Potting Soil Vs Garden Soil

Growing successfully with soils

Compost soil-Potting soil vs Garden soil
Compost Pile

Does garden soil really matters or is it ok to believe that soil is soil, therefore, it doesn’t matter what we use it is a sure guarantee we will have garden success or should we approach this topic with an open mind thinking there might be a difference. When it comes to soil many people are not sure therefore it is crucial to have some knowledge of soil type to have success with gardening. There is no such thing as a green thumb but rather acquiring the knowledge that will pay off in the long run.

Many people have garden successfully without understanding that one of the key ingredients was the soil that made such a big difference, this was the experience that I had as a child when I created my first garden along with my parents and many neighbours that had gardens. Over the years, however, I have learned soil type and the importance of having knowledge in this area to reap a good harvest.

Soil type

There are so many different soil type that it can become confusing as to what to use in order to have the kind of success you’re looking for. So we will be looking at many of these soils to get a better understanding of what makes up these soils and what their functions are. One of the things that I learn is that all soil is not soil, I know it does sound pretty confusing but when I learned this reality it placed me in a better position to have success with gardening.

Garden soil

Garden soil or native soil are soils that are found in our gardens, these soil are produced from nature without any human effort. There are many types of native soils which can be found in the home garden. For more on these soils follow this link. Some of these soils are not ideal because of their structure and profile which can work against the growth and proper development of plant life.

However, there are some plants that will thrive in these less than ideal soil because some plants need these soils to perform at their best. An example of this is installing cactus. Cactus need sandy soils in order to thrive but if you plant peace lily in this soil type it will not do as well. So having a knowledge of your plant’s requirements is also important.

You may have the ideal soil but your choice of plant for that area might not be right, this is a very important point to remember because this can be the difference in you having garden success or losing money and time invested. Sometime we may have the ideal soil but need help in improving the quality of these soils, this method is known as amending the soil.  For more on the conditioning or amending your already existing soil follow these links. Starting a compost pile and organic soil mix.

Garden soil or native soil, however, do have some help from nature because organic matter such as leaves which falls from trees to the earth surface, the bodies of dead animals, decaying tree, roots and other organic material once decompose adds nutrients to the soil. This is nature’s way of helping our garden plants to be their best.

Potting soil vs Garden soil

Potting soil

Potting soil-Compost soil-Potting soil vs Garden soil
Potting Soil

When it comes to potting soil it’s another story because potting soils are not soil pre-say but is known as a soilless mix in other words these soil are made from organic material and mix with other products to meet our garden plants requirements, we will be looking at some of these soils to see what they bring to the table.

  • Peat moss
  • Cacti and succulent mix
  • Perlite
  • Vermiculite
  • Pro-mix
  • Orchid mix
  • Potting soil
  • Topsoil
  • Manure
  • Compost

While many of these soils are made up of different ingredients there are some similarities that will give the same results, also mixing some of these soils together makes the ideal soil because they compliment each other. What I love about potting soil is that these soils are weed and disease free giving your garden plants a good head start.

Potting soils are also great for container plants because the roots of container-grown plants are restricted because of the containers they are in which means using these soils can take away from plants stress as they develop and reach full maturity.

Potting soil vs Garden soil

Potting soil

Peat moss– Peat moss is a soilless mix which means peat is produced from dead fibrous materials such as mosses and other organic materials that decompose in peat bogs. Peat moss is produced without the presence of air which slows down the decomposition process. It takes several millennia for peat moss to form.

Peat moss does not have any nutrients but what is so good about this soilless mix is its ability to hold and absorb water and in helping to change soil texture. I have used this material many times and have gotten good results. Peat moss is good to use in sandy soils to help with its ability to absorb and hold water. Peat moss can also be used as an amendment in vegetable and flower gardens.

Cacti and succulent mix-For plants like cacti and succulents a well-drain soil is an ideal medium for these plants to grow successfully. Cacti, as well as succulents, don’t like wet feet so here is a home mixture that will keep your plants smiling.

  • Horticulture or builders sand
  • Five parts bag potting soil
  • Four parts perlite

Adding these mixtures together makes the perfect potting soil for plants that love a well-drain soil.

Perlite– is a volcanic glass that is heated at 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit because of the intense heat the volcanic glass pops like popcorn and appears as a white light material. Perlite is used in or mixed with potting soil to help improve soil structure and for proper air circulation.

Garden soil in bag-Potting soils vs Garden soils
A bag of garden soil

I have worked with potting soils that contain perlite and have gotten good results. So if you are installing plants which require a well-drain soil like in the above mention adding perlite is the key.

Vermiculite– can be purchased by itself or in potting soil. Vermiculite is hydrated laminar minerals. Intense heat is added to vermiculite that causes it to expand, once expanded it takes on the shape of pellets. Vermiculite is non-toxic and will not deteriorate also vermiculite does not carry an odour. The purpose of vermiculite is to aerate the soil also to increase nutrient and water retention that will improve your plant’s overall health.

Pro-mix– is made up of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite which will also help to improve soil structure and profile. I have worked with this material and have gotten great results, for soils that have poor air circulation and drainage this soilless mix is as an added bonus also does well in container gardening.

Orchid mix– when it comes to orchids the game really changes because the roots of orchids are different from other plants. Orchids hate wet feet and root rot can set in pretty fast if this fact is ignored. The planting medium of orchid consists of fir bark, peat moss, and perlite. A soilless mix like this is great for drainage and air circulation which is important for orchid plant survival. There are several brands on the market.

Potting soil– There are many types of potting soils that are sold under different brands but basically contains some of the same ingredients. These ingredients are sand, perlite, vermiculite, peat moss, and compost. Each of these material plays an important part in improving soil structure. I have used several brands over the years in container gardening.

Topsoil– Topsoil is the upper layer or first 2 inches of soil. This upper layer of soil is rich in organic matter which is broken down by soil microbes, these microbes are hard at work and very active making this top layer of soil rich in nutrients.

It is good when planting and backfilling to add this upper layer of soil in the planting hold where it is needed most by the plant’s roots. leaves, tree branches, dead plant roots, the bodies of insects, birds and other life forms once dead is broken down by these soil microbes which enriches the soil. Topsoil can be purchased by the yard or in small bulks.

Manure– Manure is animal droppings that come from chickens, cows, and horses because these animals feed on vegetation, therefore, their excrement is safe. The excrement of animals that has meat in its diet should not be used because of health reasons. Animal manure should not be used when fresh but allowed to dry because fresh manure can cause the plant to burn. The manure of animals is rich in nutrients and can be pretty costly.

Manure is made up of animal droppings, urine and animal feed. When added to soils manure helps to condition soil through absorbing and holding moisture, adding nutrients and increasing air circulation.

Compost-Compost can really condition your garden soil giving your plant a good head start. Compost is made from kitchen scraps such as vegetables, egg shells non-acidic fruits like banana peels and other organic material. Meats should never be used because of diseases which can cause contamination and also attract animals and rodents.  For more on how to create your compost pile follow the link. Compost adds nutrients to the soil, improves soil structure, absorbs an holds water and help soil air circulation.

Potting soil vs Garden soil

The final word

I hope this article shed some light on soil type. It can be pretty confusing especially when entering a garden centre and seeing the many brands that stack the shelves. So the next time you are planning on installing garden plants remember that soil does matter. Reading the label is a great way to understand what you are buying don’t go for the cheapness price even though you would love to save some money. The gold is to grow healthy plants you can be proud off and in the case of vegetables and herbs to be able to reap a good harvest. Your plants are depending on you to keep them healthy and happy.


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About the author

+ posts

Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.

7 thoughts on “Potting Soil Vs Garden Soil”

  1. Soil truly is a complex thing. I’ve been reading more and more about it as I’ve been putting in my garden, and I am amazed at everything that goes on down there.

    Have you written anything about soil microbes? I have a friend who brings us stuff to put on our soil that helps with the microbe health, but I wasn’t sure if it really mattered or not.

    • Hello Cyrus so good to see you and I am so happy that I could help. Soil is truly complex and do deserve our attention. Soil microbes need to be feed to stay healthy so they can do their job. I am about to write and article on this topic God’s willing so be on the look out. Thanks for commenting and wishing you the best of success.

  2. Hi
    I have been searching to see where we could be going wrong with our soil as it has been hard to grow anything:( when we try to grow plants they just die so i am glad i have found your post.
    Our soil is more like a clay soil if that makes sense, you have really put a lot of detail in your post and has really helped me , pherhaps we will get some happy flower’s in the garden, also is it true that horse manure helps your plant’s ? or is that only certain ones?
    Thank you for your informative post:)

    • Hello Sharon so good to see you and I am so happy that I could help. Horse manure is a good natural organic that will do your plants a whole lot of good just a word of caution here and that is wait until it is dry to use. If you use it when it is fresh it will burn your plants so remember always to wait until it drys before using. But manure is really good for your plants. Hope this help and have a good day.

  3. thank you for helping to clear that up. it is so confusing to me to try and figure any of that gardening stuff out. its hard enough for me to keep anything alive but picking the appropriate soil has been enough to make me consider concreting my yard instead of growing anything… thank you! I am new to the blogging/online thing. I spend my days with a paintbrush in my hand and chasing my kiddos around…. I had no idea I could just find articles like yours that could clear up so much confusion and prevent the hours of frustration such as I have had…. yes, with just gardening alone. thanks, good article!

    • Hello it is so good to meet you and I am so happy that I could help If it is alright with you please let me know how everthing goes with your garden. All the best to you and have a good day.

  4. Very thorough post! I have an area that has had conifers on it for quite a while and is pretty much just dirt now. Is it better to plant similar trees again in this area, or can I successfully change the texture so that I can plant something else there?


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