Miniature Gardening 101: The Dirt on the Soil

MyOwn State Park Miniature Garden

For containers: start with organic potting soil with no added fertilizers or polymers (moisture-retaining stuff) – we haven’t had good feedback at all from using it on any plant.

Miniature Gardening 101: The Dirt

One of the challenges over the last 10 years with bringing the miniature garden hobby out in the open, and finding ways to share it with the rest of the world, is that it attracts a wide variety of people. And why wouldn’t it? It comes in many forms and is quite possibly the most accessible way to garden within the garden industry. Old or young, rural or urban, spatially challenged or not, experienced growers or those brand new to gardening, are finding out that miniature gardening is not tied to any financial, geographic or physical condition. Everyone that is willing can find something to enjoy about miniature gardening in some form or another.

Miniature Garden EbookSo, this is the beginning of a series of blogs that will answer the questions that are asked frequently and will answer questions that you don’t even know to ask yet! ;o)

Let’s get started:

What is the difference between soil and dirt?

Soil is alive. Dirt is dead. You can see the difference. Soil is dark, rich and full of organic matter. Dirt is the lifeless, gray sandy stuff between the cracks in the sidewalk.

Can I use the soil from my garden in my container?

The Tompa Dwarf Spruce is just a pleasure to grow in the miniature garden.

The Tompa Dwarf Spruce is just a pleasure to grow in the miniature garden. This pot is still together today, 7 1/2 years later. Use the right kind of soil for the best success.

No. Use potting soil for your containers. Soil from your garden bed will not work.

Potting soil is engineered to have everything that a plant needs to keep the plant healthy. Different kinds of plants like particular types of potting soil mixes. A cactus, for example, likes its roots dry and will need a different kind of potting soil than say, an African Violet, that will need constant moisture around its roots. This information is usually noted within the plant’s care instructions on the tag. Your local independent garden center will have a variety of potting soils and the knowledgeable staff to find what you need for your project.

There are different types of garden soil in your garden bed: sandy, loamy or clay, for example. This depends on where you live and whether your garden bed has been cultivated or not. Topsoil is meant for the garden bed and is not a substitute for potting soil.

Miniature Garden Plants

Find your Miniature Garden plants for indoor or outdoors in our online store.

Our miniature garden plants prefer regular organic potting soil. Stay away from the potting soils that include fertilizer or added polymers (the stuff the keeps the moisture in.) There is usually enough nutrients in fresh potting soil to feed the plants for a couple of years before needed any food.

Conifers and most of our miniature garden trees like a bit of air around their roots. If the regular potting mix does not contain enough drainage material like vermiculite or perlite, you may need to add some. (Look for a heavily peppered mix, like a peppered steak.) Providing a good mix of well-draining soil now, will help keep your miniature garden together for years.

Note that conifers planted in the ground will not need any fertilizer, they have the ability to find their own nutrients if your garden soil has a good mix of compost.

Stay Tuned for what’s up next: Miniature Gardening 102: Indoor vs. Outdoor

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  1. […] Welcome to our Miniature Garden 101 Series! Learn the basics of gardening with miniature gardening, what you learn here, can be applied to full-sized containers and plants too. If you missed the first of the series, it’s here. […]


  2. […] Miniature Garden Series of tutorials to get you started in this wonderful hobby! If you missed it, Miniature Gardening 101 was about soil, Miniature Gardening 102 is all about indoor vs. outdoor plants. Today we are […]


  3. […]  Miniature Gardening 101: The Dirt (All about soil.) […]


  4. […]  Miniature Gardening 101: The Dirt […]


  5. […] where to grow your garden, then choose right plants to suit that area. Here’s a link to our 101 Series for you to browse through, refresh your memory and see what tips and techniques you can add to your […]


  6. […] Our Beginner 101 Series on this blog starts here. […]


  7. […] in the photograph above, as it looks today. It was planted around 2004, here it is in 2007, 2010, 2011, 2014. (The garden is 12 years old, with one unnecessary repot, the tree is about 3 or 4 years old […]


  8. […] I’ve been collecting different mosses from around our property for a moss-study for the Miniature Garden Society and I couldn’t resist creating this second version of Myown State Park in 1/144th scale. I made the first version for my first display for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in 2004, you can see it here at the top of the page. […]


  9. […] The fairy garden moss that is out on the market today will not work with live plants nor will it grow. It’s fake and should be used only for artificial scenes. It will suffocate and kill the soil, and any roots if it is used with real plants too. (Soil is alive, dirt is dead – but that is another blog post, right here.) […]


  10. […] Find out more about the right potting soil to use for your miniature garden here. […]


  11. […] Miniature Gardening 101 Series – a quick series to get you jump-started. […]


  12. […] I’ve written about soil before, it’s the first chapter in our popular Miniature Gardening 101 Series: The Dirt on the Soil. And, I talk about it in here, How to Plant a Miniature Garden in a Big […]


  13. Natalie Hermann said

    is potting soil supposed to be fluffy? it’s hard to pack down and shape? I am trying to plant grass seed for a resurrection garden


    • Hi Natalie, I know what you mean by fluffy – that is the peat moss that is the fluffy part. Try soaking the soil so you can shape it, then sow the grass seed on top. I think I would try putting a plastic bag over it until the grass germinates, to help keep the soil damp. Keep the soil damp with a gentle mist and check it daily. When you start to see growth, uncover it and give it some bright, indirect light or some cool sunshine. Still mist it to water it until the grass’ roots can help keep the soil in place. Otherwise, you can try another brand of potting soil that has less peat in it. – J.


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