When shopping for soil it can be a little overwhelming with all the different choices. You have organic garden soil, garden soil, potting mix, organic potting mix, etc. So which one is right for your container garden? Well lets break down what each soil is meant for, and how it effects what you grow.
Lets start with garden soil. Garden soil is basically dirt pulled up from a few inches in ground. Soil from your own back yard can be considered garden soil. This type of soil is good for doing in-ground plants. So if you don’t have desirable soil in your yard (it’s too sand, clay-like, etc.) then you can grab a couple of bags of soil to compensate that. Most of the time you’ll see a warning on garden soil bags that says “NOT FOR CONTAINER USE”. The reason for this is because the soil won’t drain well in containers, causing watering issues (not retaining enough water is normally the main issues, but sometimes retaining too much water can be the problem). Another issue is the fertilizers that are present in the soil. When you use gardening soil in a yard the fertilizers can spread out, but in a container there is no where for the fertilizers to go, so your plants can overdose on the fertilizer. This creates sickly plants, or may just out right kill them.
Now, since gardening soil is just dirt then what is potting mix? Good question! Potting mix is generally a mix of peat moss, perlite, and some compost. It has little to no soil in it do to the fact that soil is too heavy for most container plants. With potting mix you can pretty much get what you need for your particular plant. Some plants like a heavy peat moss mix while others prefer a heavy perlite mix. Potting mixes are also sterilized to kill any fungus, diseases, or larvae that might be present in the mix. Potting mix is better for household plants because it doesn’t have fertilizers in it, and it has better drainage to avoid common watering issues.
The down fall of potting soil is that it’s pretty expensive. A bag can cost around 12-15 dollars. If you have a lot of containers you need to fill then that can get pretty expensive. A good mix that I have found that works for me is combining equal parts peat moss to perlite. I normally mix up a few gallons and then save it in a large container until use. You can mess with your own recipe to find a good mix that you like. Some people will add a small percentage of sterilized soil, or sand to cut back on costs. If you add sand, then cut back on the perlite. Either way find a mix that works well for your needs.
So what about organic garden or potting mixes? Organic mixes are good for growing vegetables, or any edible plant. When growing plants you don’t plan on eating normal mixes are find, but with edible plants you may want to use an organic or natural mix. This means that everything used in the mix is not chemically made or altered. So your plants are safe to eat!
I hope I cleared up some questions you may have had about soil!