Is Garden Soil The Same As Potting Soil? What Is the Differences?

Garden Soil vs. Potting Soil: Exploring the Key Differences and Which One to Choose!


Correctly chosen soil is the key to your plant to flourish. If you choose the appropriate soil for your beloved green friends, then they will eventually thrive and will make you happy too.

If you plant them in the wrong soil, they will suffer. Therefore, it is important if you differentiate between gardening soil vs potting soil and even potting mix and each type used for.

Since you came across this article, you must be wondering about what kind of soil to choose for your plants and if the garden soil and potting soil are the same.

Well, garden soil and potting soil are not the same.

The major secret in successful gardening is to match the right type of soil to the right plant and, honestly, if you have enough information, that is not difficult at all.

The Key Differences Between Garden And Potting Soil

What is Garden Soil?

Garden soil or in ground soil as some gardeners call it, is topsoil that is rich in organic materials such as different kinds of composts and barks.

Unlike the potting mix, garden soil is rich in organic matter and is very nutritious to the plants. However, it has a heavier texture and can hold the water longer because it is intended for in-ground use.

Garden soil is very cheap and affordable, However, the potting mix comes with ingredients that raise its prices such as perlite, moss, or vermiculite. Also, garden soil is mostly made from dirt.

Garden soil contains various living components.

There are soil microbes including bacteria, protozoa, fungi, nematodes, actinomycetes, and others.

This may sound scary, but it is a good thing actually. Those mix of microbes and tiny mites are great to help the plants and can be beneficial by providing them with needed nutrients.

In most Garden soil mixes, the seeds, microbes, or any harmful insects are eliminated. They are cleaned by high heat that generates during the composting process. All garden soil contains micronutrients and microorganisms.

However, organic garden soils are beneficial and the nutrition has entirely received from the decomposition of natural materials.

What is Potting Soil?

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Potting soil is often also referred to as potting mix. It Mainly contains sphagnum moss, perlite, barks, vermiculite, coir, and compost.

You may not know that the potting soil does not contain soil at all. The reason for this is that the soil mainly has fungus in it.

Therefore, it is avoided and there is a much lower risk that the plant will be infected by fungus. Potting mix is much more sterile in comparison to the garden soil.

When putting the soil in the pot or in the container, it gets compacted and this compaction can not only hold the water but choke the roots and not allow them to get oxygen.

So, They require a good balance of moist and well-draining soil. Potting soils are formulated according to those requirements.

The elements allow the free water to flow, retain the moisture, and also let the roots breathe.

The components of the potting soil such as vermiculite and perlite provide the aerial nature of the mix and create a well-draining system.

Therefore, the water does not get stuck around the roots and root rot is avoided. In some potting mixes, there are fertilizers added to help the growth of the plant.

Another difference is that potting mixes come in many different types and can be made specifically for the species of plants.

For example, you would most likely notice that there are special potting mixes for orchids, roses, cactus, and succulents.

Is Garden Soil The Same As Potting Soil?

Garden soil and potting soil are not the same. They are two very different things and must be used carefully.

In the store, when you get to the garden aisle, you will most likely see two main soil options and those are garden soil and potting soil.

Both of them have quality organic materials and promise some benefits for the plants. For example, both say that they will make the plant strong and healthy.

However, even though they promise the same things, they can not be interchanged.

Garden soil contains the native soil amendment while the potting soil mainly is used for only container gardens and can be beneficial for the houseplants.

If you choose the wrong type, this can lead to moisture buildup and soil compaction. As a result, you will receive a bunch of problems such as root rot and inhibited plant growth. 

What Is Garden Soil Used For?

For the flower beds and raised beds in the garden, the garden soil is the best solution. It is cheap, rich, and will provide your plants with essential nutrition.

If you are making potting soil at home, it is possible to mix the garden soil in it too. This way, you will add some more nutrients to it.

However, you will have to be careful with the amount you put in to avoid further problems.

It is not recommended to use the garden soil in the containers or for the potting plants. It does not contain perlite, pumice, or vermiculite, therefore does not have good drainage.

For the potted plants, good drainage and the soil that breathes are essential.

Potting soil has enough nutritional value to provide and feed the plant through the growing season.

Therefore, it will work great with annuals but can not nourish perennials. On the other hand, garden soil can provide long-term nutrition for perennials.

garden soil can be a great solution if your garden bed soil texture is too heavy and contains clay or if it is too dry and sandy.

Adding some garden soil on top of the garden bed will help you to solve many problems related to the textures. Additionally, it will provide your plants with more nutrients.

When to Use Potting Soil?

You can use potting soil when you get indoor or outdoor plants that are grown in the container or when the seeds are starting.

  • Avoid potting soil for the flower beds and raised beds in the garden. It is because the mix does not have enough nutrients to keep the plants satisfied and fed over the seasons.
  • If you have seeds to grow, then most likely you will need a seed-starting potting mix. This one has a high amount of perlite or vermiculite in it. These elements make the soil extra light and therefore makes the work much easier for the baby plants.
is garden soil the same as potting soil infographic
Garden soil vs potting soil Infographic

The Verdict

After reading this article and finding out about the differences between the garden and potting soils, we can say that they contain different elements. Even more, potting soil does not contain dirt at all.  Potting soil is best for indoor and container plants while garden soil works best outdoors.

If you want to enjoy healthy and gorgeous plants in your garden or at home, choose the appropriate one for them.

As long as you put your love into caring, your plants will thrive and will make your home and garden beautiful with their existence. 

Peride Beradze
Peride is an avid planter, Tour Manager and freelance writer. She is a plant collector who mainly focuses on succulents. She loves studying cultures, traveling and learning new languages.

Calculate the amount of soil you need for pots, raised beds or planter with the help of this easy to use Soil Calculator