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Learn Now, What Is The Difference Between Soil And Dirt

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Soil vs Dirt

One day while in the garden, I told my son not to dig a hole in the soil and, sometime later, told him not to bring dirt into the house. He immediately asked me, “What is the difference between soil and dirt?”

I tried explaining but knew that I was not doing a good job. I decided to dig into soil and dirt and find out more literally. Many people will know the basic differences between these two, but explaining may not be as easy.

If you find yourself asking the same question about soil and dirt and are there any differences, then continue to read. It seems like the same thing has two different names.

Soil allows plants to grow while dirt seems like a waste, something to be cleaned or washed off. We need soil in the garden, but it becomes annoying dirt when we track it into our homes.

What Is The Difference Between Soil And Dirt

What Is Soil?

What Is Soil - What Is The Difference Between Soil And Dirt

Soil is a living, dynamic medium. It is packed with bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. It is the life-supporting environment that supports both visible and invisible ecosystems.

It is full of nutrients and microbes, and if you scoop it up in your hand, you will be able to form a ball with it without adding any moisture. If you notice worms in the soil, it very much means that it is fertile and suitable for the plants.

What Is Dirt?

What Is Dirt - What Is The Difference Between Soil And Dirt

Dirt may look like soil, but it is very different. Unlike soil, it is mostly dead. It is devoid of any beneficial nutrients and microbes that healthy plants require.

Dirt is generally unable to support any kind of life form. It is often rocky, and even after adding water, it will not compact well.

Dirt is not suitable as a gardening medium even with supplements like chemical fertilizers. Unfortunately, once the chemicals are added, the harshness will prevent the dirt from becoming healthy.

How Is Soil Formed?

All soil begins life as dirt. It takes thousands of years for rocks to erode, mix with organic matter, decay, and accumulate. If you dig a hole in your backyard, you will notice layers of soil.

The deeper you go, the more layers you will find. Suppose, after a landslide, healthy soil washes away to a new area; it just becomes a pile of dirt! Factors which affect soil formation are

  • Climate
  • Organisms
  • Landscape
  • Base material
  • Time

However, you don’t have to wait for thousands of years to transform dirt into soil. By mixing living organisms with dirt, you can make soil.

Why Is Soil Important?

If you have good soil, then one gram of it may contain 75000 species of bacteria, 25000 species of fungi, 1000 species of protozoa, and several hundred species of small worms.

This is like a mini-universe in every one gram of soil! Apart from these microorganisms, there are visible insects like beetles, earthworms, spiders, etc. in the soil.

All of them die naturally and become food for other organisms. This life cycle is essential to all of us and affects our lives. Watch this video to learn more about soil and dirt.

  • Soil is crucial for our food security. We get food, fiber, feed, and fuel.
  • It stores water, essential nutrients, and minerals for plants.
  • Soil filters surface water of dust and other contaminants. This is what makes underground water very clean.
  • It prevents and protects land from erosion.
  • The soil regulates the Earth’s temperature.
  • It is used in making buildings to face masks and china dishes.

Soil or Dirt: Which Is Better?

The answer to this question will depend on what you want to do with it. Usually, the soil is considered better than dirt. This is mainly because the soil has multiple benefits, while dirt seems to be just a nuisance.

However, in some areas, you may be better off with dirt rather than soil, especially

  • As a playing area for kids or pets
  • As a drying medium in a soggy garden

However, when it comes to gardening and growing plants, rich soil is what you need. Dirt can be converted into the soil by adding organic matter such as leaves, vegetable peels, etc.

Soil can turn to dirt if it becomes too dry and devoid of any microorganisms. So, deciding which one is better is not very important. Without soil full of nutrients, we would all find it difficult to survive.

Soil Management

Now that we know how important soil is, we must take some steps to keep it healthy.

What Is The Difference Between Soil And Dirt
  • One of the first things to do is soil analysis. By testing it regularly, we can know the exact amount of nutrients and pH value.
  • Using organic matter for fertilizing will keep the soil healthier. It can improve soil structure and enhance water & nutrient holding capacity.
  • Proper drainage will keep the soil healthy. Excess water can kill the plants as well as microorganisms and slowly turn the soil into dirt.


As far as plant health and growth are concerned, it is easy to choose soil over dirt. The soil has high organic content, which makes it perfect for planting and gardening purposes, while dirt, on the other hand, lacks organic material and other nutrients.

You can turn dirt into soil by adding organic manure, but it is a time-consuming process. Why go to such lengths when you can get it easily in the market. It would be best if you tried any or all of the following to enjoy the benefits of soil truly:

  • Take walks in nearby parks that have plants and grass.
  • Walk barefoot on grass and beach.
  • Have outings like a picnic and sit on grass when possible
  • Grow something. Gardening brings great joy and satisfaction, and even at a small scale, is beneficial in every way.

Soil and dirt are different from each other but similar as well. Both are a necessary part of all living beings. Let us learn to respect and use them wisely.