Picture this. Everything is set up. You already got the grass seeds, flower seeds and vegetable seeds, and now the only question is what kind of soil you want to use: Potting soil or topsoil. Do not fret; this very question has puzzled many before you and is sure to puzzle many to come, but here is the basic run-down to help you make the best decision.
The first thing we need to do is to define each one, and add in one more “soil” that most people do not even know about. The irony of this secret “soil” is that it could quite possibly have more nutrients for your plants than topsoil or potting soil. This “soil” is not really a soil. It is worm castings, or vermicast.
The first and most common is topsoil. Topsoil is basically the top layer of soil, thus the name topsoil. Real topsoil has gone through a very lengthy process, often taking hundreds of years to complete, during which nutrients from dead and dying plants, stems, and leaves are absorbed into the topsoil. This creates very rich topsoil on which plants can thrive. Such rich topsoil is obviously a very limited resource. Most of the topsoil sold by retailers is a much simpler form of topsoil. It is the top layer of soil taken from just about anywhere, and is often mixed with some sort of organic materials. This form of topsoil is so commonly referred to as topsoil, it seems appropriate that this new simpler form of topsoil should be accepted as being called topsoil, and “real topsoil” should be referred to as such to prevent any possible confusion. Topsoil, as we know it, also has lot of nutrients for plants.
Potting soil by name is hypocritical since it is not really a soil. It is actually any of a number of possible mixes that vary in weight and composition. These mixes often contain peat moss, composted barks, drainage materials, such as perlite, and other nutrients and conditioners such as bone meal, potash, and timed released fertilizers to help stabilize the mix. Topsoil is literally loaded with nutrients and is therefore also useful in helping your plants thrive.
Worm castings are by far the least known, but almost definitely have significantly more nutrients than both potting soil and topsoil. Worm castings are produced on worm farms where worms are put to live in extremely rich soil which is already loaded with nutrients. These worms live there for a while until they shed their skins. This is the best possible source of plants’ nutrients, since worms exude the most nutrients naturally. The end result is an extremely nutritious “soil” on which plants can thrive.
As far as the prices for these three products go, they are generally all about the same price. You should probably be looking to spend a couple of dollars per bag depending on the quality of the soil that you are purchasing. While topsoil and worm castings are generally the same stuff and cost the same wherever you go, there are many different kinds of potting soils ranging in price from two dollars to thirteen dollars per bag, or more. The price fluctuates based on what is in each particular potting soil. A richer one will cost more, while potting soil without so many nutrients will cost less.
The obvious question is what to do with all this information. Which one of the three aforementioned “soils” is the best one to use? What about potting soil? Will there really be a recognizable difference dependent upon if you use the cheap potting soil or the expensive potting soil?
To answer these questions, it is important to first determine what you are trying to grow and what you are trying to get out of your soil. If you are trying to create that dream lawn, topsoil will do the job just fine. All the nutrients that you can find in potting soil and worm castings are really not that important and these other soils could even damage your lawn.
If you are planting a flower bed or have pot plants, either indoor or outdoor, worm castings is the best way to go. These is because the soil will not clump up and harden, and will even time-release the water and fertilizer to make sure your plants get what they need when they need it. Worm castings are generally hard to come by since most people do not know about them causing most landscape supply stores to not sell them. Since this is the case, potting soil is the next best thing, and some experts even insist that potting soil is better than worm castings. Topsoil will often harden and clump up and rather than absorb water, it will just let the water runoff. The plant can become soaked when watered and dry up when it’s not. Potting soil and worm castings, on the other hand, stay damp and give the plant or flower bed what it needs when it need it. The price that you pay for potting soils will directly affect how effective it will be and how many nutrients it will contain. The expensive bags of potting soil will certainly help your plants reach their maximum potential. The cheaper bags will definitely contribute to the health of your plants, but not as much as the more expensive bags. It is completely up to you to determine how much your plants mean to you to determine which bag to get. Worm castings can also attract worms which will eventually shed their castings contributing even more nutrients to the soil, which essentially helps the plants or flowers.
The fact that worm castings attract worms is also perhaps the only known negative to using worm castings. Surely if you are planting a vegetable garden, your best bet would be to use potting soil, rather than to use worm castings and taking the chance to attract worms to your favorite veggies. This way your vegetable patch will get all the nutrients it could possibly get from the potting soil, and whatever nutrients you lose by not using worm castings, is more than off-set by the fact that you’ll have that many fewer unpleasant surprises when you bite into that cucumber.
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