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Knowledge Base

We have years of experience in producing and sourcing some of the finest topsoils and with this experience comes knowledge, so we thought we would share this knowledge with you in the form of our knowledge base.  

Below are several articles we have put together to help you understand and make the most of your topsoil and garden.

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We decided to test out B&Q’s foray into apps- the new Outdoor Assistant, which claims you can identify plants or weeds and get advice on gardening techniques.

B&Q recently conducted research that claimed while more Brits are gardening than ever, 10% are guilty of mistaking flowers for weeds, while 15% allowed weeds to grow thinking they were flowers. Helpfully they have introduced a new app for those unsure whether they’re weeding a border or demolishing grandma’s prize orchid.

Free to download and advertised as ‘Shazam for plants’ the app sets itself an ambitious task- using image-recognition software to identify any plant the user photographs. While other, similar apps are available, the promising mission statement and corporate brand made us decide to take this one for a test drive.

We found the app simple and functional, without unnecessary bells and whistles- which proved to be vital, as we ventured further into the garden it began to struggle with speed and connectivity. Several searches crashed or had to be abandoned after taking too long to load- leading to a series of searches being conducted on clippings inside with the benefit of WiFi.

Overall the accuracy was distinctly average, and while it didn’t seem the app promised to provide encyclopedic knowledge- in providing a selection of possible matches it came across as aware of its fallibility- correctly identifying 6 of the 12 plants certainly highlighted that work is still needed. Assuming that the majority of users are drawn in by the claimed ability to identify plants, we certainly hoped for more precise results.

Seeming to function better in well-lit conditions, it scored 4 for 6 in the first, border-based testing, correctly identifying primrose, tulip, daffodils and hyacinths- admittedly probably the easier end of the spectrum. Somewhat unfairly we decided to test it on strawberries’ distinctive leaves, which perhaps understandably was unsuccessful.

On the second, cloudier attempt (weeds, shrubs and pot plants) connectivity proved a huge problem, as did the gravel setting on which many of the weeds were situating- completely confounding it. The zoom required for a suitable picture produced blurry images that again failed to register and required several attempts- several had to be pulled up in order to be captured to the app’s satisfaction- though many of these still proved incorrect. It did however correctly ID an anemone and a particularly tricky Japonica- for a total of 2 for 6, slightly disappointingly. Eventually it crashed mid-way through a search- a fairly inauspicious ending to our experimenting. Admittedly there is an option to save a picture for searching later- though this seems like a fairly impractical measure for countering a poor internet connection in the garden.

Some observations:

-If you have gravel, don’t expect miracles. Gravel seemed to totally flummox the software, probably due to the variety of colours and textures interfering with the image recognition technology.

-If you have slow internet, you might be better off with a book. Despite an increase in urban gardening, many of those who garden aren’t fortunate enough to be situated in 4G hotspots- something that proved rather tedious during our time trialing Outdoor Assistant.  

-An option to retrieve previous searches would be ideal.

-Though ostensibly a plant-identifying app, there’s an awful lot of shopping options built in below the surface.

-British weather seems, as usual, to stop play. The app contains a marvellous gallery of high definition stock-style images, all showing crisp and lovely plants in full bloom in thoroughly Mediterranean weather. Perhaps predictably then, it seemed to struggle to find a match for some of our markedly less luscious offerings- particularly a fuzzy close up of shaded flowering broccoli as dianthus- which could lead to some interesting border choices from less experienced gardeners.

 Digital Gardening

Increasing numbers of Britons are gardening alongside using social media- with 24.3 million posts using the hashtag #garden in March alone. The RHS, meanwhile, has announced a £27 million investment in raising awareness of the positive effects of gardening- meaning that gardening could be about to take off as millions seek the therapeutic effects of ‘getting back to nature’, the RHS Claims. In the context of the decline of gardening and gardens, apps like Outdoor Assistant present an innovative, engaging and thoroughly 21st century solution to gardening illiteracy. Unfortunately there seem to be some problems that need ironing out- and while the idea certainly merits more development, there’s a lot of gardening books that can do the same job more reliably. 

 

 

 

 

We all seem to enjoy starting the year with a bit of a health kick. Of course, this doesn’t always last- but the same principle works for your garden, and if you stay the course a little extra attention in spring can help your lawn hit new highs all year through.

Once you dig the mower out of the shed, get yourself up and running with a light mow that leaves plenty of length on your lawn to promote hearty growth.

There’s more to setting your lawn up for the spring than a quick trim, though- consider scarification and aeration to improve drainage during those spring showers, and remove moss. But to give your lawn even more of a helping hand, make the most of the spring growing conditions with a top dressing with our specialist top dressing top soil. This will improve drainage, fertility and general lawn health throughout the year and help develop a thick, luscious lawn- and regular top dressing gives the soil structure itself a fertility boost that will benefit your lawn for the months ahead. Top dressing also helps level the lawn, creating a more even and fertile platform for even growth and that perfect smooth appearance.

Many gardeners how include top dressing in their springtime lawn care routine, due to the thorough boost it gives and how easily it can provide a thicker lawn in conjunction with overseeding- the best way to fill in any patches left by digging out weeds and moss that have sprung up during the winter period.

Topsoilshop.co.uk has everything you need to make sure your garden gets off to a perfect start this spring- whether you’re keeping your lawn in pristine condition or growing veg in an allotment, we have something to help you get the most from your efforts.

 

 

The Plant Risk Register has been updated for 2017.

 

Responsible gardening means understanding invasive species and diseases- be sure to know the risks and regulations new for 2017. The Plant Risk Register was updated in January to cover the most recent concerns regarding plant and tree diseases.

In the latest updates to the register now includes some new risks, including

    Texas Phoenix Palm Decline – a phytoplasma disease killing palm trees in the USA

•    Acalolepta sejuncta – Asian longhorn beetle which attacks trees

•   Crisicoccus pini – Kuwana mealybug, a pest of pines recently introduced to Italy

•    Monilinia polystroma – Asiatic brown rot

•    Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. Cubense: a fungal infection effecting bananas.

While some of these may sound slightly exotic for the majority of UK gardeners, there are a number of extant risks that have been reassessed in the 2017 update. These include Candidatus Phytoplasma mali, cause of Apple Proliferation Disease in apple trees, now subject to increased monitoring and regulations following reports of increased spread inside Europe. Another serious disease is Candidatus Phytoplasma pyri, a cause of Pear decline that could potentially be a serious risk to the country’s perry orchards, and viewed as low risk but carrying the highest impact if allowed to spread to orchards. The Iris Yellow Spot Virus, a danger to onion crops, is considered a likely danger farmers and gardeners will have to deal with in 2017.

The spread of disease is something all gardeners need to be familiar with- as if allowed to spread to farms or to other vulnerable areas, they can have serious repercussions. By identifying and removing plants that carry infectious diseases, we can ensure our gardens don’t contribute to the spread of invasive or dangerous plant species, diseases or pests. 

 

Tags: vegetable growing

 

Gardeners everywhere rely on topsoil to support their gardens and allotments. But what’s actually in bought topsoil?

Nitrogen

Nitrogen is a great plant fertiliser in low concentrations. All plants rely on nitrogen for healthy stems and leaves- so getting a steady, healthy supply is a perfect start for your plants. Plants require more nitrogen than any other nutrient, and for general health and growth you should consider nitrogen the main ingredient. However too much can cause serious harm to your plants- so make sure you water frequently and follow guidelines if adding any extra.  

Magnesium

Magnesium is vital for photosynthesis, and without it leaves will begin to wilt and die. Magnesium shortages often occur in tomato plants, where more erinaceous-friendly potassium feeds interfere with magnesium uptake.

Potassium

Potassium is not just great for humans, it can help plants develop healthy fruits & leaves, by promoting water uptake, stimulating enzyme production, and boosting synthesis. Plants can’t thrive without a plentiful source of potassium, and will grow to be stunted, discoloured and less resilient than normal.

Phosphorus

Unlike the other ingredients, phosphorus is beneficial for root formation, and though uncommon, in heavy rain it does happen. Without healthy roots, the plant will develop slowly, off-colour and vulnerable to bad weather.

If you’re considering using topsoil to boost your plants, these nutrients should be on the list of ingredients. The Topsoil Shop is the UK’s best bulk topsoil delivery service, combining affordable, great quality topsoil with an easy online ordering & local home delivery network to make it easier than ever to help your plants thrive. 

 

Know Your Topsoil

It can be hard to know which the best topsoil is for you- and if you don’t know your soil you may struggle to get your plants to thrive. The truth is, most people aren’t that interested in the science of soil- but it has a lot of very special qualities you can’t see. Most people are surprised to learn that fertile soil is a finite, non-renewable resource and won’t be around forever. And with 1.2-2 billion tonnes of food intensively farmed each year –around 50% more than is eaten- we may soon be hearing more about the decline of our fertile soil resources. Aside from news of impending doom & gloom, however, why should you take the time to learn about the miracle of natural topsoil?

Topsoil is vital to the growth of plants and, therefore, humans! But it normally only occurs naturally on the top few inches of the ground. It can go down to a few feet at most.

Most importantly, topsoil is teeming with life! This is what gives it its rich, deep, dark colour. Decaying matter and microorganisms also provide its odour and miraculous growing properties. When it occurs naturally, topsoil is home to more organic activity than the rest of the earth! In fact, the next time you’re in the garden, grab a handful- you’ll be holding more living organisms in your hand than there are people on the entire planet! Yet all topsoil is roughly half air and water (its water absorption properties are miraculous- one acre could hold almost ten MILLION litres of water) and 95% non-organic material. Despite being only 5% organic, topsoil is the product- and in many ways the basis for- all biological activity that’s ever taken place on earth. Centuries of plant and animal organisms dying & decomposing goes into producing every centimetre of topsoil. Yet industrial farming and other bad production practices are reducing available topsoil at an unsustainable rate. That’s why increasingly the agriscience has been taking steps to reduce the damage to topsoil, such as more and more advanced composts and soil improvers.

The great advantage of using bought topsoil is that you can tailor your choices to improving the soil fertility profile in your garden. Scientists have identified over ten thousand different types of local topsoil in Europe alone, and each type of soil can favour certain plants. Using bought topsoil, instead of relying on compost and local earth, can allow you to grow a wider variety of the species you choose.

The Topsoil Shop is a leading supplier of high quality bulk & bagged topsoil across the UK. We have depots across the country to ensure fast & hassle-free delivery of fertile, freshly dug topsoil. See our depot locations here.

Tags: topsoil

 

Mulch Ado About Nothing (or Chicken Soup for the Soil)*

 

Restore vibrancy to your soil with some life-giving mulch! A healthy layer of mulch is probably the best favour you can do for your soil this Spring- and definitely the cheapest. Readily available from our shop or easy to prepare at home (provided you know your garden and its soil type there’s no excuse not to get the most out your garden in 2016 with some mulch!

February is the perfect time to consider your garden’s needs for the coming year, and though it may not feel like it, now is the time to think of the summer that’s just around the corner, and prepare our allotments and gardens for the warmer, drying months that will pose challenges of their own. All this because, for our plants at least, the rain of the last couple of months may soon be missed.   Unfortunately our climate limits how many projects we can undertake for another month or so, but if you want to take a positive step now toward a better garden this year, consider preparing and laying out some late-winter mulch to seal up your soil through the dry summer. Now, spring mulching is sometimes a contentious issue. There are those who feel mulch is best used to insulate your soil against the winter cold, and should be laid out in the autumn to warm the soil. Mulch decomposes, which leaks nutrients into your soil and can even generate a tiny amount of heat- which is just what your trees and perennials are after through the winter. However it’s been suggested that mulching in spring can act to seal entire beds, too, this time against moisture loss. A long dry summer (now replete with increasingly common hosepipe bans) can ruin your soil and turn your beautiful beds into dehydrated deserts! A healthy couple of inches of mulch now can trap in that moisture (one thing we have plenty of) and stops a hot summer from crisping your plants.  Not only this, but of course mulching will the preserve the fertility of your topsoil, and even tops it up, just as it does in winter. So if your soil is prone to letting your plants down for nutrients, or if you remember last summers’ dusty dryness, top up a 5cm layer of mulch over your entire bed and feel sure that some of the winter rain we’ve enjoyed so much of recently, won’t up and disappear as soon as we hit the hot months.

 

 

*Apologies for the puns, we’re sow sow sorry! 

 

Tags: topsoil mulch,

 

A new year is upon us. Perhaps it is one of your aims for this upcoming year, or indeed your new year’s resolution, to get out in the garden or greenhouse and start growing your own plants, fruits and vegetables. There is no time like the present. Although some people are sceptical of the ability to grow quality produce in the UK over winter, there is plenty opportunity to grow successfully in January.

If you have a backlog of winter tasks that remained incomplete, January is the ideal time to finish such jobs before the worst of the cold weather arrives in February. It is not typically the time of year to be growing outside but there are plenty of vegetables that can be grown in January with a view to sowing in autumn. This includes Aubergines; cabbages; carrots; cauliflowers; leeks and onions to name but a few.

If you have a frost free greenhouse you can grow lots. Plants and vegetables that are more typically cultivated in warmer months can flourish in a greenhouse environment. Sweet peas are a seasonal favourite to grow at this time of year and they can be started in gentle heat now as one of the first things that you attempt to grow in 2016.

You can also consider growing Pansies in a greenhouse with the view to moving them outside when summer arrives to create a glorious, colourful display in the sunshine. Similarly, Lobelia can be grown and moved across to hanging baskets and containers at a later date to give a bright and summery show.

All you need for successful growing is a good quality soil full of nutrients. You can do without chemical fertilizers and sprays. If you get a high quality soil they will not be necessary. The cash saved by buying excellent sterilized topsoil can instead be spent on plants and pots.

Multipurpose compost should be sufficient for your growing needs but if you really want top results for growing vegetables then opt for specially formulated vegetable compost. A good soil mix for growing in greenhouses is a half and half mixture of rich garden loam and compost.

 

 

Using quality topsoil in your garden, such as the organic topsoil available from Topsoil Shop, is a vital component of plant growth. There are many reasons for this, with the most prevalent being that it contains the highest concentration of micro-organisms and organic matter, making it the area of soil where the vast majority of biological activity happens. As a result, this is where a plant will have most of its roots bedded in order to ensure that it gains as many vital nutrients as possible. However, there is a considerable environmental issue known as topsoil erosion which is severely threatening the amount of good quality topsoil in the world.


Topsoil erosion is the process of the topsoil layer degrading due to it being washed or blown away, and can also caused by a number of conventional farming practices, given that yearly ploughing and replanting of soil is actively encouraged. There is a serious concern amongst experts that given the current rate of deterioration, the amount of quality topsoil left in the world will only last around 60 years. This is because an inch of topsoil can take anywhere between 500-1000 years to form naturally. Chemical farming processes are known to remove large amounts of carbon from the soil, making it less nutrient-rich and damaging its structural integrity, which also results in less water being absorbed by the soil. This could lead to a situation wherein more food is required due to an increasing global population, and yet we may not be able to produce enough due to reduced levels of soil productivity.


There are numerous different solutions which have been proposed, including moving to more widespread organic farming techniques, and by adopting no-till farming (where there is a reduced the amount of soil disturbance). Topsoil Shop sell excellent quality topsoil for your garden in order to improve the quality of plant growth - browse our complete range and buy topsoil online today!

 

 

Soil cultivation is a digging technique used to improve the condition of soil. It enhances soil structure by reducing compaction.

Any bare soil can be cultivated in order to prepare an ideal seed bed. Fertiliser, manure and lime can be added to grow crops or decorative plants.


To successfully cultivate soil a two-step process must be adhered to. The first part of the process is primary cultivation. This is digging to bury weeds and debris in the soil. This can be a labour intensive process but you can alleviate the physical demands by slowly cultivating the soil. Alternatively, a mechanical rotavator will turn the soil for you.


After primary cultivation, the soil surface must then be prepared so it is ready for sowing and planting. This is called secondary cultivation. A limited amount of cultivation is required as it can be easy to over-cultivate. This can be detrimental to the quality of soil. Digging around plants is ill-advised as this can damage the roots.


Clay soils are best cultivated in autumn. The benefit of this is that it improves the structure of the soil. Performing a dig in August or September means frost can break up the soil during the subsequent winter months. Refrain from cultivating when the soil is wet and is going to coagulate.


For light sandy soils the best time to dig is early spring. When you dig, moisture is lost, so it is essential to perform cultivation prior to the warmest months of the year. You can also cultivate light sandy soils in autumn if the soil is not sodden or iced over.


Good topsoil is essential if you are looking to grow plants. This is the layer that plants roots are in. It is essential to make sure that this it is in top health. Soil cultivation can deepen the level of shallow topsoil.


Soil cultivation is a relatively easy process. It can be used on any soil type to rejuvenate its condition. It can be quite labour intensive but this can be resolved by performing a slow, methodical dig or by renting/buying a mechanical rotavator.

 

 

A gravel garden is a fantastic low maintenance option for those who have not got lots of time to invest in their outside space. Here Top Soil Shop explain how best to create a gravel garden, what plants you can expect to flourish in one and how to successfully overcome common associated problems.


Gravel gardens are great because it is possible to build one upon any soil type. A sandy soil is preferable and a sunny, well-drained spot would be ideal for a gravel garden, but they can look great in any area.


Plants that grow in gravel gardens thrive in unimproved sandy soils with relatively low fertility. In the instance that your soil is clay based, try to add plenty of organic matter into the soil. For plants which don't need to self-seed, make small, cross-shaped perforations in landscape fabric for a root ball to fit through and place it over the soil.


There are all kinds of plants suitable for growing in a gravel garden. Bulbs such as Allium or Colchicum; different varieties of shrubs including Hebe and Juniperus; many herbaceous perennials; grasses such as Stipa; bedding plants such as Cosmos and Gazania and some climbers such as Campsis or Trachelospermum can all grow well in gravel gardens.


When creating a gravel garden arguably the most intensive work is in the first few months and years, when it is necessary to intensively weed in order to get the gravel garden you desire. After a year or two when plants have become much bigger, they are generally able to suppress weeds due to their enlarged size. You should use larger grades of gravel if cats are going to be in your garden as this will deter them and if you want to grow acid loving plants like magnolias you should avoid using limestone chippings.


A problem with gravel gardens is that often small plants are swamped by the gravel. To counteract this plant small plants on a low mound; this will raise them just above the level of the gravel. Use landscape fabric to prevent undesired weeds and self-seeding plants appearing. If you are trying to achieve a natural look for your garden you can let self-seeding plants flourish. You should remove spent flower stalks in autumn, although this can also be done in spring if stalks are left through the winter months.


At Top Soil Shop, gravel can be bought in a wide range of sizes, colours and styles, so you can choose the gravel that perfectly matches other features in your garden. See our full range of decorative gravel and start making your perfect gravel garden.

 

 

In the UK, it is a general misconception that the beginning of spring is the best time to plant summer bedding plants. It is, in fact, very much the case that in milder areas tender bedding plants should be planted out in late May or even early June. This is to ensure that they are not destroyed by harsh weather conditions. With this in mind you can still take the opportunity to plant for this summer now and this is perhaps the best possible time to plant tender bedding plants such as begonias and salvias.


Some of the most popular summer bedding plants include petunias and marigolds, and whilst these are stunning flowers there is a whole host of other gorgeous summer bedding plants that are ideal to plant at this time of year.
One such tender bedding plant is the sweet pea which grows in a wide range of colours and gives off a delightful summer fragrance. These make fantastic bedding plants for idyllic cottages and countryside retreats and can grow as high as 6ft tall.


The key to success with growing great Sweet Peas is to invest in quality topsoil. Start with a good depth of fertile topsoil and make sure that your pH level is never below 6.5. Sweet peas are also great to plant in September time and although it is widely believed that March and April is the best time to plant Sweet Peas, the seeds actually blossom better in the autumn months.


If you are looking to attract bees, Cosmos is another great option for a summer bedding plant. Cosmos can tolerate warm, dry conditions so they are perfect to plant in June or July. The cosmos is a large and colourful flower that sits on a long and slender stem. They are a prominent source of nectar in the later summer months for pollinating insects and so will attract a good range of butterflies, beetles, bees and ants.


Don’t think that you’ve missed the boat for growing wonderful summer bedding plants. All you need is some seeds, a good topsoil to efficiently regulate the pH of your soil and some free time over summer and you could be well on your way to a lush summer garden before you know it.

 

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