There is a constant debate out there these days about organic vs. non-organic soil. Gardeners and greenhouse owners alike are often faced with a decision to make: Go organic topsoil or not? If you’re a newbie (greenhouse) gardener and not yet got round to making your own organic compost, this may be a pressing question on your mind too. If you’re completely new to organic gardening, you may not even know the difference between organic and non-organic soil.
So, what’s the big difference between organic and non-organic soil?
It’s a valid question! The type of topsoil you use in your greenhouse will have an effect on your plants and how they grow.
Organic and non-organic soil have many differences—even the soil structure is different. Organic compost is made of organic materials (both living and non-living), while non-organic soil is made of manufactured materials. So what type of topsoil should you use in your greenhouse?
First, let’s get a grasp of what topsoil is exactly, as it is different from the gardening soil.
What is topsoil?
Topsoil, generally speaking, is the top layer of soil that you place in your greenhouse or garden, and can be anywhere from 2 to 12 inches deep. Topsoil is usually rich in organic matter and microorganisms, as well as nutrients which help plants grow.
What is organic soil?
Organic soil is made up of things like microorganisms and decaying plant materials. It consists of carbon-based material that is made of living or once-living organisms. Organic soil is also great for the environment. Studies consistently show that food plants grown organically are significantly higher in nutrients than foods grown conventionally.
What are the benefits of organic soil?
Organic soil has other added benefits which make it a prime choice for greenhouse gardeners including:
- Made of organic matter
- Has different pH levels
- Free from genetically-altered chemicals
- Can help plants soak in more nutrients and water from the soil
Organic soil is organic matter made of animal and plant residues that have decomposed. It is rich in nutrients and minerals and is both natural and highly effective in greenhouses. Organic matter is the matter that is left over when the roots, stems, and leaves of plants decompose.
Organic soil helps to better cultivate plans and improves the composition of soil as it can help reduce the chance of soil “packing” together, making it looser and easier to break up. Organic soil can also significantly increase the nutrient content in soil, making the soil resistant to types of pathogenic invasions and pest infestations, giving plants natural protection instead of having to resort to the use of pesticides. Plants that have been grown in organic soil are also typically much richer in minerals, nutrients, and antioxidants.
Did you know that farmers who use organic soil use 50% less energy than farmers who use chemicals and mechanized techniques to soil their crops? Although you may not be a farmer, if being environmentally-friendly is important to you, it is definitely something you should factor into your decision about what type of soil you should be using in your greenhouse.
Organic soil retains water and nutrients, is environmentally-friendly and can also significantly improve your soil’s quality - completely naturally.
What is non-organic soil?
Non-organic soil, on the other hand, is soil that is made up of manufactured materials, including chemicals like pesticides. Non-organic soil is typically:
- Has a neutral pH
- Free from contaminants
- Made up of a combination of bark, peat and perlite or vermiculite
The Pros and Cons of Using Organic Soil vs. Non-Organic Soil
- Improves quality of soil
- More time consuming, requiring more labor
- Lower yield
- Takes much less time and labor to maintain
- Higher yields
- Not as eco-friendly
- Possible health risks
- Lower levels of nutrients
Should you use organic topsoil in your greenhouse?
Not only is going organic good for the environment, but it is also great for your garden and your greenhouse. If you prefer to go natural and don’t want to put harmful chemicals and pesticides into your garden, going organic is the route for you.
Chemical-free soil has a plethora of nutrients and minerals which are better for your plants. Without the use of man-made chemicals, you are also protecting the environment and growing the plants in your greenhouse completely naturally. If this is something that is important to you, then you should definitely opt for organic topsoil in your greenhouse.
The presence of organic matter enhances the fertility and water storage of soil. Studies indicate that organic soil, when compared to non-organic soil, has a greater concentration of micronutrients, higher stress tolerance and increased levels of carbon and nitrogen. You can’t argue with science. Although it may take a little bit more time to grow the plants in your greenhouse with organic soil, it’s a small price to pay when considering the alternative.
Organic soil increases water storage and can help your plants grow naturally. Non-organic soil relies on pesticides and various chemicals to prevent disease and promote growth while organic soil is natural and uses non-synthetic materials. If you’re looking for quantity over quality and don’t mind using chemicals in the soil to grow your plants, then you should use non-organic topsoil.
On the other hand, it is always recommended to go natural. If you prefer natural and want your greenhouse to mirror your eco-friendly beliefs, you should always go organic.
Your greenhouse is your sanctuary, and unless you don’t mind using man-made soil that is full of chemicals, you should always go the organic route for your garden.
Another important thing to factor in is who or what you are growing the plants in your greenhouse for. If you are growing food in your greenhouse that your pets or family will eat, the organic route is always the best route.
If you have gone organic and are interested in learning more about organic soil or how to fight off pesky pests the organic way, take a look at our organic pest control page, which will walk you through how to control pests ranging from mites to caterpillars to even slugs and snails.