The quality of your topsoil can have a major impact on the quality of your plants. Good topsoil will provide your plants with beneficial nutrients. The minerals found in the soil can help promote growth and are essential growing healthy vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
If you are not sure what to look for, you will have trouble knowing if you are paying the best topsoil prices. Here is a short guide to examining soil and buying the best soil for your garden.
What is Topsoil?
First, you should make sure that you understand this term. Topsoil refers to the top 6 to 12 inches of the soil for your garden and planters. As mentioned, the quality soil will contain an abundance of minerals. It will also have a lot of organic matter and a minimal amount of salt.
You can typically purchase topsoil at local home and garden stores. At retail stores, the soil is often sold in 20 to 50-pound bags. For most home gardens, several bags should provide enough soil to add a top layer of 6 to 12 inches. But, if you want the best soil or if you need a larger quantity of soil, you should purchase your topsoil from farms and local co-ops.
When purchasing soil from a farm or co-op, you will either get the soil placed in a large sack or you can fill the bed of a suitable truck. Compared to the commercially available soil at retail stores, you will get the best topsoil prices at farms and co-ops.
What Should You Look for in Good Topsoil?
Buying soil from a co-op gives you the chance to examine the soil. You will not be able to open the bag at a retail store. Though, you could purchase a single bag and inspect it when you get home. Here are some of the main features that you should look for in quality topsoil:
• The soil should be dark
• The soil should not clump
• The soil should have a good ratio of silt, clay, and sand
The first feature to examine is the color of the soil. Quality soil should have a dark tone. This indicates that the soil has more organic material, which will help your plants grow. If you notice that your soil is a light color, it may lack the minerals that your plants need.
Also, avoid any soil that has a gray or blue-green tone. This may be a sign that the soil has repeatedly been soaked or saturated.
If you can place a small amount of the soil in your hands, you should check the consistency of the soil. It should have a good texture and crumble in your hands. Soil that clumps together has too much clay.
You can also check the texture by adding a small amount of water to a small handful of dirt. Place a small amount of the soil in the palm of your hand. Add the water and rub the soil around. If the soil is very gritty, it likely has a high ratio of silt. If the soil is sticky, it may have a high clay content.
As you perform these steps and examine your soil, you should be on the lookout for any debris. This includes twigs, sticks, and small white clumps. You also want to avoid soil that has any stones or weeds.
What is the Right Ratio for Quality Soil?
As discussed, soil is comprised of a mixture of clay, sand, and silt. It is the ratio of these compounds that determines the quality of the soil.
Depending on who you talk to, you may get different advice about the optimal soil ratio. The general consensus is that you want soil with the following ratio:
• Clay – 5 to 20%
• Silt – 20 to 60%
• Sand – 40 to 65%
When purchasing topsoil, you may see these ratios listed on the side of the bag. If you visit a farm or a co-op, you might have to ask the seller what the ratio of these compounds is in the soil that they are selling.
When you buy soil from a farm or co-op, you should also find out if the soil has been screened. Screened soil has been passed through a screen, in order to remove debris and small rocks.
You will not be able to find soil that is completely free of weeds and other debris. But, the screening process will remove the majority of this debris. It also helps give the soil a better texture.
Can You Screen the Soil on Your Own?
If you cannot find screened soil or if you find great topsoil prices on unscreened soil, you could screen the soil yourself. This is an easy process.
You will need a bucket and an old window screen. Place the screen over your bucket and slowly pour your soil over the screen. After every couple of scoops, you can remove the debris that has accumulated on your screen.
Final Thoughts on Getting the Best Topsoil
There is one more feature that you should check when buying topsoil – the pH level of the soil. This is not always available, but if possible, you should try to find the pH level. The soil that you choose should have a pH value greater than 4.5 and less than 7.5. This is an ideal range for most varieties of plants.
If the pH level of the soil is too high, you may have trouble getting water to the roots of your plants. The soluble salts in the high pH level soil will absorb more of the water, limiting the growth of your vegetables or herbs.
Remember these tips as you search for the best topsoil for your garden. You should find soil that has a dark tone and does not clump together when placed in your hand. It should not be too gritty or too sticky when you add a small amount of water.
The topsoil can affect whether or not you can grow healthy plants. Use these suggestions to get quality soil at low topsoil prices.