Soil vs Dirt: What is the Difference Between Soil and Dirt?

Gardeners and plant enthusiasts often wonder about soil vs dirt and what is the difference between them.  They give a similar appearance and confuse the gardeners. Do you think soil and dirt are the same? Do they look similar to you? In this write-up, you will learn more about soil, dirt, and their differences.

Soil vs Dirt: All that You need to Know

What is Soil?

What is Soil?

Soil is a natural resource made up of air, water, minerals, organic matter and living organisms. Soil is alive with microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, worms and insects which help in the creation of soil from the bedrock and mountains. These microorganisms absorb carbon from the environment, recycle nutrients and support a stable ecosystem

There are six different types of soil, each of which is ideal for a different variety of crops.

Sandy soil– This soil has a texture similar to sand and is great for growing crops. But it has few nutrients because of its water draining. Sandy soil is best for root vegetables like carrots and beetroot, and commercial crops like lettuce and corn.

Clay soil– This soil has a high clay concentration making it hard to grow crops. By adding proper nutrients to it, the chances to grow plants increase. Summer vegetables and perennials are best grown in clay soil.

Silt soil– This soil has a soft texture and makes good soil for growing crops if proper drainage is provided. Crops which love water are best cultivated in silt soil.

Loamy soil– Loamy soil is a mix of Sand, silt and clay making it the ideal soil for cultivation. Acid-thriving plants grow best in this type of soil.

Peat soil– Peat soil has peat content in it with a fluffy texture. Best for legumes, salad crops and some shrubs.

Chalk soil– This soil has an alkaline texture with a chalk layer on it. The best crops are beets and spinach.

Rich Soil Recipe

Add 4-part garden soil or any soil of choice ¼ peat moss* and ¼ vermiculite* or perlite* and mix well!

  • *Peat moss- This is a product of sphagnum moss made from dried and decomposed non-living matter.
  • *Vermiculite- Alternate form of mineral
  • *Perlite-Made from volcanic minerals. 

Know the uses of garden soil, here.

What is Dirt?

What is dirt?

Dirt is lifeless and incapable of growing crops in it. They can be rocky and don’t hold moisture. Dirt is void and misses the living organisms in it and contains only the dead. They don’t have the minerals and nutrients which soil holds. Dirt is entirely decomposed and can be used as a medium with organic matter.

According to the USDA, 

The National Cooperative Soil Survey identifies and maps over 20,000 different kinds of soil in the United States

The soil formation is affected by the following factors: Climate, time, Parent material, Topography or slope, and biological factors.

Soil taxonomy at the highest hierarchical level identifies 12 soil orders. The names for the orders and taxonomic soil properties relate to Greek, Latin, or other root words that reveal something about the soil

What is soil made of?

The soil is made of 25% air, 25% Water, 45% mineral matter such as sand, clay and 5% organic matter such as plant and animal waste. 

Soil has six layers starting from bedrock, parent material, subsoil, topsoil and organic soil. Factors that affect soil formation are climate, time, location, Parent material and living organisms.  

What is dirt made of?

Dirt is basically soil minus living organisms. The dirt is formed from soil which loses the living organisms because of the ecosystem. Dirt is a dead part of the soil which lacks minerals, nutrients and organic matter making it a bad ecosystem to grow plants.


Soil organic matter is increased through substantial increases in organic materials (roots, residue, compost, manure, etc.) in the soil. Only 10% of the organic material added each year actually remains in the soil. Because of this, building a 1% organic matter increase will require 200,000 pounds of material or the equivalent of 167 round bales of corn stalks per acre.  

What is the Difference between Soil and Dirt?

What is the Difference between Soil and Dirt?

The difference between soil and dirt starts from their colour and texture while soil is dark brown in colour with fine texture and dirt is light brown in colour with coarse texture.

Soil is alive and Dirt is Dead.

Soil is filled with nutrients, minerals and living organisms whereas dirt is filled with void and decay.

Soil does have a structure when moisture is added but dirt doesn’t have a set structure.

Soil is a living system suitable for crop cultivation whereas dirt is devoid of nutrients making it not suitable for plant growth.


Now that you know the difference between soil and dirt, you are one step ahead in your gardening journey. Remember always that soil is alive and dirt is dead. Soil is a non-renewable resource, so it should be used properly.


Can you mix dirt with soil?

Yes, you can mix soil with dirt if you want more quantity of soil but definitely with some organic matter and nutrients to the dirt.

How do you turn dirt into soil?

Dirt can be turned into the soil by adding enough nutrients, minerals and organic matter to it.

Why is soil better than dirt?

Soil is better than dirt in many ways, soil is alive and helps plant growth whereas dirt is dead and mostly of no use.