Selecting good top soil

paulsiu(5a)September 11, 2011

Due to some realy bad rain, some of the areas of my yard has eroded. I was thinking of adding some top soil, but how do you get good top soil?

I had a bad experience purchasing some top soil at Ace hardware. I got it at Ace Hardware because I read an article where this guy said he was using top soil from Ace Hardware. The stuff I got look great initially. It was black, which would indicate lots of organic material. When I added water, it became muck. I am guessing that they got it fron the swamp. I think the problem is that soil they get at the store tend to be local. So whoever review the top soil probably got their dirt from some other distributor.

How do you folks get good top soil?


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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I would check my local landscape supply firms. There is no stock recipe for 'topsoil'. Many landscape supply companies will sell what ever quantity you need, and you can look at the mix and find out just what is in it. Al

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 10:04AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

go to various local landscape supply ... and ask to go out and look at the piles ...

make a snowball sized clump.. smell is.. it should smell good ... yeah!!

and an releasing your fingers.. it should hold its shape for a few moments.. and then start crumbling ...

looking closely. it should be a mixture of sand.. humus.. etc ... not a lot of clay ...

color is irrelevant ...

most peat comes from bogs.. and can be rather mucky .. if incorporated into your existing soil.. that is not all that bad ... so how you apply it might make a difference ...


    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 10:38AM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

I do not buy top soil from hardware stores/big box stores/mass merchandisers anymore, haven't for many, many years. A lot of the time it's cr*p (not literally, but then again never know what's in there - one time I found a Water Pik tip in a bag from a big box store...BLECH).

I have a nursery close to me that I buy bagged topsoil from when I need it, I've never gotten a bum bag, it's always rich and fluffy. It's not cheap ($2.50 a bag, sometimes on sale for $2.00), but it's good quality.

Buying bagged might be cost-prohibitive if you need a lot, so the advice re: landscape supply seems good. :0)

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 12:32PM
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I did locate a place where they sell top soil in bulk. I asked if they have info on the soil, but they said they get it from a distributor who probably get it from the local area where they cart away soil during construction.

I haven't tested it, but it look alright and I see landscapers coming by with trunks. They said that they use a 50% compost / 50% top soil for their display plants. I suppose these are all good signs?


    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 12:52AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

go there.. and ask to walk in the yard ... visit everyone within the county ...

smell it..

touch it

make the ball ... etc ..

its a hands on thing..

if you are going to pay for delivery.. buy extra.. and find a spot to make a pile.. because sooner or later.. you will want more .... and delivery is the same for one yard.. or 5 yards ... depending on the size of the truck ...

it is one of the basic things requisite for a good garden.. do not skimp on soil ....

the other requisites would be sun [which you can take care of thru plant selection] .. and the movement and application of water in the soil .. which comes back to building a good soil ...

all you end up needing.. with soil, sun and water.. is a single seed.. and you are a gardener ... eh???

paul ... what are you starting with .??? why do you need pre-made soil .. cant you make soil??? through compost ... while ends up being a lot easier to move around the yard due to less weight. ...


ps: the neighbor just had a 25,000 dollar landscape done .... the topsoil the landscaper brought was carp ... it doesnt impress me .. that they sell a lot of it ...

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 3:27PM
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Ken's advice is really very good. If you need to purchase soil in any quantity, always go with a bulk product - it will be at least half the price of bagged soil of similar quantity, if not less. And never purchase w/o examining the soil. 'Topsoil' is an extremely generic term that can refer to anything.....and not necessarily any good anything :-)

Technically, "topsoil" is just the top 4" or so of any natural undisturbed soil profile. It could be a good rich, fertile loam but it is just as likely to be a rocky, rooty, nutrient-lacking product that is of minimal horticultural value. It is often just fill and typically contains a fair amount of debris or garbage, not to mention weeds. If you want to purchase a good quality bulk soil, look for something labeled garden planting mix or 3- or 5-way mix, which tend to be some combination of sandy loam, compost/manure, bark and/or other drainage enhancer.

And to be precise, you can't make soil....unless you have a LOT of time on your hands (like eons!) and have other godlike qualities :-) Compost, even well aged and very thoroughly processed compost, is at best close to humus but not really soil, as it has no mineral component and lacks variety of particle sizes that will provide aggregation, aeration and good drainage.

I do applaude your attention to wanting to create a good soil base for your plantings. Soil quality is easily the most important aspect of gardening and one that tends to get overlooked more often than not. Soil is not very sexy and it's tough to convince gardeners, especially new gardeners, that it is worth spending the effort and expense to develop a good soil base before you start any planting. Hot new plants are way more fun to spend your money on but all the hot new plants on the planet are not going to be worth a hill of beans or thrive and perform as you wish if you don't spend the time and $$ first on the proper soil prep.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 7:32PM
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there was a post about bagged soils awhile back under potting soils what was 'composted peat" i'm thinking that is black gunky slop bark mix? peat moss is a fluffy soil amendment. i've bought bags of the stuff and just prefer to mixed right on my site, bales of peat moss with bags of sand and a perlite and good old compost. everyone has compost if they eat vegetables and and drink coffee, that so easy to start a compost pile. if you go by a animal barn they are more than happy for you to pick up a 5 gallon bucket of manure on your way past. chicken, rabbit manure is great easy to shovel into a small bucket. a quick fix isn't going to happen unless you have a dump truck show up.
and if you're thinking about a dump truck load go to the nearest new building area where you see trucks and digging equipment at, thats were you'll find the deal on topsoil, they have dump trucks and will deliver it to you and if you just need a pickup truck load you can talk nice to one of the guys running the digging equipment and you'll get yourself a bucket full in the back of your pickup or one of the workers would bring it to you. (we ran a excavating company for many a years) this is how its done if you're being resourceful, buying from a landscape place you'll get charged ALOT for the same thing thats at a construction site. where do you think they get it from? they may add something to it or fluff it up (charged by the bucket load) they will fluff the pile first so you get less material. yes it's old trick that most landscape companys do with their top soil and mulch, fluffing it up before loading it to give you a full looking load. Look around you do have resources you just haven't found them yet. Cut out the middle man and go straight to the source, you can see right were their digging out of!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 11:08PM
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I too am always looking for good bagged topsoil and it's hard to find. We have bought a scoop or half scoop of topsoil/compost mix from a local landscaping firm and found it to look very nice and loose - you can even see a bit of sand and humus is mixed in. The last couple of years though, this mix has contained some thistle seeds that germinate and the plants are difficult to get rid of. I had thought it was only me, that it happened to, but when my daughter had this same company come in and redo a large perennial bed for her using their topsoil/compost mix, she is now battling the same thistles each year.

I don't know if these two brands of bagged topsoil are available in every area, but I really like Garden Magic and Green Thumb brands. Both are black, loose, and very rich. I used to swear by Hyponex to make a planting mix to put in perennials and annuals, but that was a long, long time ago. This stuff is pure junk now. The Garden Magic and Green Thumb TS mixed with some peat, compost, and a little sharp sand makes a really nice light and airy planting mix.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 2:27PM
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How do you add compost to already mulched beds? Do you just pull back the mulch from around the base of the plant and add compost? Seems like a lot of work.......on the other hand it doesn't make sense to dump compost on top of the mulch either.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 2:33PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

pull back the mulch ... add a layer of compost.. and garden fork it in.. breaking the surface.. and opening your soil ...

then remulch

this time of year.. you could pop out the plants.. rework the whole bed .. or a portion.. then replant the plants ... though a lot of work.. your rewards could be very high ...


    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 3:40PM
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