Last updated: August 7, 2021

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Welcome to our big garden soil test 2021. Here we present all the garden soils we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web.

We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best garden soil for you.

You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy garden soil.




The most important facts

  • It is particularly important that you carry out a soil analysis before planting the plants, because every soil has a different pH value. This is crucial for a high-yielding harvest.
  • In addition to garden soil containing peat, you can also use peat-free alternatives such as compost, coconut and wood fibres or bark humus. By doing so, you are protecting the remaining peatlands on this planet.
  • Be careful not to water your plant too often and too much. Mould tends to spread in a permanently damp environment and will attack your plant.

The gest garden soil: Our picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying garden soil

For what and which areas is garden soil suitable?

In addition to optimal light conditions and the right watering, the right garden soil is a decisive factor for the growth of your plants. If these are not given, plant growth can be inhibited or prevented. Under the soil, complex processes take place that promote and enable growth.

Basically, garden soil is suitable for houseplants, lawns, planting in wooden raised beds, greenhouses and balcony plants. In addition, this soil is also popular for growing vegetables, herbs or for planting roses, lavender, hydrangeas or strawberries.

Garden soil can be used for planting different things - such as lawns, plants and vegetables. (Image source: unsplash.com / Markus Spiske)

It is especially important that the soil is not acidic, low in nutrients or even overfertilised. These conditions would visibly reduce your crop yields and yields. If your garden soil is well supplied with nutrients, your plants can thrive and you can benefit greatly from the right choice of garden soil.

What pH value should garden soil have?

The pH value is also known as the soil reaction and is an important characteristic for your garden soil. It determines, among several other factors, how productive your crops will be and how well your plants can thrive. An incorrect pH value can lead to deficiency symptoms and the plants cannot enjoy optimal growth.

There are three types of soil reactions:

  • Acidic
  • Neutral
  • Alkaline/calcareous

Most plants thrive optimally in soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH.

It is important to note that the pH value of your garden soil can differ significantly from that of another. Each soil has its own characteristics and should therefore be subjected to a soil reaction analysis beforehand. In this way you can determine the exact nature of your soil.

Either you have the soil test carried out by garden centres or official bodies, or you determine the composition yourself. The latter can be done on the one hand with a mud sample, on the other hand with indicator test strips from the pharmacy or indicator tablets (soil sample sets).

Here we have selected a video to illustrate the independent soil analysis at home:

What are the ingredients of garden soil?

The ingredients in garden soil are particularly important for the optimal growth of plants, especially if the soil does not meet the perfect conditions for this. Garden soil provides young plants with a lot of energy. It also makes good use of rather nutrient-poor soils.

The following ingredients are contained in garden soil:

  • Humus (mostly bark humus)
  • Compost from plant parts
  • Organic matter such as coconut and wood fibres, algae, guano
  • Peat
  • Fertiliser

Peat damages the degradation of Europe's natural moorland and an over-acidification of the garden soil occurs. Due to the over-acidification, plants can no longer thrive optimally. However, peat is contained in many substrates, so it is essential to look for peat-free soil when buying - more on this later in the buying criteria.

Furthermore, it is particularly important to add inorganic substances or minerals to the plants. These are only rarely found in garden soil and must therefore be mixed in yourself. To prevent the roots from suffocating or drowning, sand and other additives must be added, depending on the susceptibility to moisture.

What does garden soil cost?

The cost of garden soil varies depending on the type of soil and the ingredients it contains. The following table shows you how much different garden soils cost on average:

Type price range
Plant soil approx. 4 - 30€
Potting soil approx. 4 - 37€
Special soil approx. 5 - 35€

Garden soil can be bought in different weight classes, depending on whether it is more or less expensive.

Compared to the other two, special soils are mainly sold in 5 litre packs. In some cases, 5 litres cost more than 20 litres of a plant soil.

In a large price study, we examined 225 products from the garden soil category to give you an overview. You can view the results here in our graph. Find out in our guide whether a product in the higher or lower price range is suitable for you.
(Source: Own representation)

What are the alternatives to garden soil?

If you decide not to buy conventional garden soil (with peat) and are looking for peat-free alternatives, we can help you here.

In the table below we list the possible alternatives for your garden soil:

Type Description
Compost Compost can be used as an alternative to the peat usually found in garden soil. As a natural organic waste product, the soil is rich in nutrients and promotes soil structure. The pH value is 7 - 8.5, so the soil is not over-acidified.
Coconut and wood fibres here, too, the pH value is higher than with peat: 3.6 - 6. The wood fibres also ensure good root penetration and optimal air exchange in the soil.
Bark humus Bark humus is obtained from shredded, fermented coniferous bark. In most cases, this is enriched with nitrogen. The nutrient-poor bark humus can store up to 50% water and promotes the root growth of your plants.

Decision: What types of garden soil are there and which is right for you?

If you want to buy garden soil, there are three alternatives to choose from:

  • Plant soil
  • Potting soil
  • Special soil

These three types differ not only in their price range, but also in their composition, ingredients and areas of application.

Depending on whether you want to plant plants in gardens, greenhouses, vegetable pots, raised beds or containers, or whether you prefer to grow indoor, potted, balcony or patio plants, you should find out which type of garden soil is best for you.

What are the characteristics of potting soil and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Potting soils are basically suitable for plants in gardens, greenhouses, vegetable beds and raised beds, but also for keeping in pots.

Soil for plants is used for soil improvement, for planting out adult plants or young plants after some time in the pot, as well as for keeping them in tubs outdoors and for overwintering.

Plant soils do not act on a plant species or family like the special soils, these act as a general soil. In doing so, these help to optimise sites in their procurement.

The following plants benefit from plant soils:

  • Roses
  • Hedges
  • Perennials
  • Garden flowers
  • Woody plants of all kinds

The fertiliser in potting soil contains less nitrogen, sulphur and phosphate, but more potassium. The plant soil contains the same amount of magnesium as the potting soil. The pH value of this soil is 6.4-6.5 - so it is slightly acidic.

Potting soil is also often referred to as garden soil. This makes it easy to distinguish it from potting soil.

Advantages
  • Effect not specialised for one type of plant
  • optimisation of sites in their procurement
  • soil improvement
  • loosening of the garden soil
  • unlimited root space
  • utilisation of the structural stability of the natural soil
Disadvantages
  • Shorter storage

What distinguishes potting soil and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Compared to potting soil, potting soil specialises in potted plants that are not outdoors and are planted in a fixed location. This is suitable for the following plants: Indoor, pot, balcony and patio plants.

https://www.gartenspring.de/blumenerde-test/

Potting soil is usually enriched with clay, which results in the soil being enriched with several nutrients and moisture.

Potting soil fertiliser contains more nitrogen, sulphur and phosphate, but less potassium. The potting soil contains the same amount of magnesium as the plant soil. The pH value of this soil is 6.1, which is more acidic than that of the potting soil.

Advantages
  • For plants with limited root space
  • Additional clay content
  • Longer storage
  • More microorganisms
  • Sufficient water and oxygen storage in the pot
Disadvantages
  • No further nourishment from the natural soil
  • Limited root space
  • Must be structurally stable (only a few additives can be added to improve the soil)

What distinguishes special soils and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

On the one hand, special soils are formulated for individual plant families or species; on the other hand, special soils may also be needed for certain uses.

The right choice of garden soil is particularly crucial for plant growth, because not all soil is the same.

There are numerous types of special soils. We will discuss three of them here:

  • Growing soil
  • Herb soil
  • Vegetable soil

Growing soil is an extremely nutrient-poor substrate. Due to the lack of nutrients, the roots sprout much more strongly in the first few weeks. This substrate is used for growing seedlings.

Herb soil - as the name suggests - is used especially for herbs. These prefer a nutrient-poor, permeable soil with a mineral content. About 30% quartz sand is added to this soil. The reason for this is that the soil can be made even more structured.

Vegetable soil is a substrate with an even higher nutrient content. The use of animal fertilisers is discouraged. By using horn shavings and horn meal, this high nutrient content can be achieved at all.

Advantages
  • Higher nutrient content
  • variety of different special soils
Disadvantages
  • Only for certain plant families and genera
  • not absolutely necessary for the garden

Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate garden soils

In the following we will show you which aspects you can use to decide between the many existing garden soils.

The criteria you can use to compare garden soils include:

  • Water reservoir
  • Pre-portioning
  • Weight
  • Peat-free and unfertilised
  • Mould inhibitor

In the following paragraphs we will explain what is important in the individual criteria.

Water storage capacity

The water storage capacity of your garden soil is particularly important. This keeps the soil moist for longer and the even availability of water leads to better fruit and flower formation.

Water storage granules are also available. These are allowed to swell and then mixed into the plant soil. The effect lasts about 5 years. The gel ensures high growth in the shoot and also leads to a significant increase in root mass.

If the soil stores a lot of water, it does not need to be watered even over longer periods of time.

Pre-portioning

It is particularly convenient and practical to buy garden soil that is already pre-portioned. You don't have to do much work, because the soil is usually divided into 4 individual pieces and you don't have to weigh anything extra.

Weight

The weight of your garden soil is usually given in litres. You have to decide how much garden soil you need. You can buy single bags, double packs or, for example, a pack of twelve.

You can buy 5, 9, 10, 20, 40, 50, 60, 70, ... litre packs.

650 g of unfertilised, peat-free, pressed potting soil can be bought as humus bricks, for example. You don't even have to carry a whole kilo, and by adding 2 litres of water you can get 18 litres of loose coco humus. These pressed bags are therefore space-saving and easy to carry.

The packaging of garden soil can be bought in different numbers of litres. (Image source: unsplash.com / Markus Spiske)

Peat-free and unfertilised

Peat is an organic sediment formed from dead plant residues such as mosses and grasses. The disadvantage of peat-enriched soils is the decline of peatland landscapes.

Since peatlands contain important components of our ecosystem, it is important to safeguard them and replace peat with alternatives such as compost, coconut and wood fibres or bark humus.

In some commercial soils, the peat content can be as high as 90%.

Why peat is nevertheless extremely popular with many gardeners is partly because it stores water well and partly because it is low in nutrients. This means that peat is almost free of seeds and pathogens. In addition, the raw materials for peat-free alternatives are much more expensive than the peat itself.

Some plants only thrive in peaty soils - in this case, peat-free alternatives must not be used.

If your garden soil is peat-free, it has the great advantage that it does not over-acidify the soil. The pH value of peat is in the range of 2.8 to 3.2 and is therefore very acidic. All the alternatives mentioned above and in the guide have a pH value that ranges from slightly acidic to neutral.

You need to water the peat-free garden soils more often to prevent them from drying out. They do not have as high a water storage capacity as peat.

Over-fertilised plants are susceptible to rain and wind. In addition, the formation of flowers would be strongly inhibited and too many and large leaves would develop instead.

It therefore makes sense to buy unfertilised garden soil and fertilise it yourself with the optimum fertiliser - you can also determine the dosage yourself.

Mould inhibitor

Another important purchase criterion is the mould-inhibiting effect. This makes your garden soil suitable for sowing and growing exotics. The moisture is evenly distributed to the seeds.

If you water your plant too often or a lot, a white fluff will form on the plant soil. These mould spores formed by the mould can also be dangerous for us humans.

If your plant soil contains mould inhibitors, this can be prevented.

Image source: unsplash.com / Markus Spiske

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