Soil is probably the most unappreciated aspect of gardening, but with few exceptions, it is the most vital thing that supports plant life. A trip to our garden center will reveal many choices of soils, but which one do you really need? Isn’t it all the same? The answer depends what you will be using it for.  Here are some of the basics:

Top Soil:
As the name implies, top soil is the uppermost layer of native soil. There is a lot of variation depending on its source, but generally it has few nutrients. Top soil is useful for filling in holes, building up berms, or beneath lawn sod or grass seed. Top soil is not free of weed seeds and it is not sterile. On its own, it is very heavy and compacts easily making it a poor choice for container gardening or seed starting.  It can be used in flower and vegetable gardens, but needs to have additional organic matter such as compost or manure mixed in.

Garden Soil:
Also called planting mix or planting soil, this soil is intended for in-ground use such as flower beds or vegetable gardens. Depending on the brand, garden soil may have a time release fertilizer mixed in. Do not use this soil for container gardening or starting seeds.

Potting Soil:
Used for container gardening, potting soil is designed for proper aeration and drainage, vital to plant health. Ingredients range from composted bark, mushrooms, peat moss, coconut fiber, topsoil, perlite and vermiculite. All these ingredients are combined for optimal plant health. Use potting soil in containers or raised beds. Potting soil is not recommended for starting seeds.

Potting Mix:
Specifically designed for containers, potting mix is a sterile soilless mix with a high percentage of peat moss. It is designed to retain water and also have proper aeration. Use potting mix for containers, EarthBoxes™, houseplants or seedling starts.

Seedling Mix:
True to its name, this is a very light, soilless, sterile mix for the sole purpose of starting seeds. It’s designed to retain moisture, but also to allow for proper aeration.

Compost:
Although compost may look like dirt, it shouldn’t be used as a planting medium.  Compost is decomposed organic matter and used to enrich existing soil. Planting in straight compost will burn plants and seedlings due to its high nitrogen content.  Use compost to enrich top soil, replenish nutrients in veggie gardens or as a fertilizer on trees and shrubs.

At MD Nursery, we’ve selected trusted brands of quality soils to support quality plant growth.  Although we’ve listed the basics here, we have a full selection of specialty soils for every plant need. Be sure to stop by for our Earth Day sale on April 22nd and save 30% on all bagged soil and compost!