Gardening is something that all of us are familiar with. We know that plants need light, air, heat, water, nutrients and several other aspects for growth and development. While most of these required factors are met through the environment, the growing medium (i.e., garden soil or potting soil) provides air, moisture and essential plant nutrients. This is the reason why we water soil and amend it with fertilizers to grow healthy plants. And when it comes to selecting the growth medium for plants, you need to know the differences and similarities between garden soil and potting soil, and proceed according to the requirements.
Potting soil that we get in nursery centers is labeled as soilless. So, what is potting soil? And what is the difference between garden soil and potting soil? Well, the differences between garden soil and potting soil are many, of which some are presented in the following points. A wide range of fertility, acidity, drainage and salt content (if any) are seen in garden soil. Whereas, potting soil types represent a narrow range of all these parameters, and are formulated for growing specific plants.
- From the terms themselves, you can make out the basic difference between garden soil and potting soil. Yes, garden soil is the naturally occurring soil that we have in gardens or perhaps any other piece of arable land. On the other hand, potting soil is commercially sold for container gardening.
- Garden soil contains sand, silt, clay, loam, rocks and minerals in varied amounts. Though potting soil contains natural rocks, minerals and plant matter, they are specifically incorporated to make the soil suitable for growing plants.
- Based on which component is dominant in garden soil, different types of soil are categorized. The fine textured clay soil contains clay particles, while sand grains make up the coarse textured sandy soil. Potting soil is also differentiated according to the type of material used in making it. You will get sand, humus, peat moss and manure types of potting soil.
- Continuing with the components of garden soil and potting soil, the former is often regarded as a living medium. This is because, garden soil provides a healthy environment for different microbes (bacteria, nematodes, fungi, etc.), which altogether represent the soil biota. In contrary to this, potting soil contains no living microbes.
- Preparing garden soil before incorporating plants is meant for loosening the soil particles to promote root growth, and also for removing unwanted weeds. Of course, fertilizer may be mixed with garden soil to increase the nutrient content. Whereas potting soil is prepared with specific amounts of organic and inorganic materials.
- Garden soil is usually not used in potting soil recipes. In some cases, you may find it in the product label. Over here, garden soil is treated for sterilization and then used in preparing potting soil. Besides heat-treated garden soil, the common ingredients used in potting soil are peat moss, perlite, sand, manure and humus.
- Texture wise also, garden soil is different from potting soil. Since soil texture depends upon the constituent ingredients, garden soil (or top soil) is heavy, compact ad somewhat difficult to work with for newbie gardeners. Potting soil is light and less denser than the top soil, making it easy for growing plants in specific sized containers.
- Regarding the application of garden soil and potting soil, both are used for encouraging the growth of healthy plants. The purpose of making potting soil is to physically support the plants and provide nutrients with already incorporated humus. In case of garden soil, it supports vegetation, and the soil microbes break down complex organic matter to supply nutrients to the plants.
- A plus point of using sterile potting soil in gardening is, it reduces the risks of spreading plant pathogens. As said already, garden soil is a natural habitat for several microbes, and it is most likely that the soil biota contains pathogenic organisms too. So, curing garden soil is often done to kill them before planting vegetation.
- Last but not the least, you need to spend more while gardening with potting soil, as compared to maintaining outdoor garden beds. After all, you are expected to purchase bags of potting soil, which may cost as low as a few dollars (for soil with basic components) to as high as USD 25 and more (for potting soil with high amounts of humus).
Thus, garden soil differs from potting soil in various aspects. The thumb rule is, use the top garden soil for maintaining outdoor planting beds, and maintain potted plants by using potting soil. As you now have a brief idea about garden soil vs. potting soil, you can use them correctly to grow healthy and problem-free vegetation. Just make sure that the required environmental factors and nutrients are provided for optimal growth of plants.