Skip to content

The Top Organic Potting Soils and Mixes for Best Results

Organic Gardening Soils

There’s no doubt about it; you’ll need a good supply of healthy living soil when gardening.  But your garden soil may not work well for container gardening.  Try using organic potting soils and mixes instead to get the best results.

Why Can’t I Use Soil From My Garden for Container Gardening?

Any area of the ground where plants grow has a layer of topsoil.  This layer contains mineral soil, silt, sand, clay, and organic material.  The amounts of these materials will vary depending on the location.

Topsoil can be less than an inch to over a foot thick.  The thickness would depend on how long there’s been organic activity on and in the soil.

Topsoil is full of nutrients that plants need for healthy growth.  But it gets very dense when used in containers or raised beds and doesn’t drain water well.  This makes it difficult to grow plants.

Another problem is if your topsoil contains weed seeds or harmful organisms.  These things will stay with the topsoil and affect your potted plants.

It’s possible to work with garden topsoil and improve it.  Using custom-built products for raised bed and container gardening is easier.

Organic soils are living soils full of nutrient-rich material and beneficial organisms.  Because of that, they create the ideal conditions for healthy plant growth.

Potting Mix vs Potting Soil – What’s the Difference?

Even though people think these two terms mean the same thing, there’s a difference!  That difference could be significant when looking for gardening materials.

People like to use the word “soil” when referring to any growing medium.  We’ll keep it simple and use that broad term, too.

Anyhow, this is what’s going on with potting soil vs. potting mix:

The Scoop on Potting Soil

This medium is also called “garden soil” and often has “garden soil for in-ground use” on the label.  Potting soils contain real dirt mixed with fertilizer, compost, and peat moss.

These soils aren’t the best for container gardening because they get too dense, like topsoil.  Potting soils are suitable for raised beds, especially if mixed with more compost.

You can use them for container gardening by mixing in equal parts of compost and perlite.  This will make the soil less dense and more aerated, and the compost also improves fertility.

So even though it’s called “potting soil,” it’s not the best thing to use for potting right out of the bag.  The recommendation is to change potting soil every 12 – 18 months to maintain fertility.  It’s also possible to “recharge” old potting soil by mixing it with more compost or organic fertilizer.

The Dirt on Potting Mix

This is your choice for indoor or outdoor potted plants.  Potting mixes don’t contain soil, so they’re lighter than an equal volume of potting soil.

They’re sometimes labeled sterile since they don’t contain soil and are often heat-treated.  That’s supposed to mean it’s free of pathogens, fungi, or other disease organisms that could harm plants.

The reality is that it’s impossible to have totally sterile soil.  That would require sterility through every process stage, including at home after opening the bag.  Also, sterilizing will kill beneficial organisms along with bad ones.

High-quality potting mixes even contain beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms.  So if they were completely sterile, they’d be less healthy for plants.  At best, potting mixes have a much lower chance of spreading diseases to your plants.

Mixes often contain peat moss, coconut coir, and other organic materials.  Coconut coir is the middle fibrous part of a coconut husk.  Including coir helps those potting mixes retain moisture.

Including perlite or vermiculite in the ingredients keeps the mix loose and well-drained.  The added organic fertilizers or plant foods will feed the plants for 2 – 3 months.

You can even get custom mixes for specific potted plants.  These special mixes give cacti, orchids, violets, and other plants the necessary nutrients.

After growing plants for a while, mixes will need more fertilizer or plant food added.  This is because the plants use it from the mix, and it gets lost through drainage.

Here are some of the best organic soils and mixes to grow your own food from seed to harvest:

1. Fox Farm Ocean Forest Organic Potting Soil

FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil, 1.5 cu ft, brown/a (FX14000)
  • Ocean Forest organic soil is ready to use right out of the bag
  • Ideal for containerized plantings
  • Contains earthworm castings, bat guano and micronutrients
  • Light texture and well aerated
  • Available in 1.5-Cubic feet

This highly rated organic soil combines matter from both the ocean and forest.  The ingredients include peat moss, earthworm castings, sandy loam, bat guano, crab meal, fish meal, and others.

The composition of this soil makes it light and well-aerated.  Fox Farm keeps the pH of this soil adjusted to a range of 6.3 to 6.8.  They also rate this soil as an ideal medium for growing seedlings.

This living soil brand works well for container gardening indoors or outdoors.

Video – How to use FoxFarm’s Ocean Forest, Happy Frog, and Ko Ko Bop Potting Mixes

2. Fox Farm Happy Frog Organic Potting Soil

FoxFarm FX14047 Happy Frog, 2 Cubic Feet Potting Soil, Brown
  • Ready to use right out of the bag
  • PH adjusted to allow for maximum nutrient uptake
  • This unique mix is alive with beneficial soil microbes and mycorrhizal fungi that dramatically expand root development

With Fox Farm, you’re using a well-known manufacturer of living soil brands.  The ingredients for Happy Frog include dolomitic lime, bat guano, oyster shells, humic acid, perlite, sphagnum peat moss, earthworm castings, and composted forest humus.

The added living organisms include mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial microbes that help to break down nutrients.  This will help the roots absorb the nutrients.  The pH balance is between 6.3 and 6.8 for consistent results with each bag.  Happy Frog is full of good stuff for all your potted plants.

3. SunGro Black Gold Organic Potting Mix

Sun Gro Horticulture SUNGRO HORTICULTURE Black 8-Quart Gold 1302040 Organic Potting Soil
  • The all purpose organic potting soil that fits all your needs; convenience, quality tested organic ingredients and a proven track record of performance
  • Offers premium quality at outstanding saving
  • This product is made in United States
  • Listed by the organic materials review institute for the production of organic food and fiber
  • Rich, loamy mix is one of the best for all gardening applications

This product is enriched with screened earthworm castings, Canadian sphagnum peat moss, composted or aged bark, and organic fertilizer. To improve soil aeration, it has perlite and pumice blended in.   With a rich, loamy mix, this is a premium choice for containers and raised beds.

4. Roots Organics Original Potting Soil

Roots Organics ROD75 Hydroponic Gardening Ready-to-Grow Coco Fiber-Based Potting Soil, 0.75 cu ft/5.6 gal for Plants
647 Reviews
Roots Organics ROD75 Hydroponic Gardening Ready-to-Grow Coco Fiber-Based Potting Soil, 0.75 cu ft/5.6 gal for Plants
  • 5.6 GALLON POTTING SOIL: 5.6 gallons (0.75 cu Ft) of Roots Organics Coco-Fiber Original Potting Soil for your hungry plants
  • APPLICATION: Comes in a heavy-duty, ready-to-grow, camouflage print bag; Simply poke holes in the bottom, cut off the top, and plant
  • INGREDIENTS: Organic ingredients including bat guano, premium earthworm castings, fish bone meal, feather meal, green sand, mycorrhizae, glacial rock dust, soybean meal, humic acid
  • BALANCED MIX: Mix created with a balanced air to water ratio of porosity and water retention to allow for excellent drainage and a vigorous root system supporting enormous potential growth
  • BENEFITS: Ready-to-use coco fiber-based potting soil that encourages healthier plants and better yields; Highest quality coco fiber/coir on the planet that is repeatedly washed for an incredibly low EC

Based on the ingredient list, this is a potting mix since it doesn’t contain soil.  This mix has ingredients that make it porous and provide excellent water retention.

The ingredients include perlite and pumice for aeration, composted forest material, peat moss, bat guano, worm castings, alfalfa meal, soybean meal, kelp meal, fishbone meal, and greensand.

It also contains mycorrhizal fungi, rhizophagus intraradices, funneliformis mosseae, and septoglomus desertícola.  The fungi and plant roots benefit each other (symbiosis).  This causes better absorption of plant nutrients and increased root mass.

Due to this, it ends up decreasing the stress in plants growing in containers.  An added convenience is using the bag as a growing pot.

5. Burpee Organic Premium Potting Mix

Burpee, 9 Quarts | Premium Organic Potting Natural Soil Mix Food Ideal for Container Garden-Vegetable, Flower & Herb Use for Indoor Outdoor Plant
17,181 Reviews
Burpee, 9 Quarts | Premium Organic Potting Natural Soil Mix Food Ideal for Container Garden-Vegetable, Flower & Herb Use for Indoor Outdoor Plant
  • ALL-NATURAL MIX: Burpee Organic Premium Potting Mix is formulated with plant food & coconut coir to promote seed & root growth and healthy flower, vegetable & herb plants. OMRI Listed for organic use. This premium mix releases essential nutrients immediately.
  • PERFECT FOR CONTAINERS: Use this growing mix for planting in containers or raised beds. The potting soil feeds plants instantly, then provides a slow release plant food that feeds for up to 3 months. Whether you’re growing organic herbs, vegetable seeds or flowers in raised beds or patio containers, this growing mix will make the job a breeze.
  • RETAINS MOISTURE: Sustainable coconut coir helps hold the perfect amount of water for potted plants, indoor or outdoors. Coconut coir is an organic and sustainable resource that helps maintain moisture between waterings for vibrant flowers and delicious vegetables and herbs.
  • TIP FOR FLOWER POTS: Use flowers and foliage of varying heights to add dimension to your container. Place tall plants in the middle or back, mounding plants all around and spilling plants at the edge. Your live flowers will thrive with this premium potting mix.
  • 100% GUARANTEED: Burpee is committed to the success of all gardeners. We treat each order with care to ensure healthy seeds, plants & gardening supplies are packaged and sent in excellent condition. If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, we aim to make it right!

The coconut coir in this mix gives it high marks for water retention.   Its makeup with plant food and coconut coir promotes seed and root growth.

The result is healthy flowers, vegetables, and herbs.  This mix has a slow-release plant food that will nourish plants for up to 3 months, and it’s ideal for containers or raised gardens.

6. Nature’s Care Expanding Planting Mix

Miracle-Gro Nature’s Care Organic Incredible Expanding Planting Mix, Just Add Water for up to 3x Expansion, 0.67 cu. ft.
  • Fantastic substitute for garden soil or potting mix. Which means containers and in-ground gardens will find this soil bewitching.
  • Soil triples in size (up to 3X expansion) when you add water! Saying “abracadabra“ is optional
  • Grows up to 3X bigger plants than native soil. Native soil doesn’t stand a chance.
  • Holds up to 33% more water (than basic potting soil) and improves native soil by adding up to 90% more air for plant’s roots
  • Lightweight soil means lightweight packaging, which can be delivered directly to your home

This planting mix has a base of compressed coconut coir that will expand to triple its size after watering (no magic required).  This gives it a water retention up to 33% higher than basic potting soil!

This mix will also improve native soil by adding up to 90% more air for roots and feed plants for up to 2 months.

Mix this product with the garden soil, plant the seeds or transplants, and then water.  For a container, make sure it has a drainage hole and fill it 1/3 of the way with the planting mix.

Water it, wait for it to expand, and then do your planting.  Expansion takes about 10 minutes, so you can grab a coffee or iced tea.

Since this mix expands, it comes in smaller packages than regular potting mixes or soils.  That makes it easier to handle due to its lighter weight.  It will hold water and oxygen better than traditional soil, which allows for a healthier root system.

Here are more ideas to help you get the best organic soil:

Nature’s Living Soil Organic Super Soil Concentrated Strength

Organic Super Soil Concentrated Strength
  • One Pound Concentrated Strength Organic Super Soil blended for Photoperiod flower plants
  • Add contents of bag to a 5 gallon container Next fill 1/3 of the container with organic potting soil & mix thoroughly Next fill remainder of the container with organic potting soil
  • Just water from seed to harvest (microorganisms in the super soil provide nutrients to the roots over time)
  • Easy way to grow healthy plants with lots of flowers!

This is a concentrate to mix with regular potting soil.  Empty the bag into a 5-gallon container, then add organic potting soil equal to 1/3 of the container.  Mix them well, then fill the rest of the container with more organic potting soil.  Now you’re ready to plant.

This product contains the microorganisms and organic matter that give your plants the necessary nutrients and turn so-so soil into living soil.  Nature’s Living Soil Organic Super Soil is a favorite for container gardening.

It’s also used in raised beds or gardens by spreading a layer ¼ inch thick on the surface.  You’ll notice an unpleasant odor when opening the bag, but it disappears after a few days.

Old Potter’s Organic Compost

Compost is an excellent material to mix with potting soil or garden soil.  It’s made by decomposing organic waste until it breaks down into a fertile earthy material called “gardening gold.”  Well-aged compost smells like fresh earth and doesn’t have any foul odor.

Since it’s made mainly from organic vegetable matter, compost is a natural nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus source.  A good way to mix compost is by using 2/3 soil and 1/3 compost.  If your plants have sprouted, you can spread a few inches of compost on the surface.

xGarden Horticultural Grade Perlite

xGarden 8 Quarts Horticultural Grade Premium Perlite – Coarse and Chunky
  • 8 Quarts (32 Cups) all natural Premium Perlite soil additive
  • Lightens soil and improves root and plant health. Better drainage and aeration for soil
  • Perlite helps soil retain moisture and nutrients for later use
  • Non-toxic and sterile – PH Neutral

Perlite is a material that mixes with any soil to improve aeration and drainage. If you have hard clay soil, mixing in perlite and compost would improve it.

Perlite is a type of volcanic glass, so it’s inert and non-toxic.  Over time, it’ll end up grinding down to powder. Wearing a dust mask when working with perlite or vermiculite is always a good idea.

Stingmon Coconut Coir Bricks for Potting Soil

11.2LBS Coco Coir Brick for Plants, Coconut Coir Bricks Organic Potting Mix Soil, Coconut Husk for Planting Gardening, Renewable Coco Coir Fiber for Herbs Flowers, High Expansion
  • Efficient after-sales service: if you have any questions with our coco coir bricks, simply let us know. Our after-sales service team will provide you with efficient and considerate service throughout the whole process.
  • Natural coco coir: our natural coconut coir brick is compressed into lightweight, convenient coconut coir bricks that expand rapidly when you add water. The coco coir brick can provide enough oxygen and water, our potting soil peat moss is very suitable for plant growth.
  • Wide range of uses peat soil: our coconut husk for planting are suitable for all gardening applications, potted plants, container gardens, elevated beds, houseplants, flowers, vegetables, herbs. Our coco coir brick and peat moss provides them with enough oxygen and water, which helps the plants grow.
  • High quality coco coir for plants: we choose high quality coconut fiber, light texture with few impurities. Our coco fiber brick with low ec and ph levels.
  • Water retention peat soil: our coco coir brick and potting soil can absorb up to 10 times their own weight in water, making it easier for the plant’s roots to get enough water. Promote plant growth.

Coconut coir is the inner fiber of a coconut husk, so it doesn’t include the outer skin of the husk.  They grind the fiber into tiny pieces and then press it into bricks to make it.

To use it, you put a brick into a large container and pour in 4 – 5 quarts of water.  Once the brick gets soft and expands, you can break it up with a trowel until it gets fluffy.  You can then plant your seeds right into the coir.

Coconut coir retains moisture well since it will hold up to 10 times its weight in water. Improve the water retention of potting or garden soil by mixing it with coconut coir.

Final Thoughts

When growing your own food, organic potting mixes and soils can give you successful seed-to-harvest gardening.

Potting mixes have nutrients and high water retention that are great for starting seeds and nurturing seedlings.

On the other hand, potting soils work well in raised beds or containers for mature vegetables and herbs.

Last update on 2024-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This product presentation was made with AAWP plugin.

Bob Styer

As a child, I hated gardening. That was mainly because Dad expected us to work in the garden every so often even though we thought play was more important. Over the years, though, I've developed a real appreciation for growing things. Whether you're growing plants for food or to enjoy their beauty, gardening can make your life better. Seize the moment!

Back To Top