What is Topsoil? All that You Need to Know

What is Topsoil? All that You Need to Know

If you want to keep a plush garden, you should at least understand the materials that are needed for your garden. They will vary depending on the type of plants, flowers, herbs or vegetables you intend to grow.

However, most importantly, you will need the right soil. Top soil is the best soil for any garden since it is rich in nutrients. This is the top layer of the earth. It can reach up to 5 to 12 inches deep into the crust. The texture of the soil may vary based on its composition.  It is important to learn about top soil and how to find the right one for your garden and the types of soil to avoid.

Read on to learn more.

What does top soil mean?

The term top soil refers to the topmost layer of the earth’s crust. For those who still remember elementary school science, you are familiar with the picture of the soil profile.  The top layer takes up about 5 to 12 inches of the earth’s crust. Being right at the top makes the layer a beneficiary of all nutrient building mechanisms by various organisms. Therefore, the layer has a high content of humus, making it the best soil for all forms of plants.

It is important to understand that top soil comes in different textures, either in the form of silt, sand and clay. However, these soils are said to have poor characteristics and hence they are not the best to use in your garden. Sandy soils tend to drain fast when it remains, which can lead to wilting, whereas the silt and clay top soils are moisture retainers.

Most plants do not thrive well in waterlogged environments. The best top soil to use for your gardening is a mixture of 52% sand, 7 to 28% of clay, and 28 to 50 percent of silt. The beauty with this mixture is that it contains the most favorable characteristics of fertile soil.

What type of top soil does your garden have?

As mentioned earlier, there are various types of top soils including sand, silt and clay as well as loam.  It is important you understand the type of soil you have. This is because different plants work well with varying soils. Do you need to invite a soil expert to gauge your soil? You do not have to unless you are assessing some other complicated properties of your soil. There is a DIY method to help you can determine whether your top soil is clay, silt or sand.

Soil has various characteristics, which include biological, chemical and physical.  The latter can be established easily. For instance, soil that features fine particles that you can roll into a ball with ease is clay.  It tends to be sticky on your hands and when you pour water on it, the soil does not drain fast. Hence, during winter, it gets very soggy and muddy.

Large particles on the other hand represent the sand soil. It will drain quickly and in the summer, you will need to water it frequently to prevent your plants from wilting. If you are lucky, you might notice that you have a mixture of sand and clay. The mixture is called loam. It combines the properties of the two soils to form an ideal mixture for plants’ growth.

While most gardeners love loam, sometimes it is not available. Fortunately, it is possible to create loam soil in your garden. You can do this by adding compost or humus during autumn and spring. In some areas, you might have chalky soil. These soils tend to be alkaline. However, if the chalk is not present, just place a small amount of soil into a jar, add vinegar and if it froths, the soil is alkaline. With these soils, you will have to avoid plants that thrive in low pH environments such as Camellias, Rhododendrons and Azaleas.

Shopping for top soil

If you just bought a home, you may notice that the soil is thin. In these cases, you might have to buy topsoil from a supplier. Topsoil supplies are available in most home improvement stores. You will find soils with varying qualities and grades. It is important that you pick the right one for your needs.  What plants do you plan to grow? What is the type of the existing soil? You need to answer these questions before proceeding to the topsoil stores.

Apart from new homes, you will also need topsoil if you intend to plant flowers on raised beds, paved ways or pots, among others.  Here is what you need to know before buying topsoil:

You can buy in bulk or in small bags

Depending on the intended use, either you can buy soil in bags from garden centers or you can get it in bulk from the suppliers. However, do not buy blindly. Prior to buying, be sure to request a sample. Then, inspect the soil for roots, gravel, and large stones, among other contaminants. A good supplier should assure you of the soil’s quality.

The source is important

Remember to ask where the soil has been sourced. It is essential for the soil to be uniform. However, some suppliers’ main source for topsoil is the building sites. Hence, the soil may have varied characteristics. Be keen when buying imported soil, especially if it contains roots, lest you bring in invasive plants to your garden.

Topsoil is available in 3 grades

In stores, you will find topsoil in economy, general purpose or premium. Economy topsoil is the most affordable. The soil is sold in bulk and it is not screened. Therefore, it might have roots, stones and the like. Secondly, we have the general-purpose soil, which is suitable for all kinds of gardening from top dressing lawns to planting plants in containers. Lastly, premium topsoil is of high quality and it is usually used by professionals, but also by homeowners.


Having top quality topsoil, can help you to grow fresh and delicious vegetables, and wonderfully fragrant flowers. Hopefully this short guide has helped you when it comes to choosing the right topsoil for your garden.


One Comment

  1. This is a topic which is near to my heart… Best wishes!

    Exactly where are your contact details though?

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