Too bad soil isn’t dazzling like dahlias or sweetly fragrant like freesias, because gardeners then would be gushing over this dirty stuff instead of overlooking its importance. A successful garden starts with healthy soil. Good news is that you can easily buy quality soil at your local nursery or home improvement store; bad news is that even though it comes pre-mixed and bagged, you may find it difficult to figure out exactly which type your garden needs.
To determine which soil is best for your garden, you need to first understand that different plants thrive with different types of soil. Another factor to consider is how you plan to grow the plants—say, in a raised bed versus in a pot. Below, we walk you through some common growing scenarios and the type of soil most appropriate for each:
Featured photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer for Gardenista, from Walled Gardens: An Organic and Picturesque Plot at Old-Lands in Wales.
If you’re planting in containers…
Use potting soil. This light and airy mix is specifically formulated for container gardening to ensure adequate drainage and space for roots to grow. Simply add potting soil to pots and then plant your annuals, flowers, small trees and shrubs directly into it. Tip: ideally, replace potting soil annually.
If you’re starting seeds…
Use a soilless mix. These super light blends are perfect for starting delicate seeds and are usually a combination of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite, and like the name implies, does not contain organic matter (soil) that could harm tender seedlings.