Soil vs Dirt: What’s the Difference

differnce between dirt and soil

Have you ever wondered if there is a difference between soil and dirt? Maybe you are like most people and have never really thought about it.

Perhaps you just assumed dirt and soil are the same. Most of the population uses these two words interchangeably.

This article will break down everything you need to know about dirt and soil and how they are greatly different.

After reading this article you will be able to clearly distinguish the difference between dirt and soil, why it’s even important to know, and the many different types of soil.

Are Dirt and Soil the Same Thing?

The simple answer to this question is no, they are not the same. However, dirt and soil are related to each other.

Deciphering all of the nuances of what dirt is and what soil is can be confusing and get a bit muddy. It’s best to remember that soil is composed of dirt plus additives.

Think of dirt as a basic, simple layer of soil. Soil cannot exist without having dirt in it. If soil were to lose all of its positive additives, it would revert to simple dirt.

What is Dirt?

Dirt is composed of clay, silt, sand, rock, pebbles, and other simple components. Dirt is considered “dead” and nutrient-void.

Dirt lacks essential nutrients, minerals, and living organisms needed to produce and grow plants. It is not an organized ecosystem and it doesn’t have structure.

This lack of structure means that dirt isn’t able to compact or bind together when wet. Due to this, dirt cannot hold onto water, making plant growth impossible. In addition, erosion and runoff can become an issue with dirt. 

Plants and crops shouldn’t be planted in the dirt if you wish to have a flourishing garden. 

What is Soil?

Soil formation begins with dirt but also has several other additives that make it “alive” and conducive to growing lush plants and crops. Soil creates the ideal environment for plant growth. 

Think of soil as a complex living ecosystem made of these key components:

In addition to creating and supporting life above ground, soil contributes to several positive things for the Earth.

Soil aids in removing carbon dioxide and pollutants from the environment. It also helps recycle nutrients, which creates a healthy ecosystem. Unlike dirt, soil is compactable and can hold onto water very well.

Different Types of Soil

If you are trying to grow a garden or crops it is very useful to know the different types of soil. Each soil type is unique and has special considerations you should be aware of.

Clay Soil

This type of soil can be difficult to work with because the soil will clump together and become sticky when wet. This makes it harder for nutrients and water to reach plant roots.

When clay soil dries out it becomes hard. Despite these qualities, some plants will still do well in clay soil. Some of these include trees, shrubs, and summer vegetables.

Silt Soil

Silt soil is very light and slippery. It’s most easily described as the mud at the bottom of rivers that feels soft between your toes.

Silt soil is rich in plant nutrients and great for gardeners to use. One downside is that it erodes easily. Due to it being so light wind and rain can wash it away.

Sand Soil

Sand soil is just as you would imagine it. It’s loose, running right through your fingers, and doesn’t take shape when compacted.

The cons of this sandy soil are that it doesn’t hold onto water and dries out quickly. On the flip side, it’s great for drainage and easy to work with.

Peat Soil

Peat soil isn’t easily found, especially in the garden setting. It most commonly occurs in wetland areas.

It retains water very well and is great for plants that thrive in a more acidic environment. Negatives of peat soil include poor drainage and can be low plant nutrients.

Chalk Soil

This soil type is not as common as the others. It is mainly found in limestone beds. It’s generally not recommended for plant growth due to its tendency to create shallow root systems.

Loam Soil

Loam soil is a combination of silt, clay, and sand. This perfect combination makes for the best soil type for plant growth.

It possesses many positives and has hardly any drawbacks. It is great for holding moisture and drainage. It’s easy to work with and is the ideal soil type.

Why Is It Important to Know the Difference Between Soil and Dirt?

Knowing the difference between dirt, soil, and the soil type you’re working with is crucial if you wish to grow anything. Remember that dirt is dead and trying to grow anything in the dirt alone will always turn up void.

Call Gecko Green

Lawn care can be complex, especially when trying to produce lush plants and grass. Gecko Green is here to help with any lawn or soil issues you may be having. If you have concerns about your soil or lawn we are here to assist you.

Call today and one of our licensed lawn care professionals will speak to you directly about the next steps needed to get your lawn looking fantastic.

Call for a free quote today!