Can You Use Garden Soil For Your Potted Plants?

Have you taken up gardening as your new hobby? Are you struggling to find out the answer to the question, can you use garden soil for potted plants? Then, you are at the right place. This article will answer all your questions about garden soil along with potting soil. So, read along!

What Happens If You Use Garden Soil In Pots?

To cut a long story short, I would never recommend using garden soil for your potted plants. One of the reasons being the fact that it’s very heavy. It compacts very easily and might harm the plant roots that cause them to drown or choke. In addition, when you put garden soil into a container, both aeration and drainage can get severely affected. This might result in the plant growing poorly or not growing at all.

How Do You Turn Garden Soil Into Potting Soil?

Now that your question, can you use garden soil for potted plants has been answered, you would be surprised to know that you can use garden soil to create an organic potting mix. At first, you need to sterilize the garden soil. This can be done by any one of the following processes:

1. Microwave Method

  • Moisten the garden soil. Make sure it is moldable and thick.
  • Put it inside a plastic bag leaving its top open.
  • Put the bag at the center of the microwave.
  • Let the microwave run for 2 to 5 minutes.
  • Once the soil goes up to 180°F (about 82°C), remove it. Please keep it in a cooler or any other insulated container. This will keep the heat and complete the process of sterilization.
  • Let the soil remain in the cooler or the insulated container until it has cooled down completely.

2. Oven Method

  • Take the garden soil in an oven-proof container. You can use a pan.
  • Moisten the soil moderately.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°F (about 93°C).
  • Use foil to cover the pan and place it in the oven.
  • Allow the soil to bake until it reaches 180°F (about 82°C). This might need around 6 to 8 hours.
  • After it reaches 180°F (about 82°C), bake it for half an hour more. But, avoid overbaking.

3. Sun Method

  • Select a place in your yard that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day.
  • Lay out a plastic cover over the dirt layer around 4 inches (about 10 cm) deep. Spray some water.
  • Use another plastic sheet to cover.
  • Bake this in the sun for at least 28 days during summers and 56 days during winter.
  • Make sure that each week you rake up all the dirt so that the heat reaches properly.

After sterilizing, the next step is to amend the garden soil. According to the University of Illinois, you can amend garden soil by blending sterilized soil, peat moss, and builder’s sand or perlite.

To mix all these ingredients, line a cardboard box with a plastic bag and put all the items inside. Now, pull the plastic bag out of the cardboard box and shake it generously so that everything mixes well.

What Is The Difference Between Potting Soil And In-ground Soil?

Before you start wondering can you use garden soil for your potted plants, you should have an idea about the differences between in-ground soil and potting soil.

  • In-ground soil is a kind of amendment that is blended with native soil. But, potting soil is meant explicitly for containers such as window boxes or potted houseplants.
  • In-ground soil is composed of natural topsoil. Sometimes, it is even made of sand mixed with organic material. Ingredients such as composted chicken or cow manure, or used mushroom compost, and composted bark are commonly used. But, potting soil doesn’t contain natural soil. Instead, it is a unique mix of ground pine bark, peat moss, vermiculite, or perlite. Limestone is also added to maintain the pH balance of this mixture.
  • In-ground soil improves the condition of the natural soil. It helps in retaining the moisture and ensures better drainage. In addition, potting soil maintains the proper balance required for container plants.
While in-ground soil is best for outdoor gardening, potting soil is necessary for outdoor or indoor container gardens. In-ground soil also contains minerals and microbes that are beneficial for plants. Potting soil, also known as soilless mix, does not contain microbes or minerals.

Featured image credit – Piyawat Nandeenopparit/

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