Garden soil vs. potting soil is a great concern among gardeners. While the two kinds support crop growth, they have different textures, drainage, and usages. One type is best for crops growing on the ground, while the other is preferred for potted plants.Garden Soil Vs Potting Soil

Also, these soils cannot be used interchangeably. Here, in this article, you will find the main differences between garden and potting soil.

Features  Garden soil Potting soil 
Texture  It has a coarse texture because of the big loam, sandy, and silt soil particles It has a consistency of an even texture
Color  Depending on the percentage of organic matter and oxidized iron, it could be dark brown, red, or tan It is brownish
Living organisms It has millions of organisms like earthworms, bacteria, insects, and other microorganisms It lacks living organisms because it has been heated and treated to kill pathogens
Components  It has a mixture of organic matter like vegetable remains, leaves, tree bark, and weathered rocks It is commercially manufactured with additives like peat moss, coconut husks, and perlite

What Is The Difference Between Garden Soil and Potting Soil?

The main difference between garden soil and potting soil is in the soil components, texture, usage, and color. Gardening soil is obtained from the topsoil of decayed plants and animal matter, weathered rocks, minerals, and living creatures. Whereas potting soil is factory manufactured, containing perlite, sphagnum moss, bark, and compost.

You can differentiate these soils by looking at the presence of living organisms. When closely examining garden soil, you will notice small living organisms like earthworms, insects, and nematodes that it contains as they live in. Potting mix is strongly heated during manufacture to kill pathogens, and living organisms die, and this is because it lacks living organisms.

In addition, if you differentiate colors, it is easy to notice that these soil types have varying hues. Gardening soil is rich in organic material and has a darker brown color. Other gardening soils have oxidized iron that makes it red. On the contrary, potting soil balances everything, so it is primarily brownish, and this is a way to differentiate them just by their physical looks.

The other way to telling these soils apart is by feeling them between your fingers. You will notice that garden soil has a coarser texture. It is a mixture of sand, clay, loam, and silt soil, which give it an uneven texture consistency. Potting soil is factory manufactured with a good proportion of every component, so it has a consistent texture.

If you still cannot tell the differences between the garden and potting soil, look at their usage. If you compare the two soils with regard to their usage, the one used to grow crops on the ground is the garden soil. It has a good balance of drainage properties and nutrients to support plant growth on the ground. Potting mix is used to grow indoor plants in containers or pots.

Exploring Gardening Soil Characteristics, Features, and Uses

Gardening soil is topsoil that has been amended with organic materials like worm castings, manure, and compost. It is premixed with other products depending on its intended use. You can also make garden soil at home by mixing compost, native soil, and peat moss to increase aeration.

– Characteristics

Gardening soil has different components, depending on where the top soil was harvested. Some may have sand, clay and silt, and other minerals that topsoil in other areas lacks. There are different gardening soils for various plants. For example, you must purchase soil with the best nutrients for vegetables, flowers, and other plants, which can be used for different purposes.Uses of Garden Soil

Since gardening soil is harvested from the topsoil and mixed with organic materials, it contains varying particle sizes, hence the varying texture. The soil also has living organisms like earthworms, insects, and nematodes, essential for soil aeration. These also help transport nutrients within the soil, making the nutrients more accessible to plants, and it will give steadiness to the health of your plant.

Thanks to its nutrient-rich richness, the soil is darker brown than other soil types. It has dead, decayed plant remains like barks, leaves, branches, and roots, vegetable and fruit remains, dead animals, and other organic material. These leave the soil nutrient-rich, making it suitable for use on the garden bed and planting crops.

It is important that this soil has a coarse texture; garden soil is known and liked for its good drainage. In addition, this type is a mixture of different soils like clay, loam, and sand, which give it an excellent balance between drainage and water retention, and this way, the roots of the plant will remain strong and so they will develop.

Knowing that this soil also contains parts of loan soil, you may consider if there is a difference between garden soil vs loam soil? While loam soil is a mixture of sand, silt, and clay, just like topsoil, it has less organic material than its counterpart. But gardeners like its ability to retain nutrients and water-holding capacity.

– Benefits

There is specific garden soil for specific plants because the soil has varying nutrients and minerals. This soil is suitable for use in vegetable gardens or raised beds, and this way, it retains enough water for crops growing in these mediums, supporting their development. Topsoil is also ideal for plants growing in the backyard, but ensure it has the right minerals for crop growth.Soil for Vegetable Gardens

You can also use gardening soil for landscaping as a top dressing. It contains all the minerals and nutrients your plants need and offers good aeration and water-holding capacities. The soil also supports the growth of many plants, including grass. The topsoil can be applied by digging the ground and mixing the soil.

And since topsoil has good drainage for growing plants in the garden, gardeners mix it with compost, peat moss, and other nutrients to add nutrients. These make the soil healthier for plant growth, hence a better yield.

Now you probably are wondering and asking yourself, can I use garden soil in pots, then you must know that using topsoil for potted plants is inadvisable because it is heavy and dense. The soil type lacks the proper drainage potting plants require because their soil is squeezed into a container. The heaviness of garden soil does not allow oxygen exchange, which can lead to the suffocation of plants.

And if you are looking forward to learning about how to turn garden soil into potting soil, start by sterilizing the miracle-gro garden soil by baking it in a microwave. Then, mix the sterilized soil with peat moss and perlite to help retain moisture and to create air spaces. Lastly, give the soil a good shake to mix, and you’ll have your homemade potting mix.

– Drawbacks

The soil contains most nutrients your plants require but has downsides. For instance, it is heavy and dense, making it hard to transport. The heaviness also makes the soil retain a lot of water, affecting crops that grow better in moist environments and not soggy ones.

This soil is also only suitable for crops grown on the ground. When used in container plants, it could lead to nutrient deficiencies due to the soil’s acidity level. It is also not suitable for container gardens. Also, garden soil has many living organisms, which can lead to bacterial and fungi spread in containerized plants, and in any case, it also supports weed growth which slows plant growth.

Understanding Potting Soil Characteristics, Features, and Uses

Potting soil, is a unique soilless formula containing peat moss, compost, and perlite. This is the type that doesn’t include any microorganisms, and it’s because the soil has gone through a heating process. Potting mixes can also contain coconut coir, vermiculite, and slow-release fertilizers.Potting Soil Characteristics

Organic potting mixes have composted manure, kelp meal, and worm castings, among other natural ingredients. Some mixes have an acidic PH, making them suitable for acid-loving plants, and others have an alkaline pH. When choosing potting soil, check the acidity level so that you will be able to match your plant’s needs.

– Characteristics

One way to differentiate potting soil from other soil amendments is by checking the texture. The soil comprises an even mixture of all its components, giving it a fine consistent texture.  This type of soil mix is also brown because of the present minerals.

When manufacturing potting soils, they undergo sterilization to kill pathogens. The process kills other living organisms like insects and earthworms. This is why, unlike ordinary soil, potting mix lacks living organisms and wouldn’t have the given benefits as others would.

However, it is lightweight, making it good for drainage, and this is also a good choice if you don’t wish for the plants to develop any fungi as water would stay surrounding the roots. This makes it suitable for growing crops that prefer moist environments to soggy ones. The soil’s particles also allow aeration, making it ideal for most plants.

Unlike gardening soil harvested from topsoil, the potting mix contains additional nutrients like nitrogen, organic material, and synthetic fertilizers. Since it is not ‘true soil,’ it contains pH balancing agents and other additives like perlite and coconut husks.

– Benefits

Organic soils are best for container gardening. The soils have good drainage and aeration, the top requirements for container plants. This is because container plants are squeezed in the medium, with little space for the plants to breathe. However, you must ensure your containers have drainage holes to avoid root rot.Potting Mix for Raised Bed

Potting soil is also suitable for seed starting as the soil is light and airy, making it easy for new plant roots to penetrate, and it also has additional nutrients that support strong and healthy plant growth, making it suitable for growing seedlings. Also, always choose potting soil when growing outdoor plants in containers, and this is because these plants need well-draining and nutrient-rich soil.

Now you may also think to yourself, should you use potting mix or garden soil for raised bed? The best soil for raised beds is garden soil because it holds nutrients better, has more water-holding capacities, and gives garden crops the best nutrients that potting mix might not have. However, always decide on the topsoil with nutrients that suit your crop.

You can also use potting mix to increase the ability of soil to retain moisture. Mix it with gardening soil to improve aeration and drainage. You can also mix it with soils with coarse texture to enhance water retention power.

– Drawbacks

While potting soil has many uses, it has some downsides. First, the soil is sterilized during manufacturing to kill pathogens. The process also kills other beneficial living organisms like earthworms and insects responsible for spreading nutrients within the soil.

Also, potting soil is expensive, making it unaffordable to some farmers. It is factory-made and does not support weed growth and the spread of pathogens, hence the high price as the quality is one to look up to. You should also not use potting mix on ground-grown crops because it doesn’t hold nutrients for long, ans the soil is also lightweight and can be carried away by water easily.


Garden vs. potting soil is not similar, as seen in this discussion. Garden soil is mainly a mixture of topsoil with dead, decaying matter, living organisms, and stones. On the other hand, potting mix is manufactured. It is made from sphagnum moss, bark, compost, and perlite, and the soils also have different characteristics and uses.

Choosing between gardening and potting soil should depend on your plant’s requirements and when you grow them. For example, gardening soil is suitable for plants growing in a vegetable garden, raised bed, or yard, while potting mix is best for potted or container plants. Also, always check the nutrient values of each for healthy plants.

5/5 - (19 votes)
Evergreen Seeds