ways as well.

Garden soils are used in outdoor gardens and beds of flowers, while potting soils are used for growing potted plants.

Let’s learn about the core differences between Potting Soil and Garden Soil first:

Potting Soil

Potting soil is a type of a preparing blend. It is a mix of materials like sphagnum greenery, bark, perlite, vermiculite, manure, or coir.

This soil is specifically mixed for the growth of plants in holders. However, there is one major component that this ‘soil’ doesn’t have, and it’s dirt. Since it contains microorganisms that can be detrimental to your plants, dirt is not present in potting soil.

Soil mixed specifically for potting plants is sterile, making it microorganism-free and more secure for pruned plants.

The natural materials present in the soil, like manure and greenery, take care of the plants, and the vermiculite or perlite ensures the soil doesn’t congest around plant roots or hold a lot of water. Not adding these would stop plant roots from moving and growing, causing them to die.

In some soil mix preparations, substance like compost and water-holding porous stones are added. You can also get mixes that help prepare your garden for succulents, orchids, roses, desert plants, or seed-germination.

The clear feature of potting soils is that they are designed to be used indoors in a sturdy container.

Potting soils formulated for maximum results are specific to a plant and its environment. Commonly, the matter used in potting soils includes mulch, vermiculite, mushroom compost, and various others in variable proportions for different compositions.

Potting soils available at stores come in different blends, each for growing a certain plant type. Plants like African violets will grow well in potting soils that contain more peat moss.

Potting soil is different from topsoil. While topsoil is dense and heavy, potting soil is light and airy. Water stays longer in topsoil and doesn’t drain properly. Potting soil doesn’t retain water and drains more easily and rapidly.

Potting soil is also airy and not as dense as topsoil; as water drains through it, more air gets pulled into it, helping the plants breathe. Since the soil is light, fluffy, and full of air, it is easy for roots to grow and thrive in potting soil.

Garden Soil

Garden soil is topsoil that has been enhanced to make it better suited for plant growth. You can add compost or organic matter, such as certain types of potting mixes, to boost certain plants’ growth.

Common soils vary significantly in quality, as do many of the options at local gardening stores. When buying bulk or in a sealed bag, make sure the soil blend doesn’t have chemicals or fertilizers. For best results, pick an organic blend that suits your garden.

Garden soil can be best described as a label often used for soils sold at home improvement stores, but it is not a particular type of soil. The soil used for a home garden has good consistency and contains a blend of sand, clay, silt, and numerous minerals.

Boxed garden soils found in shops are mixed to have different soils and textures. They are often diversified to focus on a specific type of garden or plant. You may find different mixes for flower fields, vegetable fields, and herb growing grounds.

If you plan to purchase garden soil in bulk rather than in bags of soil from a garden supply store, get information on the sources the soil manufacturer has used for the sand and organic matter used in it.

Knowing this information will help you ensure that the soil blends well with your garden’s existing soil.

Potting soils are specifically made to have neutral pH needs and contain basic nutrients. On the other hand, garden soils can vary by their mix and the locations they were sourced from.

A major advantage of garden soil is that it can be refreshed easily. You can simply save kitchen scraps and other yard waste and add it to the soil. If you take care, you may not have to re-purchase your garden soil next season.

However, garden soil is also quite heavy. Topsoil used in garden soil mixes makes them dense and retains quite a lot of water.

While these properties make garden soil acceptable in the proper environment, they can sometimes cause plants to choke and not receive proper nutrients due to lack of aeration.

Differences between Potting Soil and Garden Soil

  • The first prominent difference is in the name itself! Garden soils consist of natural soils found in fields and gardens, while potting soils are created for pots and containers.
  • Garden soils contain a mix of rocks, sand, sediment, loam, and minerals, while potting soil contains natural moss, composite, and plant matter.
  • Garden soils are classified based on which component is used the most in the mix. Clay garden soils mostly contain clay, and loam garden soils will have lots of loamy dirt in them. In contrast, potting soils are classified by their benefits and how they can be used.
  • Garden soils allow different microbes like fungi and bacteria to grow. Potting soil is void of microbes.
  • Potting soils are better at retaining water from a watering can. Thus, they can remain moist for longer periods. However, garden soils lose water easily and are better suited for outdoor use. Garden hoses, such as metal hoses, rubber hoses, or elastic hoses, are used for watering them.
  • Potting soils have different textures from gardening soils. Soil texture mostly depends on the materials used. Garden soils are heavy, while potting soils are lighter. You will find working with potting soils more manageable.
  • By using sterile potting soil, you reduce the likelihood of people catching an illness due to microorganisms. Garden soils contain pathogens that can be harmful to people’s health. If you are growing plants indoors, then using potting soil becomes even more important. Young children might put their hands into it out of curiosity and infect themselves.
  • Lastly, potting soils are more expensive to purchase. You can expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $25 per potting bag, depending on the potting soil’s quality and sterilization.
difference between potting soil and garden soil
difference between potting soil and garden soil

What Is Topsoil?

There’s a third variety of bagged soil available for gardeners, which is the topsoil. It’s the cheapest soil because it doesn’t have added materials, like peat moss, compost, or perlite, to improve its nourishing value.

Topsoil is essentially taken from the ground and distributed. You may use it to cover empty spaces or holes or in a mixture with other nutrient-rich soils to make it suitable for your plants. However, don’t use it on its own if you want to grow plants.

Topsoil is most suitable for use in yards. You should use topsoil if you need to cover stumpy areas in gardens or empty zones around sheds and in your backyard.

Topsoil can also prove to be valuable in areas where you want to grow trees or shrubs. It would be best if you bought broken-up topsoil that is easy to rake and drains well.

If you don’t need to enhance the soil quality but just want to fill in holes, ordinary topsoil is the best choice. Besides, it is also the most affordable option. 

However, if you want to improve soil quality in one part of your garden to boost the growth of plants, enriched topsoil can be a better option. Carefully consider buying enriched topsoil in bulk since it is more expensive.

Gardeners use topsoil to fertilize low-level spots in the lawn in preparation for grass installation. Add organic material to an existing lawn to reduce reeds and enhance its pest and weed resistance. Next, fill the lower layer of raised bed planters.

Here is a little tip to help you decide what to purchase; high-quality enriched soils are more expensive than topsoil; however, make a purchase decision based on your garden’s requirements rather than cost. If you have to cover a lot of land, you can mix the two soils.

Garden Soil vs. Topsoil

When deciding if you can use topsoil or garden soil, consider your garden’s requirements. Performing a soil test is a good place to start because it will tell you what nutrients your garden lacks. You can then look for garden soil or topsoil that contains those nutrients.

In simple words, topsoil is just an uppermost layer of dirt. It’s the top layer of dirt that’s unique to your area or garden space. Consistent topsoil is all you need to fill a hole in your yard.

On the other hand, enriched topsoil is a mix of your local topsoil and organic material that improves its ability to grow something. Using enriched topsoil becomes necessary if you want to grow plants successfully.

When looking at what type of soil is best suited in gardens, your best option is to improve the soil you have rather than to remove and replace the existing dirt. Topsoil should preferably be mixed in a half/half ratio with the soil that’s already sitting on your land.

Each soil variety has a different rate at which it lets the water drain. Hence, when you mix the two soils, the water drains between the two instead of getting trapped. Use topsoil to form your garden plot, adding drainage, and some organic matter to develop the garden’s overall growing condition.

Once you have bought your new soil, start the process by tilling your garden well and then spread a few inches of new soil. Till the garden again to integrate the new soil, then add the rest of the soil on top. If you plan to fertilize your garden soil, it is best to do so after adding the new soil and starting planting.

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You should know how potted soil, topsoil, and garden soil are different from each other and how they are used. You’ll also have to take many factors into consideration when choosing the type of soil you use since each soil type has its own benefits and different characteristics.

The land you have for your garden will also determine soil choice. Make sure you use the information given above to decide the best soil for your garden. Doing so will save you from losing money and time. Be properly equipped with essential knowledge before you put your time and money into your garden.

You could get direct help and advice from a more knowledgeable gardener or landscaper. They can tell you how to manage your garden well and assist you in selecting the best soil. However, ultimately your garden is your responsibility, and you have to hold yourself accountable.

If you make a poor choice or don’t show commitment towards your plants and vegetation, it will badly reflect your garden. Hence, learn the necessary information and steps to avoid any future problems and mishaps. Got an idea on the difference between potting soil and garden soil.