large pile of topsoil

All About Topsoil


Let’s talk about topsoil.

It’s one of the simpler landscaping supplies – essentially just dirt – but like anything you use to improve your property, it works best when you have the right information.

So, consider this blog post an introductory course to topsoil: what it is, how it’s different from similar materials like compost, and how to use it.

What is topsoil?

Like its name suggests, topsoil is the top layer of soil, representing the first five to 12 inches of earth. It’s the layer you’ll be working with when planting seeds.

The dirt below the topsoil – the subsoil – is typically made from clay or hard-packed earth, and isn’t suitable for growing plants. You need soil that’s high in organic material, to provide drainage and nutrients for your plants.

Topsoil contains significant amounts of organic matter and microorganisms. As plants die, they decay, and their nutrients are returned to the soil, which helps you grow new plants. Topsoil can also help fend off weeds and pests.

Topsoil isn’t the same wherever you go. Some versions contain sand, or manure, or bits of rock. It varies depending on your location. A store that sells landscaping supplies can give you a detailed breakdown of what materials are found in their topsoil.

What if I’m not buying topsoil?

If you’re just working with the topsoil in your yard, it’s important to make sure that soil is healthy. You can do that with a soil test kit from your local landscaping supplies store. Just dig a hole in the section where you’ll be planting, and the kit will tell you the pH balance of the topsoil.

What’s the difference between compost and topsoil?

While they both might contain organic matter, compost and topsoil are different things. Compost is decomposed plant and animal matter, created when bacteria and fungi in the air break down this material. It’s often used to improve topsoil and give it more organic matter.

How much topsoil does my garden need?

If you have a healthy garden, you might think you don’t need topsoil. But the topsoil you have won’t stay healthy forever. Your plants will need a fresh batch of nutrients each year to stay strong.

Five to eight inches of topsoil are usually effective when starting a garden, but topsoil isn’t something you should choose to cover your entire yard or gardening area. It’s meant to work with your existing soil, rather than replacing it.

Consult with your garden supply store for more information. Woodward Landscape Supply carries a range of different soils, including:

  • Basic topsoil, which is not enriched, but still high quality, good for grading lawns, flowerbeds and shallow fill applications.
  • Screened soil and fill dirt, for deeper fill applications and for use under top soil.
  • Mushroom soil, which is a compost that improves other soil’s growing capabilities, and must be aged before you use it due to its acidity.

Visit Woodward online or at our Phoenixville store to find out more information. Whether you need topsoil, hardscaping or any other landscaping supplies, we’re ready to help.

2 thoughts on “All About Topsoil

  1. Aleshire Mueller

    Thank you for explaining that the topsoil is the first five inches to twelve of earth and that it will be the one that we are working with just in case we ever plan on planting seeds. If that is the case, then I will have to focus on getting quality topsoil over anything else. It might be best if I ask a professional landscaper to help me out though since I do not know the first thing about it.

  2. Alice Carroll

    Thanks for clarifying that topsoil and compost aren’t the same thing. I’d like to be more active in making my garden look at lot more beautiful this year so I’m planning to stock up on new gardening supplies. Having healthier soil would be my first priority.


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