Guide to soil for landscaping

2 min read

bagged topsoil

Soil. It’s everywhere. Beneath our feet, in farmers’ fields, on building sites, in bags at the garden centre. But where can you get hold of large quantities of soil for landscaping and which grade should you choose?

What Type of Soil is Best for Landscaping?

There are 5 main soil types that occur naturally in the UK and within those categories are quite a few variations. The 5 types are:

  • sandy and light silty soils
  • medium soils
  • heavy soils
  • chalk and limestone soils
  • peaty soils

Each soil type has its good and bad points. Sandy soil is easy to drain but doesn’t hold on to plant nutrients very well. Heavy clay soil has plenty of plant nutrients but it’s a nightmare to work with. Peaty soil is fantastic but if you’re buying it in you must make sure it’s from a sustainable source.

A dark coloured soil suggests that it contains lots of organic matter – that’s good news for the natural garden ecosystem. Organic matter = plant nutrients, great water holding capacity and lots of worms and microbes to keep soil and plants healthy.

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Speaking as enthusiastic gardeners who likes to grow fruit and veg; We like a nice crumbly soil with plenty of organic matter in it. Not too free-draining but not too sticky either. Unless you are planning on a specialist type of landscaping e.g wildflowers, bog garden, green roof or sports fields, you probably need something similar.

For turfing, raised beds, large planters, beds and borders I would recommend a general purpose topsoil that has been screened. A 20mm screen will remove all stones and debris that is bigger than 2cm – that’s just under one inch.

How Much Soil Will I Need?

As a rule of thumb, one cubic metre of topsoil weighs around one tonne. Obviously there are variations between different soil types and wet soil will weigh more.

You can calculate the amount of soil using this simple equation:

Soil needed = width x length x depth

So, measure the length and width of the area that you want to add topsoil to. Then decide how deep you need the soil to be. Make sure all three measurements are in metres. Multiply them all together and round up to the nearest whole number

That number is the quantity of dumpy bags you need to buy – or the tonnage if you’re buying in bulk.

Where Can I Buy Soil for Landscaping?

Number one rule is always buy from a reputable supplier. Someone who knows about soil. There are a lot of inferior products out there. They may be cheaper but your entire project is dependent on having good quality soil beneath it. Having the wrong soil type can be very hard to put right.

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