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Which garden soil is best?

Starting a healthy garden isn’t as easy as popping some plants into the dirt and calling it a day. Having the correct type of soil for your flowers or vegetables is crucial for their health, growth and overall production. 

Because different varieties of plants require varying soil needs, it can be a little overwhelming to know where to start. By following a few helpful guidelines, your planting experience can be fun and rewarding. The Burpee Premium Organic Potting Mix is a great all-purpose option designed for both vibrant flowers and hearty vegetables. 

What to know before you buy garden soil 

Existing soil type

If you plan on planting directly in the ground using the already existing soil, it is vital that you know the type of soil with which you’ll be dealing. This information will also let you know just how the soil needs to be changed. The three main soil types are sand, clay and silt. 

Sand is a common type of soil for those who live in arid desert climates or along the coast. Native plants will grow well in this environment, but it will be difficult to grow anything else because the soil won’t retain significant nutrients or water. 

Clay is a common soil variety across the country. Unlike sand, clay soils can actually hold too much water, causing root damage.

Silt falls somewhere in between sand and clay. Those living near water sources, such as lakes, rivers and streams, are more likely to have silty soil. This variety is more fertile than both sand and clay. 

Bagged soil type

Once you know what you intend to plant and what type of natural soil you have, you’ll want to find the best bagged soil to improve your growing abilities. Ideally, you’ll want a finely tuned mixture of sand, clay and silt, along with other organic matter, such as compost. The most common bagged soils are garden soil, potting mix, raised bed soil, topsoil and specialty soil.

Garden soil is used to complement your native soil, ensuring that you’ll have the proper ratio of soil types to produce a healthy garden. Garden soil is best used for in-ground gardens rather than raised beds. 

Potting mix often contains high levels of compost and organic matter, and it is ideal for drainage and nutrient retention properties. For the best result, use this type of soil in pots and containers. 

Raised bed soil is specifically designed for use in raised garden beds. This can be used in conjunction with native soils to create a healthy mix.  

Topsoil should not be used for planting because it features little nutrients. Instead, use topsoil to level your garden or fill in any holes. 

Specialty soil is necessary for certain plants, such as cactus, specific types of vegetables and specific flower species. Specialty soil should not be used as all-purpose soil. 


Before buying the best soil for your vegetable garden or flower garden, be sure to measure your plot or raised beds to calculate just how much soil you’ll need. You’ll want to add a minimum of 2-3 inches of bagged soil to the already existing soil. 

What to look for in quality garden soil 


If you don’t want to worry about adding additional fertilizer, look for garden soils that feature fertilizers or slow-release plant food to give your plants an extra boost. 

Organic vs. non-organic 

Consider choosing an organic option when searching for the best bagged soil for vegetable gardens. Though the price may be slightly higher, you won’t have to worry about any chemicals and pesticides leaching into the vegetables or into the ground. 


The best garden soils will likely contain compost. Compost consists mostly of decaying organic matter, which is great for balancing pH levels and adding nutrients to your soil. You can even add your own homemade compost to your soil if desired. 

Water drainage or storage properties 

Some garden soils are designed for superior water drainage, which is useful in wet environments. Other bagged soils will be better at retaining water in order to keep the roots hydrated for longer, making it a great option for dry climates. 

How much you can expect to spend on garden soil 

The total amount you’ll spend on soil depends on the size of the area you need to fill. In general, most individual bags will cost between $5 -$10. 

Garden soil FAQ

Is it ok to use garden soil for my potted plants?

A. Garden soil that is specifically sold for in-ground use will not make good potting soil. Instead, choose an all-purpose soil or potting mix to allow for optimal growing conditions and prevent root rot and damage. 

Should I add anything to my garden soil?

A. If you are using your garden’s native soil, you will likely need to amend it to improve drainage quality and balance nutrient levels. You can further enhance your soil by adding your own compost or other nutrient rich organic materials, like egg shells and used coffee grounds. 

What’s the best garden soil to buy?

Top garden soil

Burpee Premium Organic Potting Mix

Burpee Premium Organic Potting Mix

What you need to know: Gardeners will love the organic makeup of this potting mix, sold by a well-known brand. 

What you’ll love: The moisture retention is ideal for germinating seeds, and the included plant food is perfect for growing both vegetables and flowers in all types of containers. 

What you should consider: Somewhat expensive for the size. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Top garden soil for the money

Miracle-Gro Potting Mix

Miracle-Gro Potting Mix

What you need to know: This Miracle-Gro potting mix is one of the best soils for growing large vibrant flowers. 

What you’ll love: This soil mixture contains fertilizers and absorbent ingredients to keep your plants healthy all season long. 

What you should consider: The airy consistency won’t be suitable for all plant varieties. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot 

Worth checking out

Miracle-Gro Expand 'n Gro

Miracle-Gro Expand ‘n Gro

What you need to know: As an all-purpose option, this garden soil is better at holding water than standard garden soil.

What you’ll love: Gardeners can use this versatile soil in pots, beds or in-ground, as the soils itself expands when wet. 

What you should consider: There have been reports of the soil containing small plastic particles. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot


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Matthew Young writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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