This is a question many homeowners ask. If you plan on doing any gardening, you’ll need healthy, nutrient-rich soil to encourage plant growth.
Poor-quality soil will only dampen your efforts, restricting growth while increasing the risk of disease. So, what are some of the elements that make good top soil?
Top Soil: Defined
The term “top soil” is used to define the upper layer of dirt in a garden or landscape. Normally, it’s slightly darker than the dirt underneath, which is one of its most distinguishable features.
Working with top soil is easier because it’s soft, whereas the dirt underneath is often riddled with hard clay. But the real beauty of top soil is its nutrient-rich consistency, feeding plants the food they need to grow to sustain good health.
One of the first things you should do upon planning a gardening or landscaping project is check the pH level of your soil. Ranging from 0 to 14, this is a measurement of the soil’s acidity or alkalinity.
A pH of 7.0 is neutral since it falls in the middle, whereas anything above is considered alkaline and anything below is considered acidic. Unfortunately, there’s no single “best” type of pH, since some plants prefer more acidic environments while others prefer alkaline.
Do some research to find out what pH levels the plants you intend to grow prefer.
Note: pH can be measured using an electronic tester or disposable testing kit. Try to get into the habit of testing your soil’s pH at least once a week to ensure it’s suitable for plant growth.
What’s the texture of your top soil like? If you are unsure, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Grab a handful of top soil and roll it around in your fingers.
Ideally, it should be fine, but too fine, with a good combination of particles from the Earth. If one particular particle is overly dominant, it could restrict your plants’ growth.
Top soil receives the bulk of its nutrients from organic matter, which is why it’s important to ensure there’s plenty of organic matter present in your landscape.
The good news is that most top soil will already contain organic matter – foliage, microorganisms, worms, insects, etc. all help to keep the soil nutrient-rich.
If you don’t see any of this matter, you may need to add either some organic or chemical-based fertilizer to give your top soil a helping hand.
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Nathan Johnson says
My wife and I are wanting to start a garden this summer. The only problem is that both of us have no experience gardening! I know that I need to have good topsoil if we are going to have any success. Your article helped clear up some of the basics. Thanks for the info!
James Bergman says
I appreciate your topsoil explanation. I am just sad that there is no perfect PH level for topsoil that is good for all sorts of plant life. However, I would assume that it is probably a good idea to get soil that it close to a PH of 7 if you don’t know yet what you will be planting. Then you can add whatever you need to different parts of your yard to make it more acidic or alkaline as needed.
Jade Brunet says
We are planning to re-landscape our yard and need to know more about top soil. It is good to know that good top soil should have a fine texture. We will try to ensure a healthy texture to maximize plant growth. Thanks.
James barker says
Texture is the main factor I look at. You can usually tell if its good by getting on your knees and looking at it. I cannot wait for this summer, I have so many projects I want to take on in the allotment. [edited by Admin]
Max Sayer says
I personally don’t know much about topsoil and so I wanted to look up some information. I really appreciated how it talked about feeling it for the textures. It is good to know that it should be fine but not too fine I will keep that in mind.