How to Buy Organic Soil

Organic soil can be tricky to find, but it is essential to the farmer or gardener dedicated to organic crop production. When buying organic soil, make yourself aware of what you can expect and shop around until you find a reliable source and a high quality soil that meets your needs.


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    Do your research.[1] Truly organic soil can be hard to come by since the market for organic potting media has only begun increasing in the past few years. Moreover, organic standards have also become stricter as the demand for organic goods has grown, so a soil that was once deemed organic may no longer fulfill those requirements legally. Before shopping for an organic soil, inform yourself so that you know what to expect. Traces of chemicals can be common, especially in soils containing certain types of manure, but if the amount is low enough it could still qualify as organic.
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    Check with organic resources. A good way to locate an organic soil is to look for reviews and recommendations from other growers committed to organic practices. If you know any fellow organic farmers or gardeners, those contacts are the best place to start. If not, join an online community of organic growers. Browse organic message boards or check out organic growing websites.[2][3] When going to a website dedicated to organic growing, though, it is best to find a website that is not affiliated with any specific brand or company, since these websites will likely be biased in their reviews.
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    Look for certified brands and blends. In the search for organic soil, it helps to buy from certified sources. Certification can come from a number of sources, including the USDA and third-party organizations. The latter can be just as meaningful as the former, so long as you are looking at certification from a trusted organization.
    • One of the best certifications to look for is from the Organic Materials Review Institute. This nonprofit organization judges products based on National Organic Standard requirements. Soils that are certified by this group will be labeled "OMRI Listed."
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    Buy from local growers when possible. Local farmers and municipalities will often sell organic soil blends, especially blends that are enhanced by compost. If buying from a local grower, go to one that runs an organic farm or that sells certifiably organic produce. In order for the produce to qualify as organic, it will need to have been grown using organic methods and products, including organic soil. As such, you can be certain that the soil used and purchased there is truly organic.
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    Head to a well-stocked garden center. Smaller garden centers and big box home improvement stores may not cater to the organic growing crowd, so the selection there may not be especially impressive. However, a garden center or home improvement store that is stocked well enough will almost always have some selection of organic soil, even if the selection is not especially large. Since these stores have standards they must uphold to avoid getting fined, the organic soils sold there are likely to be legitimate.
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    Shop online. The Internet will provide you with the greatest selection and variety of organic soil blends. Shopping on the Internet does come with the disadvantage of being unable to examine the soil in person before you buy it, but as long as you shop with trusted sources and take a careful look at the reviews and ingredients, you will likely be able to order a truly organic source. At the very least, the convenience and selection makes this an option worth exploring.
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    Take a close look at the ingredients list. When in doubt, the label on a package of organic soil can reveal just about everything you need to know. Check the ingredients list for organic components. If anything raises a red flag or seems questionable, go back and research that component before buying.
    • Some traditionally organic components are more controversial than others. Vermiculite can contain traces of asbestos, peat moss is occasionally treated with chemical wetting agents, and cottonseed meal is often contaminated with chemical pesticides.
    • In addition to checking the ingredients list for organic components, also check the list to determine if the soil offers your garden or farm the nutrients and density it needs.
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    Smell the soil.[4] If buying the soil in person, take a good whiff before committing to the purchase. The soil should smell good and earthy, even if it contains manure or compost. If the soil smells rotten or sulfuric, there are probably some components that have not broken down properly. As such, the soil will probably be unable to offer your plants all that they need.
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    Take a closer look. The look of organic soil can vary, but there are some basics you should be aware of. Most organic soils, especially those containing compost, should be dark and fluffy. If, however, the soil contains a heavier component like clay, it will be significantly heavier and not as fluffy. Soils that contain moss or sand may seem even lighter in color and weight.
    • Feel the soil. If possible, run your fingers through the soil to get a better idea of its weight and texture. You can usually get a good idea just by looking at it, but feeling it in between your fingers will make the quality even more obvious. Good quality organic soil should have uniform texture.


  • In addition to buying organic soil, you can also buy organic soil amendments, like compost or manure, to enrich and enhance the quality of the soil you currently have. When shopping for soil amendments, follow the same basic guidelines used to purchase organic soil.

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Categories: Soil Chemistry | Buying Wisely