Creating spectacular landscapes in small spaces

A Guide To Topsoil

by Janet Banks

If you enjoy growing flowers and veggies in your garden, it's essential that you have good soil.  Gardens with poor quality soil may benefit from the addition of some new topsoil, which you can obtain from your local landscape supplies company.  But what is commercial topsoil and what are its uses in your garden?  Read on for a brief guide to topsoil.

What is topsoil?

As its name suggests, topsoil is the dirt that forms the top half metre or so of your garden's surface.  Topsoil is comprised of natural minerals, including powdered rock and sand, and organic matter, such as rotted vegetation and even animal remains.  This soil is formed over millennia and contains most of the nutrients required to promote good growth of the fauna in the environment.

The advantages of adding topsoil to your garden

Commercially supplied topsoil is often added to gardens in order to improve the quality of the existing soil. 

It's particularly useful for the gardens of newly built houses that contain a high level of clay and other rough material that has been excavated when the building's foundations were dug.  Topsoil not only contains organic nutrients, it also contains fine material, such as sand, that can improve the poor drainage and air circulation found in clay soils.

Some areas have soil with high sand or gravel content.  Although this aids draining, it can leave the soil lacking in organic matter and substance, making it difficult for plants to form a stable root system and derive the nutrients they need to grow.  Adding topsoil can help to solve this problem.

Where to obtain topsoil

Your local landscape supplier will be able to provide you with good quality topsoil for use in your garden.  The topsoil supplied by commercial companies is graded into two different types: unscreened and screened.

Screened topsoil is filtered through meshes of different gauges during the production process.  This means that you can choose the density of the topsoil you want for your garden, depending on the nature of the improvements you want to make to your existing soil.  For example, in the case of fine, sandy soil, you would choose heavy gauge topsoil to provide substance and weight, which would help to prevent the top layer of soil being blown away by the wind and provide a stable rooting medium for plants.

Unscreened topsoil is not gauged and is therefore more random in texture.  Although it is usually cheaper to buy than screened topsoil, you've no guarantee of the density and quality.  Unscreened topsoil is useful if you just want some bulky material for levelling an area of your garden in preparation for construction work or to put beneath a new lawn.

It's a good idea to take a sample of your own soil to the landscape supplies company when buying topsoil for your garden.  If you show them the soil and explain just what you want that particular area of your garden to produce, they will be able to advise you on the best type and gauge of topsoil to buy.

In conclusion

Topsoil is essential if you want your garden to bloom.  It can also be useful when undertaking landscaping construction projects.  Take a trip to your local landscape supplies company and ask for their expert advice on what type of topsoil would best suit your needs.