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Home > Guides & Article

Choosing the Right Topsoil for Your Garden

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A great looking garden is typically a top priority for amateur and professional gardeners alike, so knowing how to maximise the potential of your seeds, soil and sunlight is very important. From the frequency that you water your garden, all the way to the types of soil used – your garden will reflect your skills as a gardener. Learning a little more about these unique elements can be incredibly beneficial to the overall look and feel of your outside space. read more...

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A great looking garden is typically a top priority for amateur and professional gardeners alike, so knowing how to maximise the potential of your seeds, soil and sunlight is very important. From the frequency that you water your garden, all the way to the types of soil used – your garden will reflect your skills as a gardener. Learning a little more about these unique elements can be incredibly beneficial to the overall look and feel of your outside space.

Your topsoil is responsible for much more than finishing the top layer of your planting patch – it can act to promote growth, enhance plant nutrition and even protect roots from excessive sun exposure. With so many types of topsoil to choose from it can be a pretty daunting task to get to grips with the right one for your garden, so here’s a look at the different types of topsoil and their unique features.

Border Soil

As its name may suggest, border soil is ideal for use around the edges of a garden or plant patch, and it acts as a great foundation for plant life to flourish. The best quality border soil will comprise at least 55% compost (although 60% is recommended), with 40-45% consisting of sandy soil. Although sand can contain lime, the type of sand within border soil is harmless to plant life and will help to reinforce the compost once applied.

Pre-Turfing Soil

When a fresh layer of turf is due to be applied within a garden, pre-turfing soil may well be the way to go. The entire composition is filled with vital nutrients that will encourage a lawn to grow and it can be applied on top of other soil, old compost and even more clay-oriented soil bases. One of the most beneficial things about pre-turf soil is that it can be used consistently within most gardens, and it will also provide a stable foundation for initial growth.

Screened Soil

One of the most versatile types of topsoil on the planet, screened soil has so many uses that it’s often the first port of call for gardeners. What makes it unique is the way in which it is prepared. It comprises of a sandy loam, is entirely peat free and has a balanced pH level, making it ideal for gardening, landscaping and growing plants. It isn’t quite as effective as border soil as far as plant growth goes, nor is it as nutritious as pre-turfing soil; but it is very well balanced and durable in general.

Top Dressing

Although its name may suggest a complement for foods and salads; where topsoil is concerned, top dressing is one of the most beneficial available. It’s lightweight and crumbly, comprising mostly of a silicon sand formula and it’s ideal for finishing off any type of garden patch – whether you’ll be growing plants or vegetables, or simply leaving it bare. Its smooth composition allows it to fall into older soil, reinforcing it and assisting absorption of nutrients by any roots present. It is lighter in colour than other types of topsoil, providing a greatly appreciated character to any garden space that it features in.

Standard Base Soil (Fill or Substitute Soil)

Acting as both an ideal solution for topsoil gardens, as well as being perfect for providing a reinforced layer of soil underground; fill, or substitute soil, is one of the most common types used within the United Kingdom. It can sometimes possess an unpredictable composition (as may be the case with cheaper alternatives), but when carefully balanced, it will typically contain compost, small pieces of gravel - and other elements to help with the levelling and smoothing of the layer once applied.

Choosing the Right Topsoil for Your Garden

As you’ll have noticed, there are only a few small similarities between each type of top soil – with each serving a multitude of different purposes. It’s these features that need to be considered when deciding on the right type of topsoil for your garden. Selecting the right soil will help you to maximise the growth of your plant life, keep your garden looking fresh and clean, and will provide a firm basis for you to plan your planting schedule on, for the year ahead.

Some of the more versatile soils like fill and screened can be great ways to finish a garden, but they won’t be anywhere near as effective as using pre-turfing soil, as far as plant growth is concerned. There’s no reason why two types of soil couldn’t be combined to provide dual functionality – in fact this method can further enhance the way in which your plants grow, by relying on several different soil-based benefits.

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