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Laurie Garretson: Topsoil vs. potting soil – you decide | Home And Garden

Laurie Garretson: Topsoil vs. potting soil – you decide | Home And Garden


Being a gardener you have more than likely heard the words “topsoil” and “potting soil” many times. But have you ever really considered what these two words mean and which one is what you might be needing for your particular garden jobs?

Basically topsoil is dirt and potting soil isn’t. Topsoil is for planting in the ground. Potting soil is for planting in containers.

Topsoil comes from the top layer of the Earth’s crust, from all over the planet. Topsoil can be rich in nutrients because plants, animals and insects have lived and died in it for thousands of years.

Topsoil found in a forest could contain all types of rotted vegetation. Topsoil found in farm fields probably has been tilled many times, over many years, and could be depleted of nutrients.

Topsoils often contain clay, sand, composted manure, weed seeds, soil bacterias and fungi.

Topsoil is heavy, holds lots of water and can stay wet for a long time. Topsoil is also dense and often leads to compaction.

On the other hand, potting soil can be a mixture of all types of organic materials. The different ingredients of potting soils are precisely mixed using strict formulas and recipes. Potting soil is mostly air so it is light. Potting soil lets water drain easily and can dry out quickly.

Potting soil is fluffy and can be hard to pack down. Potting soils are for hanging baskets, planters, window boxes and other types of containers.

Potting soils let excess water drain out of the bottom of containers by gravity, while pulling in air to replace the water. Because plants breathe through their roots, they can thrive in potting soil as long as they are fertilized and watered regularly.

Using the right kind of soils for each specific project is one key to successful gardening.

Until next time, let’s try to garden with nature not against it and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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