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A Guide to Buying Topsoil

Why might you want to buy topsoil? Well, if your existing soil is poor quality, which is sometimes found in new build houses, or if you want to make new garden beds, put in raised beds, or lay a new lawn, you’ll probably need top soil.

You’ll also need to add topsoil if you’re converting an area that has previously been paved. You may also want to use topsoil rather than compost if you wish to grow plants in a paved area, in raised beds or pots, as it will tend to dry out more slowly than many commercially-available potting composts.

So what do you need to know before you buy?

You can buy top soil from garden centres in small bags, or you can buy it in bulk from topsoil suppliers, which is much more economical.  The Royal Horticultural Society recommends that you try to inspect top soil before buying, or at least ask to be sent a sample, as the quality can vary considerably. An inspection will let you see whether there are any roots in the soil, or other contaminants such as glass or large stones. Your chosen supplier should be able to provide you with assurances that their topsoil meets British Standards.

You should also ask the supplier where the topsoil is sourced, and whether it all comes from one place. This is because building sites are sometimes used as a source, and if so, the quality can be variable. You should also be wary of buying imported topsoil, especially if it has any visible roots in it, as it may introduce invasive plants, such as Japanese knotweed.

Topsoil is available in three levels of quality: premium, general purpose and economy.

Economy topsoil is the cheapest, so is ideal if you need large amounts, perhaps to put down as a base layer under a lawn, or to fill in holes. It tends to be supplied ‘as dug’, meaning that it has not been screened, and may contain weeds and roots. General purpose topsoil is, as the name suggests, generally good for most garden purposes, including top dressing lawns, using as the final layer before you lay turf, and adding soil to garden beds or for containers or raised beds. It comes in different grades, with larger or smaller grains. The finer ones are best for top dressing lawns, and the coarser ones are particularly good for laying lawns. Premium topsoil is the top quality, and should be free of any weed seeds. It is ideal if you want to grow vegetables or flowers for shows. Professional nurseries often buy it to make up their own potting compost.

Armed with this information, you should now be able to buy topsoil with confidence.