MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Garden Soil Vs. Potting Soil…What’s The Difference?

Raising a healthy plant can be intimidating. In addition to having to account for all the different amounts of water & sunlight they need, you also have to be mindful of your plant’s soil & how often it needs to be replaced. Because, while all dirt may look the same when it stains your pants, there are differences.  So, what’s the difference between garden soil and potting soil?

Indoor & outdoor plants have different needs, so it’s important to choose the right soil for the job. Garden soil is the closest to natural dirt that you might find in your backyard. It contains regular topsoil mixed with nutrient-dense components like composted bark, mushrooms, and livestock manure. It has a dense composition high in water retention, which is great for outdoor flowers, herbs, and vegetables that thrive on irregular hydration.

Water retention is less of an issue for houseplants, though, so indoor plants should generally be watered fairly regularly. Potted plants benefit from a looser, more fast-draining soil to give their contained roots as much breathing room as possible. What’s interesting about potting soil, though, is that it doesn’t contain any actual dirt. Instead, it’s a blend of things like bark, sphagnum moss, perlite, vermiculite, compost, and coconut coir, which all combined gives houseplants the nutrients they need without exposing them to the fungi & other nasty stuff potentially present in garden soil.

Once you determine the best type of soil for your plants, the next step is to figure out how often it should be changed out (if at all). If the roots of your houseplant start poking through the pot’s drainage holes, your plant’s telling you it needs a bigger container & a fresh round of soil. The best time to transfer your plant to a new pot is early spring, when it’s already experiencing a growth surge. And even plants that don’t need to be repotted fully can still benefit from being topped off with some fresh potting soil around this time of year.

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