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What’s the difference between topsoil and garden soil?

Whether you’re revamping your flower beds, renovating your entire garden or are a professional gardener, it’s always good to know the different types of soils and which environments they work best in.

Using the wrong soil can be devastating because all of your hard work could be washed away with the first heavy rain. Even if this doesn’t happen, your plants and flowers might not even bloom because they haven’t been planted with the right nutrients.

Below is a helpful guide which distinguishes the difference between topsoil and garden soil.shutterstock_104220485


As the name would suggest, topsoil is the top layer of soil on the surface of the earth. Typically, it’s between five to 12 inches deep and its texture can vary. For general everyday gardening purposes, topsoil which is made from clay, silt and sand should be avoided. This is because these materials tend to retain moisture after it rains and therefore stops air from reaching the plant’s roots which sit below it.

The best type of topsoil to go for should have a mixture of between 7% and 27% clay, 28% to 50% silt and under 52% sand. Any topsoil made of this composition will have a low water retention capacity and will also be easier to till.

Topsoil is more of a general-purpose product and it shouldn’t be mixed with as much fertiliser and other organic materials in comparison to other soils. Typically, it’s sold in larger quantities for large-scale landscaping needs although some suppliers are happy to ship on a smaller scale.

Garden soil

Garden soil is usually sold in a pre-mixed form at home improvement shops, DIY stores and garden centres. Because the natural soil that we find in our gardens is made up of a unique combination of sand, clay, silt and various other minerals, packaged garden soils are used to incorporate this variety so that it can be used for particular types of plants or flowers.

For example, you can find different mixes and combinations of garden soil depending on whether you’re planting flowers, vegetables or herbs.

shutterstock_252296932 How do you decide between topsoil and garden soil?

Topsoil is always recommended for large landscaping projects but when it comes to your own yard, this decision should be made based on the needs of your garden. In order to determine this, you should first carry out a soil test. This will tell you exactly which nutrients your garden is lacking so that you know to look for a topsoil or garden soil that contains the ingredients you need.

Price is often also a determining factor in which type of soil people decide to use. High quality garden soils can be very expensive whereas topsoil’s are often much cheaper.

Finally, packaged garden soil is usually used to target a specific type of plant or flower whereas topsoil is great for general-purpose landscaping. If you have a lot of space to cover in your garden and your soil test determines that it’s ok to do so, you may even consider using a combination of both topsoil and garden soil.

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