Potting Soil Vs Garden Soil – Differences Which Mean A Lot

How many times did you want just to fill a pot with flowers with the dirt from the garden? If it is suitable for other plants, flowers will grow too, right? Wrong. There are a lot of differences between potting and garden soil, and I will present them in this article.

Potting soil vs garden soil is a debate which lasts for some time, and while many people are claiming that the first is better than the latter, I want to give a deeper insight into this matter. So, let’s get straight to it, shall we?


Potting Soil Vs Garden Soil – Differences Which Mean A Lot

What Is Soil (Generally Speaking)?


Speaking of the general meaning of the term “soil” I can say that it is the ground beneath our feet where various kinds of plants and vegetables grow. However, there is more than meets the eye.

Regarding gardening, the soil is a medium which fills the pot where the plants grow or an area where a garden is set. It consists of various particles of minerals and organic material, although it can be strictly organic in origin.

Every soil has a pH value which goes from 0 to 14 and represents the acidity of it. Not all plants need the same conditions, so it is sometimes difficult to adjust it appropriately. Water porosity is also essential because it represents how fast the water runs from the surface toward lower layers.

Concerning consistency and how good the soil passes the water, it can be:

  • Sandy – as the name suggests, it contains a lot of sand, and water goes down rather fast.
  • Loamy – retains water just as it should be, allowing the plant to absorb it before it goes further below.
  • Clay – slippery and keeps the water on the surface for a long time, and can cause a lot of trouble with mold and fungi. Except for several varieties of flowers and grass, almost no plant requires this type of soil.

Obviously, loamy soil is what I was aiming for my containers. Still, I was skeptic about using garden soil in my pots, and here is why.

Why Not Use Garden Soil?

garden soil

As I said, every soil consists of tiny particles of sand, stone, organic matter and similar. However, because these particles are small, they tend to get compact and settle, particularly after an extended period. Watering also speeds up this process, so it is clear why it shouldn’t be used.

The worst thing which can happen once the soil settles is that the air flow will stop. Now imagine the conditions. It is dark, damp and warm inside a pot. Say hello to fungal diseases!

No matter how much organic matter you include, there is also a question of microorganisms. Outside, the soil is exposed to various conditions, and via rain and wind, it can get “infected” with fungal spores or insect eggs. Surely you don’t want these to invade your plants, do you?

Of course, you can disinfect the soil by baking it in the oven, but some viruses are resistant to high temperatures so that this method won’t help too much. On the other hand, potting soil is made in sterile conditions and additionally protected from these.

Why Use Potting Soil?

potting soil

There is a difference between potting soil and potting mix. There will be a few words about that in following period, but for now, it is enough to know that potting soil shouldn’t contain dirt at all.

It is made of organic matter, such as leaves, straw, and everything else which makes good hummus. Since the particles are bigger than those who make the soil, it will take a lot more time for this to settle, which prolongs and improves the quality of it.

Also, organic matter is known to retain the optimal amount of water while passing anything “extra” at the same time, which in return reduces chances of your plants to get struck by rot or mold. Most importantly, the air flow will be superb, thus improving growth of the plant.


So, there it is. The reasons on why not to use garden soil in containers are at your disposal. There is also a factor of control which needs to be pointed out since you can see and decide whether potting soil will have fertilizer added or not. Ultimately, it will be the same every time you buy it.

In any case, potting soil vs garden soil, what are your thoughts on this subject? Have you ever fall into this trap? Feel free to share your experiences in the comment section below.

Leave a Comment