Potting Soil, Planting Mix, or Top Soil?

New gardeners are always baffled by the plethora of choices when it comes to dirt.  In this blog we are going to see if we can’t bring some clarification to the topic.

First things first: It’s not dirt.  The word dirt in fact means something that will make you filthy.  No, really look it up.  When we are gardening what we want to talk about is soil.  Soil, is specifically the medium that plants grow in and it’s important to remember that because all plants grow in a slightly different medium, which is one of the reasons that there are so many choices.  So let’s look at each of the three broad categories.

Top Soil: Top soil is what you want if you are planting directly into the ground.  It is essentially decayed organic materials and sediment that sits on top of the natural bedrock.  You may wonder if it occurs naturally why you need to buy it.  That is a good question.  The thing is that a lot of the plants that we tend to grow in our gardens are non-native, and take a lot of nutrients each growing season.  So, our natural top soil may not have the nutrients left that you need for what you want to grow. The other thing is depending on what made up the top soil, your soil will have different acidity levels.  This is neither good nor bad as asparagus needs a high alkaline soil, but watermelon needs a more acidic soil. A good top soil mix will try and level the playing field as it were, it will help bring your soil back to neutral by balancing all the common nutrients plants need and you can then add or subtract ph and nutrients depending on what you want yo grow.  We highly recommend the E.B. Stone Top soil plus.  It is made in California for California gardens which is important, because like most things a healthy garden is all about location.

Planting Mix: Planting mix is kind of a middle ground if you will.  You can use it in pots and you can use it directly in your garden. It is formulated for outside usage.  So, why wouldn’t you always choose planting mix when it can do everything?  Like most compromises planting mix is a great neutral start.  However, you will need to add fertilizer and nutrients with it to a garden bed, and you will need to be more mindful of drainage in potted plants and raised beds.  However, if you are just starting out, or if you do a lot of both in-ground and container gardening, then you will want planting mix.  We again recommend the E.B. stone organic planting mix, for the same reasons that it was developed in California for California gardens.  It is also certified organic, which is better for your plants and for you.

Potting Soil: Potting soil is exactly what it sounds like. If what you mostly do is plant things in containers you want potting soil.  If you are planting something inside, you want potting soil.  Potting soils often don’t have anything that we would normally call soil in them.  Because they are formulated to help keep roots from rotting, they have a lot of airy ingredients that will help with drainage, and tend to have a lot more nutrients because the plants will not be able to pull anything out of the ground.  In this case we recommend the Greenall potting soil.  They also have a certified organic blend if you would rather do that.  We love container gardening and have tried every new trend from pallet gardens and square foot gardening to fairy gardens and found object planters.  We have always used the Greenall potting soil land it has never disappointed us.

We know that you want a chart that says: if you’re growing this then buy this.  But gardening doesn’t really work that way.  It is a science and different plants do need different nutrients and environments.  But in terms of your soil, it’s best to consider your location and choose a basic soil and then balance the soil depending on the plant with fertilizers and plant foods.  Which we will discuss in another post.

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