Best bagged soil

m990540September 21, 2010


I'm thinking of replacing some of the soil in my landscaping beds. I thought putting in any bagged soil would be better than the builder's dirt I've got in there now and I'm looking for an easier way to enrich the soil without churning compost into the existing soil.

Does anyone have any reviews/suggestions of common bagged soils (Miracle Gro, Scotts, etc.) or know of a better product in the OKC area?

Thanks in advance!

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What are your plans for replacing the soil? Are you going to dig it out and put new soil in? In my mind that is more work than spading in some compost. I think the easiest way to amend soil is the no till method in which you just lay a few inches of compost on top of the existing soil, and let the earthworms do the rest. It's less work, but it takes longer. On the other end of the spectrum, you can dig in or till in compost and organic matter which is more work but less time. I've come to find that in gardening, there is an inherent trade off between time on the one hand, and work and money on the other.

As far as bagged products, I would stay away from anything containing synthetic fertilizers like miracle grow, though this often comes down to personal philosophy. I haven't had much luck with the Green Country brand you often see in Lowe's and Home Depot either. Many around here will tell you horror stories of that stinky stuff.

Have you tried making your own compost? The compost you make yourself is always the best compost to use in the garden. There are also companies that will deliver bulk compost to your door like Murphy Products. I'll link their website at the bottom. The quality of their compost is pretty good.

What are you planting in this bed anyway? That will largely determine when and how to amend the soil.


Here is a link that might be useful: Murphy Products

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 2:58PM
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crm2431(7 -Tahlequah)

I use the Sta-green vegetable and flower mixed with some of the Green Country compost and everything is doing great, but I know I am alone, just my input I haven't had the problems with the Green Country brands like others. Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 6:22PM
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i used green country for potting soil and nothing wants to grow in it. it stays tiny when it is supposed to be a hollyhock.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2010 at 4:37AM
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I used a few bags of Green Country potting soil last season and it had a tendency to turn into concrete. Bad bad stuff.


    Bookmark   September 24, 2010 at 2:36PM
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Thanks for all the great responses. I have a 25' by 2' (yes, narrow) slice of my flower bed that I'm looking to raise several inches. I was thinking that I could simply buy a few bags of something like Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Soil to fill in the area. Next spring I will likely plant annuals such as begonias in the section.

I do use compost, but I'm always worried that by spading/working the compost into the soil near existing plants, that I will damage the plants' roots - therefore, doing more harm than good.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2010 at 11:09PM
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m990540, It sounds like you may be doing somewhat like I have done. I have a drainage problem so I have been raising the level of my planting surface.

To raise the surface I pull the soil from the outter edges toward the center and also add organic matter. The area I pull the soil from forms a small ditch, this makes weed control easier and gives a drainage path for the water. My gardens have done much better after improving drainage and amending the soil.

I dont buy bagged soil, I just amend what I have. I have a tiller which makes the job much easier.


    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 12:16AM
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tulsastorm(z6 Tulsa OK)

I used to have good luck with Green Country top soil. The good stuff looks like compost. I've built several raised beds over the last few years, and that is the only dirt in them. This year, maybe 50% of the bags I purchased almost smell and look like pure manure. I've found dumping out the bad bags into an open pile and letting it set for a few weeks helps. I apply cedar mulch to just about everything, so if it isn't good fertile soil this year, the mulch compost will enrich the soil for next year.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 6:35PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I'm in southern OK so don't know what you can find in nurseries in the OKC area, but I would think some of the nurseries or bulk material retailers in the OKC area would sell a soil/compost blend that you could buy by the pick-up truck load (if you have a pick-up truck or can borrow one) or also would sell pure compost. When we lived in Fort Worth, we bought the most beautiful 50% sandy loam/50% compost blend by the yard from a landscape material company and used it to fill raised beds. Buying in bulk by the yard was much less expensive than buying a bagged product and we were able to purchase a soil/compost blend that did not contain pellets of synthetic fertilizer.

You do have to be very careful with any bagged materials you purchase because sometimes the ones sold as potting soil are nothing but black junk clay, and the bags of "Topsoil" are usually the worst quality clay as well. Even name-brand types can vary widely in quality, so if you buy bagged products, check each bag before you pour it out onto the ground and make sure it looks and smells humusy and healthy. Sometimes the bagged products smell putrid, and if they do, I dump them on the compost pile and leave them there for months, and sometimes they have huge chunks of wood and those go onto the compost pile as well. Always wear good gloves when handling bagged materials because they often are infected with nasty fungi that can infect your skin and even become systemic within your body.

One of the best ways in the world to improve soil is to collect all the fall leaves (including those your neighbors rake up and bag and set curbside) and chop/shred them (I just rake them into a pile and mow over them with the lawn mower, collecting them in the grasscatcher bag). I pile up the leaves on top of the beds in the fall and wet them down with the water hose. By spring they have decomposed and broken down in to a lovely, crumbly brown leaf mold/compost type product. I don't work it into the soil, but just rely on the earthworms (they love, love, love leaves), rainfall and any digging/planting I do in the beds, to carry the decomposed leaves down into the ground.

Think about the way Mother Nature builds soils in our woodlands. Leaves, twigs and other plant debris fall to the ground and decomposes and the insects, small digging animals like moles or gophers, rainfall, etc. carry the compost particles down into the ground. No one goes into the natural woodlands and rototills or digs the compost/leaf mold into the ground. In the woodland areas on our property, the top 8 to 12" of 'soil' is lovely, humusy, rich, brown soil that has developed from decomposing forest material lying on the forest floor. That good soil lies on top of dense red clay. By contrast, the soil in prairie grass areas of our property is nothing but the dense red clay that resembles concrete. I build my ornamenental beds the same way...from the top down and it works just fine. You'd be surprised at how well the compost/humus works its way down into our hard, red clay in a relatively short period of time. We've been here a dozen years and anywhere that we've planted beds of shrubs, trees and perennials, our red clay has turned into nice, brown loamy clay, mostly just from the decomposition of wood mulch and leaves layered continually on top of the beds.


    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 7:47AM
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Dawn and other posters,

Thank you all for your help. I wound up going with mixing several bags of Back to Nature compost and Black Kow composted manure to amend the soil I have (mixed in with a shovel and a spade). (The Farmer's Grain Company in Edmond has a nice selection of compost by the way.)

What started out as a standard red colored, compacted soil is now just about black and plenty loose. I'll cover it with mulch shortly until the spring. I can't wait to plant some annuals there come April/May and see how they do!

Thanks again,

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 10:26PM
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green country is horrible. i have 3 hollyhocks planted in it and they have not grown in the last 3 months. i need to move them to real soil. the seeds would not sprout and if they did they died immediately. i even tried seeding mixture. wierd. seeds do better when planted into our ground than they do in little pots.

never heard of these other potting soils you are all talking about.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2010 at 7:15AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


It sounds like you just accomplished some major soil improvement. That's terrific! I bet your annuals will love that soil next spring.

Black Kow is my favorite cow manure (only a fellow gardener would understand a statement like that) because it is high-quality and it is 100% manure. Did you know that some so-called bagged cow manure products are up to 90% filler? I won't buy anything but Black Kow because of that.

I like Back To Earth products and the company has been around, selling organic soil amendments, for a long time back to the days when we organic gardeners were considered oddities by the mainstream gardening world.

Did you know one way you can measure your soil improvement (other than by improved plant growth and performance, which is obvious) is by the number of earthworms you find in the beds when you're digging? As your soil's compost, manure and humus component grows, so does the earthworm population.


I have bought Green Country once and it seemed OK, but I'm not going to buy it again based on everyone's experiences here.

So, if the brands we've mentioned aren't familiar to you, then what kinds of bagged products do y'all have there in your part of the state?

I mostly just see the same national brands in the Lowe's, Home Depot and Wal-Mart stores here but some of the local nurseries have some of the higher-quality products. For really great organic stuff, though, I usually shop at the Calloway's Nursery chain's stores or at Mike's Garden Center, Marshall Grain, Green Mama's or Redenta's Garden stores in the D-FW metroplex. I feel like the D-FW metro area (only 70-80 miles south of me) must be on the cutting edge of organic gardening because all kinds of high-quality organic products are available there and have been for at least the last 20 years. Here in extreme, rural southcentral OK, our shopping options are mostly limited to anything made by Scott's/Miracle Grow/Bonnie Plants.

I am somewhat eagerly awaiting the first hard freeze (NOT from a plant-killing standpoint, lol) because that usually means the nights are cold enough that I can rake, gather and shred autumn leaves to add to my veggie and ornamental beds. Because of our abundant venomous snake population here, I have to be really, really careful about raking and gathering leaves before the weather gets cold or I'll find myself face to face with a snake....and that's something I try to avoid. I've only seen one snake this week, so I think the cool nights are helping in that regard.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2010 at 8:04AM
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i think back to nature cotton burr compost is one of the best...anyway cotton burr compost is one of the best, some of it is from texas and some from mississippi

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 10:44PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

I use Back to Nature Cotton Burr compost and love it.

I don't use bagged top soil for much other than filling in low spots. I use whatever I can find at Lowes for that.

For my wintersowing, I usually use MG Top Soil (with water retention crystals) ( I think). I don't use Miracle Grow for anything else, but I do cheat and use it to get my seedlings started. I wouldn't recommend anything with the vermiculite (or whatever that white stuff is) for garden soil. It's too light.

When I needed to level out my back yard after some plumbing work, I bought top soil in bulk from a company. It was called "Rich Mix". It was beautiful stuff. I don't remember the name of the company off hand, it's been quite a while ago, but I just called landscaping companies out of the yellow pages. They delivered it for me, but I think they said I could have picked it up.

You might call Minick's.

For the cotton burr compost, I know Edmond Feed and Seed carries it and so does Horn's Seed.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2010 at 1:04AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Black Kow is not sold up north. I have looked for it. I get my manure from a barn lot and it has lots of weed seeds but plants love it.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 10:58PM
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Back to Nature products are wonderful. Instead of the cow manure I buy the BTN chicken manure. It is a little more balanced in terms of NPK than the CM. But that's just my personal preference, I had always used the Black Kow, but a lady in Mississippi changed my mind a few years ago and I started using the CM. One thing I don't have to worry about by using the BTN products is that they are very, very well composted and I've never had any plant burn.

I have found a wholesale plant products place here in the OKC area that I buy from now. They sold retail to me cuz I only buy small amounts from them, and they have products that you don't find on the shelves in the big box stores and even some of the Farmer's feed and seed stores. I switched to Al's 5:1:1 potting mix this summer and could not find my pine bark fines anywhere. Finally found them at this place for about $4 for 3 cubic feet, But, they also carry potting mixes like Metro Mix, soil conditioners like Turface, fertilizers, greenhouse materials, pots, and so much more at wholesale prices that fit into a gardener's budget with room to spare. Next year I plan to get my perlite and peat moss bulk from them, too. I can get the larger grade perlite that I really want.


    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 7:53AM
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The Green Country stuff (top soil and peat) smells like petroleum. And, if something smells like petroleum, then it has petroleum in it. Where the crap do they get this stuff, near an oil well?

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 5:37PM
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I thought it kind of smelled like ground-up railroad cross ties the last time I bought it. LOL I must say that it is consistently inconsistent though, because I have had some that was fine and some that was horrible.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 6:02PM
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I don't buy manure, mulch or compost very often. The one product I do buy and really like that is made in Shattuck,OK is called Humalfa. A very good product in my opinion. It is available around here and I'm sure in other parts of OK. Jay

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 7:55PM
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My favorite bag soil is Nickel City "Just Right Xtra,"
Only place I know if that sells it is Organics OKC. I've attached a link to the site of the people who mix/sell it wholesale...

It's not cheap, but really good stuff.

Here is a link that might be useful: Just Right Xtra

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 4:07PM
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I filled a whole raised bed with the green country crap and the only thing that will grow in it is onion sets and marigolds. Nothing else. Seriously. I never buy that stuff now. I do use MG soil, and stay green from Lowes. I prefer the stay green, it has done wonders.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2011 at 7:30AM
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if u live close to jay ok. u can buy mushroom compost for 15.00 for a bobcat scoop, i put 3 scoops on my trailer w
when i go there.lindlys gas co. keeps compost all the is excellent for growing veggies

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 11:38AM
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