What’s The Difference Between Potting Soil and Garden Soil?

by | Last updated Apr 29, 2022

potting soil go bad

Whether you are a newbie or a professional in gardening, you know the importance of soil when it comes to the growth and health of the plant. But it can be challenging to spot the distinction between garden and potting soil

So we took it upon ourselves to bring you this handy guide that will help you know everything about them. With that being said, let’s get started!

Whats The Difference Between Potting Soil and Garden Soil
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What is Garden Soil?

Garden soil is a blend of organic matter, compost, etc., which lies on the top layer of the soil. You can get garden soil right from your garden or buy it from the nearest local store. Either way, you should ensure that it contains the perfect ratio of all the vital nutrients and other elements. 

Moreover, garden soil enriches the topsoil, which helps in the maturation and growth of plants. So make sure you get garden soil that fulfills the needs of your plants and can provide moisture, growth, and more. There are a variety of garden soil types, so you must select the one that ticks the necessary boxes.

Advantages of Garden Soil  

  • It is cheap and easily available, so you can get these from any local store or just dig up some from your backyard. 
  • It is known for its excellent moisture-holding capacity for your plants in dry weather conditions. It retains a considerable amount of water for a prolonged duration, preventing the soil from drying out. 
  • This soil is suitable for outdoor plants as it contains a variety of natural and compost-based constituents. However, it’s ideal if you use fertilizer every once in a while to revitalize the soil. 

Disadvantages of Garden Soil

  • Garden soil is intended to be mixed with the natural dirt found in your yard, not used as a stand-alone growing medium. So it is not the ideal soil for plant growth. The nutrients present are beneficial to your garden, but they will need to be supplemented with fertilizer over time.
  • Another critical factor of any soil is the weight it holds. It is ideal to have lightweight soil, but you should ensure your plant stays sturdy in the ground even on a windy day, especially if it is an immature plant with a weak root system. Garden soil is ‘heavy’ because of its high moisture content, which often leads to the compaction of the soil. 
  • Garden soil is known for retaining moisture. Still, the high moisture content attracts various microorganisms and can cause fungus development. In addition, the damp soil can further lead to root rot, damaging the whole plant. 
  • It is ideal to use garden soil primarily for outdoor or in-ground-based gardens only, as it generally lacks the nutrient concentration and structure required to support potted plants. In addition, the soil can be dense, condensed, and soggy, which could potentially suffocate your plant. 

When to Use Garden Soil

When to Use Garden Soil
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Typically, garden soil is used for outdoor plants. You should mix it with topsoil soil in the garden, making it excellent for growing the inground plants. However, you need to fertilize this soil with elements like peat moss and other chemicals to provide better drainage and nutrients. 

What is Potting Soil?

Potting soil is used to grow a myriad of plants in pots or durable containers. Typically, this soil is used for indoor plants and contains elements that boost their growth. For any home gardener, ingredients like peat moss, compost, vermiculite, etc., are important as it makes the soil lightweight and provides it with minerals. 

Furthermore, you should remember that you can get different combinations of ingredients in the potting soil depending on your plants. 

Advantages of Potting Soil 

  • Potting soil is light and airy, promoting excellent air and water circulation throughout the plant. The airy space lets your soil breathe and does not clog up with water. 
  • This soil is inexpensive, and you can get bagged potting soil from your local store. Moreover, you can even store this for a long time in an airtight container as it does not have an expiry date. 
  • Potting soil is rich in nutrients, making it perfect for your indoor garden as it ensures your plant is healthy. Moreover, this soil does not break down and lose its nutrients value which adds to its functionality. 
  • Ingredients such as perlite and vermiculite in potting soil provide excellent aeration and drainage for your plant. 

Disadvantages of Potting Soil 

  • Although it doesn’t have an expiry date, the quality of the soil might deteriorate over time. The nutrients, texture, etc., will change after a while, which will not be beneficial to your plant. 
  • The soil can go bad quickly if not stored properly in an airtight container that is cleaned off from debris or dirt. 
  • The soil might need additional fertilizer to restore the low nutrition level. 

When to Use Potting Soil

Potting soils help sustain plant life and vegetation; it is evident that garden soils are easily compact when placed in a container and may not be ideal for plant roots. And this is where potting soil comes in; this soil retains water for periods and does not shrink when placed in containers.

Garden Soil vs. Potting Soil 

Garden Soil vs. Potting Soil
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Now that you know the basics of both the garden and potting soil, we can move on and compare these two for your better understanding so that you can make a well-informed decision for your garden. 

1. Source 

To put it simply, garden soil comprises decomposed plants and animals. You can get this soil by digging up your backyard and using it for your outdoor plants. 

Potting soil is a blend of various elements that enriches your soil, and it is manufactured commercially. You can get these in local garden stores, and it comes packed in a bag. 

2. Composition 

The composition of your garden soil varies greatly depending on your area. But this soil comprises weathered minerals like rocks or pebbles, decayed plants, remains of animals, and a slew of living organisms that naturally decomposed on the ground over time to enrich it with different nutrients. 

On the other hand, potting soil is packaged and made in the same place but is composed of a variety of products. Some essential elements are peat moss, perlite, composted sawdust, etc. All of these organic elements provide care for your plant. 

3. Drainage 

You must drain your soil well to prevent your plant from suffocating from clogged air circulation. Garden soil naturally consists of these air pockets, and outdoor plants thrive in the loose soil when left alone. This is because if the soil is too compacted, then roots will not have enough air and water for appropriate circulation, which leads to the poor development of these plants. 

Potting soil helps retain the air and water that plants in enclosed containers require to thrive. Generally, potting soil holds more air and water than garden soil. 

4. Weight 

Garden soil contains a high concentration of organic matter and also is high in moisture. Moreover, it can be compacted with water as it is heavy and dense, leading to root rot, suffocation of plants, etc.

However, when it comes to potting soil, it can retain moisture, but it also allows proper drainage because it is light and airy. 

The common mistake any gardener can make is assuming potting mix and soil are the same, but the main difference is that potting mix is soaked in water while potting soil contains air, making it lightweight. 

5. Nutrients 

As you know, garden soil is formed of many decayed plants and animals that are full of nutrients which is good for the outdoor garden soil. However, these nutrients degrade over time and replenish naturally. 

In potting soil, these nutrients are limited, but it is enough to make your indoor plants thrive as they cannot easily be replenished.

The Verdict

Garden soil is typically used for outdoor gardens and often requires additional supplements to keep plants healthy. On the other hand, potting soil is lightweight and perfect for indoor plants. It is supplemented with limited nutrients but still keeps your plants wholesome.

Now you know the major difference between garden and potting soil; this will help you in your future gardening endeavors. I hope you had a great time reading this article and found it insightful. Happy Gardening! 

Shelbi Clifford

Shelbi Clifford

Hi, I'm Shelbi! I am the founder of Houseplant Advisor - a blog for all things houseplants. Whether you are looking to add some green to your home or want to learn about how plants can help improve air quality in your space, Houseplant Advisor is here with the answers. Do you have any questions? Feel free to reach out and ask me anything!

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