In this blog, we’re getting down and dirty to take a good look at topsoil. What is it? How do you know if it’s good or bad? Where to find suppliers and how to calculate your soil requirements.
First, we’re going to look at some of the questions that topsoil suppliers are often asked about the different types of soil and growing medium available to order online.
This is quite a lengthy blog so feel free to scroll down to the subjects that interest you most.
- What is topsoil and what’s in it?
- Understanding quality
- How to calculate the amount you need
- Choosing the best topsoil for your project
What is topsoil?
Topsoil is the most wonderful and precious resource on this earth. If it were not for topsoil and rainfall, life on earth would be very different indeed.
If you were to dig a very deep hole in your garden – or anywhere in fact, you’ll see that there are lots of distinct layers.
Nearest to the top is topsoil. It’s where you’ll find plant roots, mini beasts, microbes and a wealth of living things that scientists are still learning about.
Then, below the topsoil is subsoil. It tends to be hard to dig, a kind of a dull beige-grey colour and not at all exciting. Its job is to supply the soil and everything living in it with minerals. It’s also extremely important for drainage.
Finally, beneath the subsoil is the bedrock – which is, as the name suggests, pretty rocky. Bedrock determines the mineral content of the subsoil, purifies water as it drains through it and provides a firm foundation for everything above it.
The depth and the consistency of each layer varies from region to region. And indeed from garden to garden and that’s one of the reasons why certain plants grow well in some areas and not others.
What is in topsoil?
Now, that’s a very difficult question to answer because everyone’s garden is different. But in general terms, topsoil is a mix of millions of different particles. There are sandy type particles made from minerals. Silt – miniscule particles often from ancient river mud or from dust that has settled on the surface of the earth. And clay, medium sized particles that can stick together like glue. Added to those is organic matter. Dead vegetation and animals in various stages of decay.
If soil were a recipe, the different types of particles would be the dry ingredients and the proportions of them will determine the texture and the character of the final dish.
How do I judge topsoil quality?
- Good topsoil smells “earthy” any chemical type aroma should be investigated by an expert
- Nice brown or brown-black colour. Grey may indicate subsoil, yellowy-brown could have a high sand content
- Bag only contains soil. No rubble, cloth, sticks, stones or plastic
- Texture is not too crumbly, not too sticky
The first thing to judge when you are assessing soil is the smell. Soil smells like – well – dirt. It’s not an unpleasant smell, kind of like damp leaves. If you can smell poo, bleach, or any kind of chemical whiff, then the soil could be contaminated.
If you are buying soil online or over the phone, ask for reassurance that the soil has come from a reputable source and is free from contaminants.
Where can I find reputable suppliers near me?
A quick glance at the ads section in your local paper or an internet search will normally flag up several potential suppliers. Your job is to decide who has the right quality of soil for your project and whether or not it has been properly sourced and screened.
What to avoid
Never buy soil from anyone with no horticultural associations. Sometimes builders or DIY’ers will sell the soil that has been removed from a building site. Be very careful – building foundations involves removing subsoil and you definitely don’t want to be buying that.
Look for soil that will suit the project you are planning.
These articles will help
Can I buy topsoil online?
Absolutely you can buy topsoil online. And it will be delivered straight to site. You don’t need to arrange transport or anything. If you are ordering from Turfonline, all we ask is that you tell us about the access to your site – so that we can send the best sized delivery lorry. We also ask that you have a hard surface ready so that our pump trucks can be used.
What sort of topsoil do I need?
The type of soil you need depends very much on your project.
For growing wildflowers, you will need a specialist soil with very low nutrient levels. Meadowmat low fertility soil has been specially blended. It drains well, is easy for you to handle and discourages excess grassiness. Read more about low fertility soil here
For general landscaping, turf laying and growing most fruits and vegetables, this screened soil is ideal. It’s sensibly priced, but at the same time it is free from big stones, plant debris and chemical contaminants.
….For container growing, many people opt for a peat based growing medium. Peat isn’t terribly sustainable and so the Turfonline Team recommends this enriched topsoil. You can use it for topdressing lawns too. The drainage is excellent and its bursting with nutrients.
How much topsoil do I need?
Working out how much soil you need is a simple calculation but if you’re not math’s minded you here are our tips to help you.
Still confused? Contact the turfonline team for help.
How soon can I get Topsoil delivered?
When you order online from Turfonline.co.uk you may be able to have your beautiful soil delivered next day. We can arrange next day delivery for most of the UK provided we receive your order early enough in the morning.
Alternatively, choose your delivery day during the checkout process. If you need a timed delivery, there may be a moderate surcharge but everything is clearly explained during the buying process
How to buy topsoil
Buying topsoil from Turfonline is easy and safe. Our secure website keeps all of your details safe and we never share information with third parties. Neither will we be spamming you with unwanted emails or phone calls. We’ll only contact you if we need to confirm or clarify your order.
View our available soils. Choose your preferred grade and follow the directions on the site. If you need any help or advice, just let us know.