When we put in our vegetable garden this year, it never occurred to us that there was any sort of thing as “organic garden soil.” To us, soil is soil. In fact, back home in Ohio, where the glaciers so kindly deposited a healthy top and subsoil millenia ago, we never bought soil at all. Georgia, on the other hand, with its heavy clay deposits, requires additions to the soil to make it useful for certain vegetables.
Obviously, there was the typical selection of dirt to be had at our local home improvement store, and the big bag of organic garden soil was approximately the same price, but the bag had half a cubic foot less material than the standard garden soil.
I was curious what constituted “organic” dirt as opposed to plain old dirt. According to the product listings at Scotts.com, the contents of the organic garden soil and the standard garden soil are about the same, excepting for the fertilizer content. In a standard soil bag, some of the fertilizer is of the man-made variety. The organic, on the other hand, used good, old-fashioned natural fertilizers.
So, the next step was a simple matter of curiousity. Our garden is set up with four boxes that measure four feet by four feet. They all get equal light throughout the day and receive the same amount of water, so they’re a good indicator of the difference between the soils. In each, we’ll plant a tomato plant, peppers, onions and potatoes, and then we’ll see if there’s an appreciable difference.
Organic garden soil is covered by the USDA’s regulations regarding organic labeling. That doesn’t mean that they’re 100% organic, though. In fact, according to the USDA website, products that are labeled as being organic need to contain only 95% organic ingredients. Only if a package says 100% organic does the product need to contain nothing but organic ingredients.
So, what was the outcome of the test? Well, all the plants sprouted at the same time, and all of them are exhibiting the same rate of growth. They use and require about the same amount of water, and all the plants appeared to do much better with a thick mulch covering that helped retain the water in the soil. Although there aren’t any vegetables yet to be seen, it does bode well that the growing season has only just begun, and all the plants are off to a good start. What it seems to boil down to, when comparing organic garden soil and normal garden soil is nothing more or less than your own preference.
Miracle-Gro garden soils; “Take Root in Healthy Soils”; www.scotts.com