Container Gardening
Potting Soil vs Potting Mix

Potting Soil

Potting Soil

Garden Soil

Garden Soil

Potting Mix

Potting Mix


If container gardening is included in our small space gardening efforts, we need to ensure that our soil foundation is the best we can achieve. With all of the commerical products on the market, we need to answer this basic question. Is there a difference between potting soil and potting mix? Does it matter? Ever since both products appeared on the market, this has been a perplexing question, especially for new gardeners.

Container gardening, along with raised bed vegetable gardening, requires a different growing medium than traditional in-the-ground gardening.

We can choose the fanciest containers around and build the best looking raised vegetable garden beds, but unless we use the proper growing medium, our container gardening efforts will end up with less than pleasing results.

Recently I went to the gardening section of the local home improvement store to specifically take a look at the commercial products being offered as potting soil and potting mix. I was interested in observing how the product was being promoted as well as taking a look at the ingredient listing.

Here is a little bit about what I discovered with brand names omitted:

Product #1
Name: Moisture Control Potting Mix
Promotional buzz from the bag:

  • Takes the guesswork out of watering!
  •  

  • Feeds plants up to 3 months!

Ingredients:

This product is formulated from sphagnum peat moss, forest products compost, coir pith fiber, perlite, a wetting agent, and fertilizer.

Container gardening instructions are:

  1. Select a pot with a drain hole
  2. Fill pot about 1/3 full
  3. Loosen root ball
  4. Add more mix, press lightly
  5. Water, let drain
  6. Let mix dry to the touch between watering. Do not allow plants to sit in drainage water. Outdoor plants may require daily watering in hot weather.

 

Product #2
Name: Organic Choice Potting Mix
Promotional buzz from the bag:

  • Made from all natural organic ingredients
  • Continuously feeds up to 2 months
  • Grows bigger, more beautiful plants … Naturally
  •  

  • Organic Choice Potting Mix was created for the organic gardener. A rich premium blend of sphagnum peat moss, composted bark fines, and a natural fertilizer, this potting mix allows you to grow beautiful , thriving container plants, herbs, and vegetables with only the best organic ingredients.

Ingredients:

This product is formulated from 50 – 55% composted bark, sphagnum peat moss, pasteurized poultry litter and an organic wetting agent.

Container Garden Instructions:

  1. Select a pot with a drain hole
  2. Fill pot about 1/3 full
  3. Loosen root ball
  4. Add more mix, press lightly
  5. Water, let drain
  6. Let mix dry to the touch between watering. Do not allow plants to sit in drainage water. Outdoor plants may require daily watering in hot weather.

 

Product #3
Name: SuperSoil Potting Soil
Promotional buzz from the bag:

  • Grow bigger, more beautiful plants & flowers
  • Enriched with plant foods
  • Ideal for pots & containers

 

Ingredients:

The bag does not give a contents ingredient label but does provide a guaranteed analysis of nitrogen, available phospate, soluble potash, and Iron derived from urea, ureaform, monoammonium phosphate, potassium nitrate, and ferrous sulfate.

Container gardening instructions:

  1. Select a pot with a drain hole
  2. Fill pot about 1/3 full
  3. Loosen root ball
  4. Add more mix, press lightly
  5. Water, let drain

 

Product #4
Name: Moisture Advantage Premium Potting Soil
Promotional buzz from the bag:

  • Contains super absorbent granules
  • Good for indoor and outdoor container plants
  • Continuous feeding for up to 4 full months

 

Ingredients:

This product is regionally formulated from organic materials (derived from one or more of the following: peat, forest products compost, or compost), sphagnum peat, perlite, a wetting agent, hydrolyzed corn starch, and plant food.

In California this product is regionally formulated from forest products compost, compost, sphagnum peat, perlite, a wetting agent, hydrolyzed corn starch and plant food.

In Georgia and Texas this product contains 45 – 55% forest product compost, sphagnum peat, perlite, a wetting agent, hydrolyzed corn starch and plant food.

Container Gardening Instructions:

  1. Select a pot with a drain hole
  2. Fill pot about 1/3 full
  3. Loosen root ball
  4. Add more mix, press lightly
  5. Water, let drain
  6. We recommend wearing gardening gloves when using this product

 

The best conclusion I have come to is that no matter what, we need to read the label and become familiar with the ingredients.

Even though the terms may be used interchangeably in promotional packaging, potting mixes should be used in container gardening vessels since they provide for a lighter and richer growing environment while allowing for greater moisture retention and adequate drainage. Potting mixes are especially good for new plant and seed starts.

Potting soils should be used in raised bed vegetable gardens and in any other raised bed gardens. They will come closer to meeting the soil needs within our particular growing area.

In my visit to the gardening center, I found bags of Moisture Control Garden Soil which was promoted for in-ground use to improve existing soil and to build strong roots.

Read the label and select the best product for your particular use. Happy gardening.

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