Can You Mix Garden Soil and Potting Mix?

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The most important item in gardening after plants is the medium used to grow the plants. There are so many media used to grow plants, but the most popular are garden soil and potting mix. But what is the difference between garden soil and potting mix, and can you use them together?

Can you mix garden soil and potting mix?

Gardeners can absolutely mix garden soil and potting mix. Some reasons you may want to mix the two are to fix the composition of your garden soil and to provide a more natural medium for your potted plants.

However, you should mix both media together with a few considerations, which we will explore in detail.

Some people use garden soil for their crops while others use potting mix. Other gardeners take things a step further and use liquid media (hydroponics or aquaponics) plant items in the air (aeroponics). In this article, however, we will concentrate on garden soil and potting mix.

Hand holding gardening soil for houseplant

What is Garden Soil?

Garden soil is simply what it sounds like: natural soil for a garden. Whether topsoil, sand, clay, loam, compost, or amended soil, garden soil is a more natural soil gardeners use to grow their crops.

Garden soil has a few key characteristics:

Contains Living Organisms

Living organisms such as earthworms, bacteria, and fungi dwell in garden soil. Most of them are good at improving aeration and water drainage naturally. There are, however, some harmful organisms that you should watch out for to avoid contamination.

Contains Vital Nutrients

Garden soil contains many nutrients that your plants need. You will need to replenish them though by adding fertilizer as time goes on.

Proven Track Record

Garden soil has been used for centuries and is known to work well. You most likely will succeed when you use garden soil as a first-time gardener.

Easily Accessible

Garden soil is cheap and widely available. You can find it almost everywhere. It is also cheap to purchase if you need more or large amounts.

hand holding potting mix for indoor potted plant

What is Potting Mix?

Potting mix is a mixture of different substances to make a more suitable media for potted plants. Unlike garden soil, potting mix is blended by people and is more suitable for potted plants.

Some items used to make potting mix are:

  • Grit
  • Perlite
  • Peat Moss
  • Vermiculite
  • Wood chips
  • Coconut coir

Some pros of potting mix include:

Many Varieties

There is a potting mix for almost every plant. Whether you are growing tomatoes or orchids, there is a potting mix that suits the need of your plant. Potting mixes are also more flexible than other soil types.


Potting Soil is usually well drained because of its composition. In fact, this feature is the major reason potting mixes are used in potted plantings. Potting mix prevents your potted plants from suffocating from the roots.

Controlled Nutrients

You get to control the nutrients that your plants consume when you choose a potting mix. Potting soil does not typically include extra nutrients for your plants. This means that you get to choose how to fertilize your plans and control the amount they receive.

What Are the Differences Between Garden Soil And Potting Mix?

Garden soil and potting mix are both media that gardeners use to grow crops. However, there are some differences between potting mix and garden soil.

The table below highlights some differences between garden soil and potting mix.

Factors to ConsiderGarden SoilPotting Mix
Water DrainageThe drainage capability of garden soil depends on the type of soil. Sand drains the most.Potting mix is made perfectly for water drainage. It helps keep potted plants from suffocating.
Available NutrientsGarden soil has many available nutrients. You will need to add more by using fertilizers.Most potting mixes do not contain available nutrients. Some, however, can release nutrients when the items used to make them start to decompose.
Living ComponentsGarden soil contains earthworms (to breakdown decaying matter and increase soil aeration), bacteria and fungi (to decompose dead materials), and other organisms (including harmful ones).Most potting mixes do not come with living components. The more you use them, however, the greater chance it is for organisms to dwell in them naturally.
Cost and AvailabilityGarden soil is available everywhere and relatively cheaper than potting mix.Potting mix is quite expensive unless you buy the items used to make potting mix and make yours yourself.
Growing Potted PlantsGarden soil is not recommended for potted plants because water does not drain easily which can lead to a slower growth of the plants.Potting mix is best for potted plants.

Can You Mix Garden Soil and Potting Mix?

Many people choose to mix both garden soil and potting mix together for use in their gardens and with their potted plans. Blending the two can have a number of benefits including:

  • Provide Cheap Nutrients to Potted Plants: Garden soil contains natural nutrients, so if you mix garden soil with potting mix, you do not have to spend much on extra nutrients.
  • Amend Garden Soil: If you wish to amend your garden soil, you can do so with potting mix since it makes a great medium for plants.
  • Reduce the Cost of Potting Mix: If you have a large number of pots that require potting mix, you should evenly mix your potting mix with garden soil to reduce how much you spend, since potting mix is quite expensive.
  • Create the Best Medium for a Plant: Whether your plantings are in pots or in an outdoor garden, a mixture of garden soil and potting mix is almost perfect for any plants.
gardening concept mixing garden soil and potting mix

5 Things You Can Mix With Garden Soil

Planning to do a little experiment with your garden soil to improve its quality? Try mixing one or all of the items on the list below:

  • More Sand: You can add more sand to improve the rate of water drainage and aeration in the soil.
  • More Clay: If the soil drains too much water, you can evenly mix clay in it to reduce how much water is drained at a time.
  • Compost: Compost can improve the pH of the soil and can add essential nutrients to the soil. Most plants love soil with compost.
  • Fertilizer: Add fertilizer for more nutrients in the soil. You can add liquid, granular, organic, or any kind of fertilizer of your choice.
  • Other Products Used to Make Potting Mix: Whether it is peat, perlite, or vermiculite, you can try them on your soil for a variety of benefits and create the perfect blend for your garden.

Garden Soil Question and Answers

1. Can You Use Garden Soil for Potted Plants?

Some people use garden soil for potted plants, but it is not recommended. Most pots do not drain water as fast as water drains in the ground. To increase the rate of water drainage, potting mix is used. If you must use garden soil, try these tips:

  • Perforate the Pots: The holes that come with garden pots are never enough. Add more holes at the bottom.
  • Lay Rocks on the Bottom of the Pot: Before pouring soil into the pot, set on rocks on the bottom of the pot. These rocks will prevent the holes from blocking drainage.
  • Introduce Earthworms: Earthworms help to improve water drainage, aeration, and breaking down of dead materials in the soil.
Putting garden soil into the pot, balcony gardening at spring

2. Can You Use Potting Mix in Raised Beds?

Raised beds are already above the surface of the ground, so they tend to hold less water. Using potting mix might drain too much water, and your plants may die of drought.

Potting mix is also expensive, so you may be spending too much to fill your raised bed with potting mix.

3. What Kind of Fertilizer Is Best for Potting Mix?

Since potting mix helps drain water quickly, you should avoid using liquid fertilizer for potted plants.

If you must use liquid fertilizer, reduce the concentration of nutrients by diluting it, and apply it as a foliar fertilizer by spraying it on the leaves.

To enrich the media, you can use granular fertilizer. If you wish, you can use compost or slow-release fertilizer.

4. Is Your Potting Mix Well-Drained?

It depends on the type of plant in your pots. If you have orchids, for example, your potting mix needs to drain quickly. For plants like tomatoes, you may want to adjust the rate of drainage to suit the plant since tomatoes love moist (but not damp) soil.

5. Can You Introduce Earthworms to Your Potted Plants?

Yes, you can, and this is highly recommended. If your potted plants are outside, earthworms may find their way into the pot by themselves. But with your plants inside you have to add the earthworms manually. Earthworms cause no harm to your potted plants and are great for aeration and drainage.

Final Thoughts

Both garden soil and potting mix are essential media to grow crops. You should choose the right medium according to what you are growing and how you choose to grow it. If you ever feel like mixing garden soil and potting mix, you certainly can since the two have a number of benefits when used together.


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