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What Is Topsoil and What Are the Different Types Available Today?


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In the UK, over 27 million people enjoy gardening.

Whether you’ve just started or you’ve been a long-time gardener, you may not be too aware of what topsoil is and which ones you should use for your property.

It may seem like all soil is the same, but in reality, it’s not. In this article, we’ll outline the different kinds of topsoil and so you can determine which ones may be best for your personal situation.

What Is Topsoil?

As the name suggests, topsoil is what goes on the top-most layer in the earth of your garden. Many people confused it with garden soil; they think the two are interchangeable.

First, About Garden Soil

Garden soil is actually composed of the same things as topsoil, but with slight differences. This is to encourage better growth for your plants.

In most cases, garden soil will be premixed by the manufacturer, and you’ll find all sorts of soils and textures within. Most likely, they’ll have different compositions to encourage the growth of specific plants.

This is why it’s important to take a closer look at the label and make sure the garden soil you’re buying is right and will mix well with your garden’s existing soil.

For instance, you’ll need to buy different garden soil for vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

More on Topsoil

On top of your garden soil, you’ll have the topsoil. This should be anywhere from 5 to 12 inches deep.

What’s interesting is some are very effective for growing plants on, and others may prevent healthy growth (as the material traps moisture and may not allow the roots to get proper watering; but more on that later).

Some key differences between topsoil and garden soil are:

  • Topsoil’s usually sold in much larger quantities (for large-scale landscaping)
  • Topsoil isn’t typically mixed with things like fertilisers and other organic matter
  • Topsoil is usually cheaper

Why Do You Need Topsoil?

The most important function of topsoil is it contains all the nutrients your plants need to grow tall and strong. Also, depending on your purposes, the texture of the topsoil can either help retain water or adjust the pH so your plants thrive.

So if your garden looks a bit lacking, perhaps all you need is a bit of topsoil. 

What Are the Types of Topsoil?

Maybe you’ve determined your yard could use a bit of topsoil. But where you do even start?

First of all, there are 3 main types: sand, clay, and silt. Read on to find out a little more about each one.

Sand

Like the sand you’d find on a beach, sandy topsoil is made of fine mineral particles and rocks.

As you may guess, sandy topsoil from one area can vary vastly to the next, as it depends on what types of rocks are found in those places. However, the two main types are silica (quartz) and aragonite (ancient life forms, like shellfish and coral).

Sand drains quickly and doesn’t have many nutrients, which means it’s good for plants that don’t require lots of water, such as pines.

Silt

Silt is made up of even smaller particles than sand. It’s very soft and is very good at retaining water. As a result, you won’t get much drainage with silty topsoil.

Silt is one of the most fertile topsoils around. It’s especially useful in the summer when there’s more sunlight and water evaporates quicker. 

Clay

This is the densest type of topsoil, although its particles are the tiniest out of all 3. Clay topsoil usually has around 25% clay in it.

This type of heavy topsoil is best used for trees.

Other Types of Topsoil

The above 3 are the most commonly seen types of topsoil. Below are some other ones you may see in passing.

Loam

Loam is a combination of both sand and clay. This puts together all the plusses of each type of topsoil and creates the perfect one for most gardens.

Chalk

If you have any plants that need alkaline soil, you may need to purchase chalk topsoil to adjust the pH of the existing soil.

Peat

This is probably considered one of the best topsoils around. Not only does it have a lot of rich organic matter in it, but peat also retains moisture very well.

However, peat’s pretty rare, which means it can be both hard to find and expensive.

Additional Tips

Not only does topsoil come in different types (and combinations), but it also has different pHs. So you should probably test the pH of the existing soil in your garden to buy topsoil that’s within range.

Also, make sure that after you tackle any sort of landscaping project, you get decent waste removal service. Considering there’s lots of organic waste afterwards, you need to ensure it gets disposed of properly.

Choose the Right Topsoil for Your Garden

Looking at all the types of topsoil may seem a bit daunting, but don’t be afraid. Gardening should be something fun, where you can experiment and see what works best.

In the worst-case scenario, you’ll have some dead plants. And in the best, you’ll have thriving ones!

So feel free to do your research, try different topsoils, and see what’s best for your property. If you ever need additional assistance, always feel free to ask the shop clerks at your local home improvement store when you go to purchase topsoil.

Need some major groundwork done before you can work on your garden or yard? Then get in touch with us today. Our expert team will be more than happy to help you out.