Typical garden soil from the garden centre has a perfect black colour, with additions like peat, fertilizers, and so called 'soil improvers'.

Can someone explain to me what the process is of making the 'typical' garden soil. With this I mean the standard soil with no fancy properties whatsoever.

Can I make it myself, through composting?

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    There are some lovely recipes in other questions on this site--mulches using bark and whatnot. Search on that and for compost (as it provides a very important element in good soil). Commented Aug 8, 2012 at 13:06

1 Answer 1


I'm not entirely certain what you're asking - the use of the term 'soil' is confusing. What you buy at the garden centre will be either potting compost (John Innes, Multi purpose, but still potting) or soil conditioning compost, or composted animal manure, or topsoil. Topsoil is only as good as where its been extracted from - its dug out of the ground and bagged up, so sometimes it might be rubbish, like motorway spoil, or it might be top graded soil.

The 'soil' you speak of with added nutrients and peat, etc., is a good description of a general potting compost rather than soil itself.

So, if you're asking if you can improve the soil you've already got, yes is the answer - humus rich materials are what you need, and by that I mean good garden compost you've made yourself, soil conditioning compost or composted animal manures that you buy in, plus things like leaf mould, spent mushroom compost, etc.

If you're asking if you can make your own potting compost, you can, but your own garden compost would need to have been produced using a 'hot' aerobic system rather than the more usual cold, anaerobic one because the heat is what kills off weed seeds and certain other undesirables. To that you'd add a quantity of sand and peat, maybe some grit; there are many recipes for making different types of potting compost, depending which plants you want to grow in it.

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    If the term "soil" is confusing, I don't think that's Joris's fault, there are products marketed as "Garden Soil". Here is an example of one.
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 15:37
  • Okay then, I should perhaps more accurately have said the term 'soil' when applied to the description given by Joris, is confusing to me, since it describes potting compost rather than soil. No 'fault' or blame implied towards Joris on my part.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 19:44
  • No hard feelings. The answer is good. In my country (Netherlands) we got "tuinaarde", which direct translation is "garden soil". The stuff is pretty common here. (although we have the lily-soil, lawnsoil, etc. most people just buy tuinaarde).
    – Joris
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 9:56
  • Very interesting, Joris - I looked up tuinaarde - synonyms are grondsoort amd mulgrond - the first means partially decomposed organic matter (soil conditioning compost to me) and the second, humus and disintegrated rock (soil conditioning again). Well, according to what I read,that is, I don't speak Dutch, obviously. Thanks for the info.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 11:15

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