Advantages and disadvantages

Garden soil or potting soil: advantages and disadvantages

The soil you choose for your plants can affect their health and the speed at which they grow. Not all soils are the same. Should you use potting soil or gardening soil, and why would it make a difference? The answer lies in the purpose of the soil. Plants in soil have different needs than plants in containers. There may be many reasons to use potting soil rather than garden soil to grow container plants.
Most of the time, potting soil keeps potted plants healthier. But there are situations where potting soil is too expensive and garden soil, which is usually free, works just as well. For outdoor container plants, you have the option of using either a potting mix or a homemade garden soil mix with soil improvers. That is why it is important to know when to use garden soil and what its advantages are over potting soil.

Advantages and disadvantages of garden soil

Advantages of garden soil . Soils are formulated to have a medium pH for plant needs, provide drainage and generally contain basic nutrients. Garden soils vary depending on the location and the amount of soil amendments the gardener has put into the soil, unless you are using a purchased product that can be expensive over large areas. They usually contain a large amount of organic matter in the form of compost. One of the advantages of garden soil is that it is easily renewable. Simply saving kitchen scraps and incorporating them into the soil can improve the texture, composition and density of nutrients. Another advantage of garden soil is that it compacts well around plant roots, allowing them to develop a thick root base.
When to use garden soil . Garden soil is ideal for outdoor plants. Most garden soils are clay, sand or silt, but their composition can be changed by adding natural soil improvers such as compost. They can be used in containers, but it is necessary to add perlite and peat to increase porosity. Do not use garden soil in containers that will be taken indoors, as they may contain insect eggs that could hatch. The pH of undisturbed garden soil is best suited to native plants. Native plants in the area are adapted to this type of soil and pH. Starting to grow vegetables outdoors or building a flowerbed are excellent uses for garden soil.
Adjusting the garden soil . Very inexpensive soil tests are available at most nursery centres. You can use them to determine the pH of your soil and possible nutrient deficiencies. The pH of the plants is between 6.0 and 8.0. This range is also perfect for fruit trees and most ornamental plants. Some plants, such as hydrangeas, prefer a slightly more acidic soil that can be obtained by adding sulphur or gypsum. If your soil is too acidic, you can soften it with lime. Adding several layers of compost or well putrefied manure to the garden bed will increase the nutrient content, porosity and improve the soil structure naturally.

Advantages and disadvantages of potting soil

Soil is better for containers . Potting mixes are generally composed of ingredients that retain water and nutrients, and others that promote good drainage and aeration. Examples include peat, vermiculite (an expanded clay material), perlite, coconut, compost or bark. Quality potting soils are much less compact than garden soil. These qualities help potted plants to cope with the difficulties of living in a container.
Potting soil can be identical to potting soil, or it can contain soil as one of the ingredients. Read the label to see what you get. If the ingredient mixture contains soil, the product can be added to raised beds or outer containers, but it is not ideal for use in inner containers. Soil-free potting soils are best for most indoor plants, but they are generally too light and fluffy to be used in garden beds.
Soil is best suited for specific plants . Many varieties of potting soil are available in garden shops, hardware stores and other outlets. These can be designed for different types of plants and situations. You will find succulent cacti and soils, acid loving plant mixes, African violet mixes and water retention mixes designed for people who often forget to water their plants.
Soils are generally easier . If you use garden soil for outdoor containers or raised beds, you will need to add a source of nutrients, and you may need to increase the percentage of organic matter, improve drainage, or change the pH. To do this, you will probably need to purchase several different amendments to mix them. On the other hand, potting soil and potting mixes are usually designed to be used directly from the bag. You can simply fill the container and add the plant. Some potting mixes also contain fertilizers, compost, worms, bone meal or other ingredients that provide nutrients or improve soil qualities.
Fresh potting mix reduces the possibility of disease . Another major advantage of potting soil is a reduced likelihood of disease. This is especially true if the bag is labelled «sterile mixture». Sterile potting mix is ideal for starting seed, as seedlings are particularly susceptible to disease. Look for mixtures specifically labelled for seed starter.
Potting soil . The main disadvantage of potting soil is that it can be expensive, whereas soil from your own garden is free. Some plants can be damaged by a mixture of pots intended for another type of plant. Also, some potting mixes are not suitable for organic gardening because of the synthetic ingredients they contain.
How can the advantages of potting soil over garden soil be maintained?
Potting soils and garden soils have very different compositions and therefore very different objectives. In most cases, garden soil is good for any outdoor application, while potting soil is best for indoor applications, such as seed initiation and indoor plant growth. While potting soil has many advantages for potted plants, the expense is probably not worth it if you are planting outdoor plants on a large scale. From an economic point of view, garden soil can be repaired for very little money and is ideal for large garden areas. In general, both have their place in the world of the gardener and must be used in the right application to get the best results.

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