Can You Use Gardening Soil in Pots?

When you’re container gardening, the type of soil you use is very important. You want to make sure that the plants have what they need to thrive, and that can vary depending on the plants you choose. Some gardeners will simply use regular potting soil in their containers, but others wonder if they can use gardening soil instead. In this guide, we’ll answer that question and give you some tips on how to create a successful container garden using gardening soil!

What is the Difference Between Garden Soil and Potting Soil

Pot gardening is a type of container gardening that uses smaller pots or containers to grow plants. The plants in these pots are usually annuals, herbs, or vegetables. Container gardening is a great way to grow plants if you don’t have a lot of space. It can also be used to add color and interest to your porch or patio.

One of the most important aspects of pot gardening is choosing the right type of soil for your plants.
The type of soil you use can determine how well your plants grow, how healthy they are, and even how long they live.

What is the Difference Between Garden Soil and Potting Soil

There are two main types of soil used in gardening: garden soil and potting soil. Before you can answer the main question of this article, it’s important to understand the difference between them.

What is a Garden Soil

Garden soil is the type of soil that is found in your yard. It’s a mix of sand, clay, organic matter, and minerals. This type of soil is often referred to as topsoil. Topsoil is the uppermost layer of soil that contains most of the nutrients and minerals needed by plants.

The main difference between garden soil and potting mix is that garden soil is much heavier than potting soil because of its dense structure. This makes it difficult for roots to grow through it and get the oxygen they need. Additionally, garden soils often contain weed seeds, pests, and disease which can infect your plants.

While it might seem easier to go out and take some of the garden soil to use in your pots, it’s not recommended. Unless you take the time to properly prepare it, chances are it will do more harm than good.

If you have good-quality garden soil, you may be able to use it in containers without any amendments. However, most garden soils will benefit from the addition of organic matter, such as compost or peat moss. These amendments help improve drainage and aeration while also adding essential nutrients that plants need to thrive.

What is a Potting Soil

Potting soil is a mixture that is made up of peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, and sometimes composted bark, specifically designed for use in containers. Unlike garden soils, potting soils are light and airy, and they drain well. Additionally, potting soil doesn’t contain weed seeds, pests, or disease which can infect your plants. This makes them ideal for plants that are growing in pots or other types of containers.

There are a few different types of potting soil, but most of them share some common ingredients. These ingredients include green materials and brown materials. Potting soils also often contain fertilizer, which can help your plants to grow healthy and strong.

Disadvantages of Using Garden Soil in Pots

Let’s take a more in-depth look at some of the disadvantages of using garden soil in pots.

Density and drainage

When you pick up a handful of garden soil, you’ll notice that it’s much heavier than potting soil. This is because garden soils contain clay, which makes them dense. Dense soils don’t drain well, and they can compact easily. This can lead to a number of problems for your plants, including root rot and fungal diseases.

Density and drainage

It also means that the roots of your plants won’t be able to penetrate the soil as easily, which can lead to stunted growth.

Lack of oxygen

If improper drainage wasn’t enough, the density of garden soil can also cause another problem: a lack of oxygen. Plant roots need oxygen to grow and stay healthy, but when the soil is too dense, it can suffocate the roots. This can lead to a number of problems for your plants, including yellowing leaves, wilting, and stunted growth.

Nutritional issues

Another problem with using garden soil in pots is that it can contain high levels of nutrients that are not suitable for potted plants. For example, garden soils often contain high levels of nitrogen. This can lead to “burn” on your plants, which is when the leaves turn yellow and brown from too much of it.

Additionally, garden soils often lack the necessary micronutrients that potted plants need. These micronutrients include iron, zinc, and manganese. Without these micronutrients, your plants will not be able to grow properly.

Pests and bacteria

Garden soils often contain weed seeds, larvae, and disease which can infect your plants. These problems can be difficult to get rid of once they’ve taken hold in your garden.

Weed seeds can germinate in the pot and start crowding out your plants. Pests can burrow into the pot and start eating away at the roots of your plants. Additionally, these problems can spread quickly from plant to plant, causing widespread damage in a short period of time. [1],[2],[3],[4]

Is Potting Mix a Good Alternative to Gardening Soil?

Yes, potting mix is a much better alternative to gardening soil. It’s airy, drains well, and doesn’t contain any harmful bugs and bacteria because it’s so sterile. Additionally, potting mix is usually enriched with nutrients that are essential for potted plants.

One thing to keep in mind about potting soil is that it may dry out quickly. This means that you will need to water your plants more often than if they were growing in garden soil. However, the drainage that potting soil provides is worth the extra effort.

Another thing to remember is that potting soil can be expensive.

If you are on a budget, you may want to consider making your own potting soil.
There are a few recipes online that you can use to make your own potting soil. This can be a great way to save money and still get all of the benefits of using potting soil.

How to Make a Potting Mix by Yourself

Luckily, it is not difficult to make your own potting mix. All you need is some basic ingredients that can be easily found at your local gardening store or online. We will look at how to make soil-based and peat-based potting mixes.

Making soil-based mix

Soil-based mix is made with equal parts garden soil, sand, and perlite or vermiculite.

Making soil-based mix

This type of mix is good for plants that like to have their roots in moist conditions.

Pour a sterilized loam soil into a bucket

First, you need to pour a sterilized loam soil into a bucket. Loam soil is a type of garden soil that is rich in nutrients and ideal for planting. You can find this at your local gardening store or online. Unlike the regular garden soil, sterilized loam soil is free of any harmful bacteria or fungi.

The amount you need will depend on the size of your pot. For a small pot, you will need around one gallon of soil.

Add sphagnum peat moss

Next, you need to add sphagnum peat moss to the soil. Sphagnum peat moss is a type of moss that is commonly used as an amendment for garden soils. Peat moss helps to improve drainage and aeration in the soil, as well as increase its ability to hold water and nutrients. Peat moss is also an excellent source of organic matter, which can help to improve the structure of heavy clay soils. It is often used in potting mixes for container gardens, as it can help to lighten the mix and improve drainage.

For ideal results, It’s best to use an equal amount of loam soil and sphagnum peat moss. For example, if you have one gallon of loam soil, you will need one gallon of sphagnum peat moss.

Add perlite to the mix

Next, you need to add perlite to the mix. Perlite is a type of volcanic rock that is full of tiny holes. It can further improve drainage and aeration in the potting mix as well as improve the healthy water retention levels.

A good alternative to perlite would be vermiculite. Vermiculite is another type of volcanic rock that is full of tiny holes that serves the same purpose as perlite.

Adjust the texture of the medium to create a loose, well-drained mixture.

Finally, you need to adjust the texture of the medium to create a loose, well-drained mixture. This can be done by adding more sand or moss to the mix.

For example, if the mix is too dense, you can add more sand to loosen it up. If the mix is too sandy, you can add more moss to make it more compact.

The amount of sand or moss you need to add will depend on the texture of your soil and the type of plant you are potting. Once you have added all the ingredients, give the mix a good stir until everything is evenly combined.

Your potting mix is now ready to use! You can use this mix for any type of container garden, whether you are growing vegetables, herbs, flowers, or succulents.

Making peat-based mix

Peat-based mix is made with sphagnum peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. It uses no soil of any kind and is considered sterile. Because of this, peat-based mixes are ideal for seedlings and young plants that are vulnerable to diseases.

Pour two gallons of peat moss

Start by pouring two gallons of peat moss into a wheelbarrow or other large container. If the peat moss is dry, wet it down with a hose first and let it soak for a few minutes.

Add perlite/vermiculite

Next, add two gallons of perlite to the peat moss for improved aeration. Then, you might also add one gallon of vermiculite to the mixture. Once you’ve added all three ingredients to the wheelbarrow, use a garden hoe or other tool to mix them together until they’re evenly combined.

Moisten the mix

After the ingredients are mixed together, it’s time to moisten the mix.

Use a hose to slowly add water to the mixture while you stir it.
Continue adding water until the mix is evenly moistened but not soggy.

Moisten the mix

When you’re finished, your peat-based mix should be light and fluffy – if it feels too dense, add a bit more perlite until it’s the right consistency. You can store your mix in a covered container for later use, or use it right away to fill your pots. [5]


How do I turn garden soil into a potting mix?

Before using garden soil as a potting mix, you will need to sterilize it. This can be done by baking it in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. After sterilizing the soil, you will need to add some organic matter to it. This can be done by adding compost or peat moss. You will also need to add some perlite or vermiculite to the mix. These ingredients will help aerate the soil and improve drainage.

Can you use garden soil for indoor pots?

Gardening soil can be used for indoor pots, but it is not the ideal type of soil to use. Gardening soil is often too dense and heavy for indoor pots, which can lead to problems with drainage. If you do use gardening soil for indoor pots, make sure to mix it with an equal amount of perlite or vermiculite to improve drainage.

In general, it is best to use a potting mix specifically designed for indoor containers when growing plants indoors. Potting mixes are lighter and more porous than garden soils, which makes them better suited for indoor conditions.

Is garden soil OK for containers?

Garden soil is not typically ok for containers. Garden soil can be too dense and cause water to pool on the surface of the pot, rather than seeping down to the roots. This can lead to root rot, which can kill your plants.

Can I use garden soil for potted vegetables?

The answer is…it depends. Garden soil can vary widely in quality, so it’s important to test your soil before using it in containers. The best way to do this is to take a sample of your garden soil and test it for nutrient levels, pH, and drainage.

Vegetables require a lot of nutrients, so if your garden soil is lacking in nutrients, it’s not going to be good for growing vegetables in containers. The same is true for drainage – if your garden soil doesn’t drain well, you’ll need to amend it with some sand or perlite to improve drainage.

Useful Video: Can I Re-use Old Potting Soil in Containers? // How to Revitalize Old Potting Soil


Many gardeners, beginner or pro, wonder whether they can use gardening soil in pots. The conclusion we reached, is no. You cannot use gardening soil in pots because it is too dense and will compact over time, preventing drainage and oxygenation necessary for healthy roots.

That being said, you can create a potting mix at home using ingredients like perlite, vermiculite, coco coir, and composted manure. Or you could purchase a commercial potting mix from your local nursery or garden center. This is a much better option than using gardening soil in pots. We hope you found this article helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to reach out to us in the comments below. Happy gardening!