Why do I need new topsoil?

Topsoil has a multitude of uses and is one of the key ingredients for many garden projects such as creating hard landscaping, improving drainage, repairing a damaged lawn or creating a raised bed.

Topsoil is rich in nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium, all of which are essential when growing healthy plants and because they reside in the upper layer they are the most accessible.

A minimum depth of 6 to 8 inches of topsoil can be the difference between having a thriving garden or seeing little or disappointing growth. To determine how deep your existing topsoil layer is, dig a hole in your garden. The darkest, uppermost soil is the topsoil layer, and the lighter layer below it is subsoil.

If your existing topsoil layer is sparse or of poor quality then adding topsoil might be just what your garden needs!

Although adding topsoil to your garden might cost you a few pennies and require some physical labour, in the end you’ll be reaping the benefits.

Prepare the existing soil

To start with, you need to clear the existing area before laying down your new soil. Then lightly turn over the surface of the existing soil, as this will loosen the ground and help make sure you get the best from your new topsoil.

A little tip: Wait one day after rainfall before prepping your garden for the topsoil. The rain helps soften the existing soil so it’s easier to dig up. Avoid prepping the soil directly after rainfall because things can get very muddy and messy! It is best to avoid handling it when wet as this increases the risk of the soil becoming compacted and it will also be difficult to get good aeration through the topsoil if it is raining. Alternatively, run the sprinkler system or manually water the soil if there is no rain (although this is most probably rather unlikely in the UK!)

Get rid of weeds – it will save you problems and hassle in the future. If you’ve got a lot of weeds in the existing area we strongly recommend that you consider killing these off first as old weeds will simply grow through the new soil which is definitely what you want to avoid!

Aside from weeds you should also remove rocks, grass and any other debris from your garden and then gently dig up and turn over the existing soil with a spade or with a rototiller if you’d prefer.

Check the consistency of the soil in your garden. If it falls between your fingers, it’s just right. If there are still clumps just chop them up with a garden hoe.

Spread a layer of your new topsoil evenly over the existing soil in your garden and then dig or till it into the existing soil that you’ve loosened.

You may decide to use a rototiller for a variety of reasons. If you are adding the topsoil to your garden to increase its fertility, you’ll want it to extend down into the ground so plant roots can access it. Further to this, adding soil on top of a different type soil can create problems; the two soils are likely to have different profiles and structures and therefore different water holding capacities. Water is likely to remain in one of the soils without moving to the other. This can cause drought stress even in well-watered gardens or alternatively drown plants, neither of which is what you want.

Distribute enough soil so the topsoil layer will equal a minimum depth of 6 to 8 inches but anywhere up to 12 inches is ideal. Topsoil depth is very important as too little topsoil means you will see little to no benefit which would be frustrating and disappointing after all your efforts.

When it comes to spreading the soil, it is best to work backwards, again to avoid compaction in the areas you have already laid. Distribute the soil in small piles around the area and use a rake to spread it out evenly and you can then use a fork to mix it into the top layer of the existing soil if necessary.

Be sure to use a dark brown good quality loamy topsoil like ours that’s moist, smells earthy, crumbles in your hands and is free of weed seeds, rocks and debris.

  • Clear the area

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  • Turn over the existing soil

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    Turn over the existing soil

  • Remove undesirables

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  • Spread new layer of soil

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    Spread new layer of soil

  • Till your new soil into the ground

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  • Let the magic happen

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    Let the magic happen