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Can Potting Soil Be Used as Topsoil?

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There are no risk factors associated with using potting soil as top soil. Potting soil is well sterilized and contains additives such as moss, perlite, vermiculite and coir. However, potting soil is highly priced but if you can afford it, why don’t you go for it?

Potting soil is very light to ensure good drainage and can be used as topsoil on garden soil to improve drainage. The added elements enable the soil roots to grow rapidly without any disturbances.

gardening tools

3 Types of Soils Commonly Used in the Garden.

Top soil

Top soil is the uppermost or outer layer of soil where most biological activities take place. It is usually close to ten inches on the earth’s surface and has a very high concentration of microorganisms and nutrients.

This soil lacks good additives such as peat moss and perlite. It is dug from the uppermost layer of garden soil and stored in bags ready for sale.

3 Types of Top Soil    

Clay SoilMade from powdered rocks and organic materials. Clay is impermeable to water.
Loam SoilA combination of both sand and clay soils. It is the most efficient soil for farming as it contains humus, moisture, and nutrients.
Sandy SoilMade from small and finely divided rocks and mineral particles. It is highly permeable to water.

Garden soil

This is top soil that is rich in nutrients and compost that are healthy for the plant’s growth. However, the texture of garden soils is heavy thus has a high water retention capacity. This type of soil is cheap because it lacks nutrients like peat moss, perlite, vermiculite etc that are pricy.

This type of soil cannot be used in containers because it lacks good drainage hence roots won’t breathe.

6 Types of Garden Soil

Peaty SoilPeaty soil is acidic in nature hence slows down the decomposition rate and eventually causes nutrient unavailability.
Chalky SoilThis type of soil contains large particles of stones. The soil drains water faster and is alkaline in nature thus leads to stunted growth of plants.
Loam SoilA mixture of sand and clay. It is the most effective soil for farming.
Silt SoilSilt soil has a soft touch and rich in nutrients. Recommended for farming provided that the area has very good drainage.
Sand SoilEasy to cultivate because it has very loose particles. Sandy soils usually drain water easily but dry out fast.
Clay SoilCclay soil is compact with very poor drainage. It is sticky when wet and hard when dry.

Potting soil

filling plant with potting soil

Potting soil is any plant medium used to grow plants in containers. It does not contain soil. Why? Soil contains dirt, fungi and bacteria that are harmful to plant health when grown in containers.

It is usually a mixture of materials such as sphagnum moss, perlite, vermiculite and coir. Sphagnum moss is used to feed plants whereas perlite and vermiculite keep the soil loose thus has a good drainage.

Potting soil is always sterilized and free from fungi hence very safe to grow plants in the medium. Sterilization is always done at very high temperatures for approximately half an hour to kill all the pathogens present.

Difference Between Potting Soil and Topsoil

Potting soilTopsoil
May contain no soil at all (soil-less)Contains garden soil
Enriched with ingredients such as sphagnum moss, vermiculite and barkNot enriched with specific nutrients
Light and of good drainage thus drains off water fastHeavy and has drainage problems because it is compact thus retains water
Used in containersUsed on ground gardens
A mixture of peat moss and other organic materials and is free from dirtA mixture of sand or clay with organic materials and contains dirt and fungi

What Is Topsoil Used for?     

top soil

Topsoil is used to make gardens. Add 1-2 inches of topsoil to your lawn and thoroughly mix it with the existing garden soil. This will help reduce drainage problems since there is no distinct difference between the two soils.

After mixing them, add another layer of topsoil to the existing mixture to your desired depth. You can choose to add fertilizer on top.

Topsoil is also used to repair or fix lawn gardens. It is used in top dressing empty spots in your lawn to make the whole place level.

Topsoil is used to improve the existing area’s drainage. Sandy top soils have loose particles that drain water faster.

Can You Turn Top Soil Into Potting Soil?

Yes. Topsoil can play a good role as potting soil.

Topsoil should be used as potting soil only if it is sterilized. Failure to sterilize the topsoil may result in plant diseases since the topsoil contains harmful organisms.

Topsoil can be sterilized in three easy steps:

  1. Place it in a container that resists very high temperatures and then cover it with a lid.
  2. Place the container (with topsoil in it) in an oven and heat it to 360°F (180°c) for half an hour.
  3. Remove the soil from the oven and allow it to cool down.

After cooling, be sure to mix it with your potting media of choice (moss, perlite, vermiculite.)

bank notes on soil

Cost Breakdown of Top Soil, Garden Soil and Potting Soil.

The better the soil, the more expensive it is. Quality soils are costly, time-consuming and labor-intensive to make the perfect blends. They require so much time and labor to mix them, sterilize, and also adding nutrients.

The cost of soil will always vary by quality, quantity, and location. Areas with poor soils will need costly soils to replenish them. However, areas with good soils will require less costly soils. Similarly, the higher the quantity, the more expensive it is whereas the lower the quantity, the cheaper it costs.

Garden Soil

This is the least expensive of all soils. This is because it lacks nutrients such as moss, vermiculite and perlite that are always purchased.

Top soil

Just like garden soil, top soil is also inexpensive when used without mixing with other nutrients. However, you can add perlite, vermiculite and/or moss to your top soil hence making it costly.

Potting soil

This is the most expensive of all because it is enriched with vermiculite, perlite and/or moss which are purchased.


The choice of soil for farming will depend on your plant location and financial stability. Garden soil should be used for outdoor plants while potting soil should be used indoors in containers. Top soil can be used both indoors and outdoors. However, when used indoors, it should be thoroughly sterilized to kill any pathogens present.

Garden soil is not costly and always available. The same applies to top soil. Potting soil is costly and needs a lot of financial input.


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