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Potting Soil Vs. Garden Soil

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One of the most important elements plants need to thrive is good soil. If you've finally decided to start a garden, note that you can grow your plants in two ways; with garden soil or potting soil. Garden soil is topsoil that has been enriched to improve plant growth.

Potting soil is a substrate for growing plants, vegetables, and herbs, in a pot or other plant suitable containers.

Although both soils are excellent growing mediums, using them interchangeably may cause several plant complications.

Choosing the wrong soil for your plant can lead to problems such as soil compaction and moisture buildup.

In this article, you'll learn about the differences between potting soil and garden soil and which one is suitable for your plant.  

Our Pick

Since garden soil and potting soil contain different ingredients and nutrients, they are not to be used interchangeably.

We recommend garden soil for gardeners who want to go large scale or focus on growing outdoor plants.

Garden soils are more affordable, provide long-term nutrition, and are suitable for every outdoor application.

On the other hand, potting soil is expensive, and you may have to break the bank to use them in the long run.

Furthermore, they aren't suitable for perennials since they limit root growth/movement.   

What is Potting Soil?


Potting soils contain a blend of organic substrates specially prepared to enhance the growth of container plants.

Keep in mind, however, that potting soils may or may not contain actual soil. They are usually a mix of perlite, vermiculite, peat moss, and bark.

Furthermore, they go into your window boxes, flowerpots, and other durable containers.

Potting soils are very lightweight and contain the necessary nutrients your plants require to flourish.

This soil product doesn't clump when squeezed together and is more suitable for growing container plants.

What is Garden Soil?


Garden soil consists of natural topsoil with a blend of inexpensive organic materials. The soil product typically contains several organic materials such as kitchen waste, chicken manure, cow compost, mushroom compost, etc.

Garden soils are heavier than potting soils and usually clump together when squeezed.

A good garden soil provides your plant with all the nutrients it needs and helps keep your roots in check. Also, they are perfect for large-scale gardening and growing shrubs and perennials.

Similarities Between Potting Soil and Gardening Soil

Although there are many differences between potting and gardening soils, they also have a few similarities. So, what similarities do they share? Let's have a look:

Easily Available

Potting and gardening soils are easy to find, and you can get them from online garden stores or your local gardening supply stores.

Rich Nutrient Content

Both soil products are rich in nutrient content to help boost plant growth. However, note that the nutrient content may vary depending on the soil's preparation method.


Both potting and garden soils are versatile in that they are available in different varieties. Therefore, you can easily find a suitable match for your plant.

Differences Between Potting Soil and Garden Soil 


Garden soil is natural earth, rich in organic matter such as plant and animal leftovers.

Plus, you can dig this soil from your backyard or buy it in bulk from your local garden store. On the other hand, potting soils are a specially prepared soil type.

They are always commercially produced and may contain ingredients from different parts of the world.

They usually contain a blend of perlite, composite plant matter, peat moss, and other ingredients.

Plus, you can purchase them from online garden stores or your local garden center. There are several other differences between potting soils and garden soils. Here are the main differences between both soil types:


One of the main differences between both soil types is the cost. Potting soils are far more expensive than garden soils. They may drain your account if you want to go large scale or fill your fill bed.

On the other hand, garden soils are more affordable, and you don't need to buy them in large quantities because you can get some from your backyard or garden.

Potting soils are more suitable for growing indoor plants because they require more nutrients and structure,

However, you can mix your garden soil with some potting soil to enhance nutrient content but only do so sparingly.

Material Composition


Garden soils contain a blend of organic matter such as animal matter, plant matter, tiny rocks, and a slew of living organisms. Furthermore, the material composition of garden soils varies from place to place.

Unlike garden soils, potting soils' material composition has been carefully selected to improve plant growth.

Most potting soils contain a blend of perlite, peat moss, bark, and other manufactured ingredients. 

Weight and Density

Garden soils are heavy, dense, and hold water for longer periods. However, note that this soil type is more prone to compaction.

On the other hand, potting soil is light and fluffy, has better airflow, and is not compaction prone.

Living Organisms

Garden soil is home to many living organisms, including bacteria, fungi, bugs, earthworms, and others. These living organisms are beneficial to both soil and plant health.

On the other hand, potting soils are sterile and free of living organisms. However, you may find some bag of potting soil that contains beneficial mycorrhizal fungi.

The Best Time to Use Potting Soil


As you may already know, not all plants will thrive in a natural setting/soil, so you'll need to give your plant a special type of soil.

Potted soils are suitable for growing both indoor and outdoor container plants. They are the best soil for growing houseplants, plant seedlings, and exotic plants.

On a related note, potting soil is suitable for growing plants or seeds vulnerable to diseases.

Additionally, they are suitable for growing plant roots that require lots of air and water. Also, this soil type is perfect for apartments and plants that don't require much soil.

You can use potting soils in planters, hanging baskets, window boxes, and other containers.

However, just ensure the potting container has enough holes at the bottom to promote air and water flow.

There are a variety of potting mixes on the market, many of which have been specifically designed to meet certain plant needs.

You can purchase succulent, seed-starting, cactus, and orchid potting soil. Also, you can get potting mixes for growing organic vegetables.

The Best Time to Use Natural Garden Soil

Garden soils are perfect for raising a garden bed and leveling lawns. Plus, they are the perfect choice for growing shrubs and perennial trees.

Garden soils are usually sold in bulks and may contain other ingredients to boost plant growth.

If you plan on using garden soil, ensure you get a laboratory soil test to know what you are working with.

This test will inform you of the soil's PH, nutrient content, and the type of fertilizer to apply.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Can you use garden soil to grow container plants?

Yes, you can use your garden soil to grow container plants. However, this may not be the best idea.

As long as you can get your hands on potting soil, they are generally preferable for growing potted plants.

Garden soils are dense, compaction-prone, and don't drain water easily, making them unsuitable for potted plants.

Plus, your plants may not get access to enough nutrients and won't grow as fast as you would expect. In summary, your plants will still grow on them, but potting soil is a better option.

  1. Can you use potting soil in a garden bed?


Potting soils will make a great addition to your garden bed. Plant seedlings are grown in sterile potting soil until they become old enough to withstand harsh conditions in the garden.

Mixing your garden soil with potting soil will help lighten the soil. However, combining potting soil and garden soil is a good mix for raised beds, not container plants.

  1. What is organic soil?

Organic soils are soils that contain a variety of natural ingredients such as plant and animal matter.

Organic soils are usually made using soil microbes, plant matter, animal matter, moisture, and tiny rocks.

  1. When is the best time to change the soil in your pot?

You can change your potting soil every 12 to 18 months to keep your plants healthy. However, you can change it sooner if you notice that the soil is becoming hardened or that its health is deteriorating.


Different plants have different soil requirements. The two main ways to grow plants are in potting soil and in garden soil.

These soil types are easy to find, nutrient-rich, and available in different varieties. However, using these soil types interchangeably may not be the best thing to do for your plants.

Garden soils are dense, heavy, hold water, and consist of natural ingredients. You can easily find them in your backyard, perfect for outdoor garden beds. 

On the other hand, potting soils are fluffy, light, and drain water well. They are perfect for growing seedlings and container plants. You can get potting soils from your local garden stores.

We hope this article helped you decide which of the soils is better for your garden.

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