How To Choose Topsoil For Your Garden

Generally speaking there are 3 types of topsoil available: natural topsoil, skip waste soil, and blended soils.

Natural topsoil is highly variable in quality and availability and ranges from an acidic, nutrient-deficient sand, to a strongly alkaline silt-loam, and also to organic-rich peaty clay. If the characteristics of the topsoil are not suitable for the plants grown in the soil, then the plants may fail to grow, and this can be quite expensive.

Natural topsoil always contains a bank of seeds, including annual and perennial weed seeds; and can often contain rhizomes of persistent weeds and grasses, such as creeping buttercup, and couch grass. This topsoil is derived from former agricultural land, and may contain elevated levels of heavy metals as a result of the repeated application of sewage sludge, etc. This is important if the topsoil is used for sensitive plants such as domestic gardens.

Skip Waste Soils are more common in urban areas and are a result of the materials derived from building and demolition operations, which are then screened. Skip waste soils are a mixture of topsoil, subsoil, clay and include numerous fragments of building waste materials – brick, concrete, mortar, ash, clinker and to a lesser extent asbestos, glass, metal, wood and plastic.

Skip waste soil is usually extremely alkaline with a pH range of 8 – 10, saline, deficient in organic matter and plant nutrients, and can often have elevated levels of zootoxic and phytotoxic contaminants. Although skip waste soil can look like good topsoil, it often results in either failure in the growing of the plants or, stunted growth. In addition to this, the consequences of using skip waste soil include potentially having contaminants present in a garden.

Blended Soils result when two or more components are intimately mixed to form a growing medium. These components can be prime natural topsoils recycled from the food production industry, and also recycled, peat-free, soil conditioner. These soils are blended from raw materials to ensure consistent quality-soil is produced, with no variation in consistency. It’s important to account for the full traceability of all of the components of a blended soil, and to regularly have them tested for PTE’s (Potentially Toxic Elements).

Ideally, landscaping topsoil is organic-rich topsoil, with a Ph ranging from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline, and is a fertile sandy loam, free from contamination with no waste or sharp materials. Ideally this would be available all year round in bags or in bulk.

When buying topsoil, there are some important questions that your topsoil supplier should be able to answer. These include:

What is in the soil?

Is the soil safe?

Where did it come from?

What can it be used for?

Is an analysis certificate available?

Is it free from contamination such as debris and PTEs?

Can I get hold of the same soil year round?

How would it be delivered, in bags or loose?

There is a marketing and communications association that was formed to assist entrepreneurs in the topsoil business and the general public as well. 1.800.TOPSOIL provides an easily remembered number where people can get information about the availability of good top soil. 1-800-TOP-SOIL members include the finest Topsoil and Landscaping supply companies in the nation. They currently have members spread throughout the United States. In order to find the topsoil and landscape supply company in your area, that is right for you, call 1.800.TOPSOIL.