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Top Soil vs Garden Soil Whats the Difference and How to Use Them for Gardenin

Top Soil Vs. Garden Soil: What’s the Difference and How to Use Them for Gardening?

Among many garden tools, Soil plays a vital role in the growth and development of plants. It hosts billions of microbes and all essential nutrients that aid plants throughout their life cycle. However, choosing the best soil for your plants and their needs is crucial. Two types of soil serve different gardening and landscaping purposes: top soil vs. garden soil. Using suitable soil for your gardens and landscapes ensures success; instead of starving your plants with no nutrients.

Soil is the main ingredient for all kinds of planting purposes.
Soil is the main ingredient for all kinds of planting purposes. It aids plants in growth and development.

However, To learn more about top soil vs. garden soil and their specific functions for landscaping, continue reading.

Top Soil vs. Garden Soil

Top Soil vs. Garden Soil
Topsoil comprises sand, silt, and clay Credit: Flicker

Topsoil is the uppermost layer on the earth’s surface and is chiefly composed of sand, mud, and clay. It is 5-12 inches deep and mostly removed during construction projects. Also, it has varying textures depending on the location(many consider it topsoil fill dirt) but the combination of sand, clay, and silt in different proportions. Therefore, this soil is unsuitable for gardening projects because it retains water for extended periods and prevents oxygen from reaching the root system. 

Note: Topsoils with loamy textures (containing 27 percent clay, 50 percent silt, and under 52 percent sand) can sustain plant life because they may have organic leaf litter, weeds, and tree bark as a nutrient source upon decomposition.

vegetable farming
Black gold or garden soil serves as the best potting medium for potted plants and vegetable farming. Credit: Flicker

Garden soil refers to the premixed soils available for more minor gardening purposes. It fulfills the plant’s growth requirements by providing specific nutrients because garden soil is prepared by mixing worm castings, animal manure, and leaf litter. It is best suited for container-grown vegetables, flowers, and herbs for its rich texture and lightweight.

Note: For your tropical houseplants, be aware not to use topsoil and garden soil because these soils are too heavy and retain water for longer. Instead, use a soilless airy potting mix that drains water freely and keeps the root system aerated.

A Quick Guide to Top Soil vs. Garden Soil

Top SoilGarden Soil
Topsoil is a rich blend of loam, sand, and clay. These ingredients’ composition depends upon the region from where it is collected.Garden soil is the topsoil enriched with organic material, compost, and worm castings.
It can be used for any gardening and landscaping.Suitable for container gardening, window boxes, raised planters, and hanging baskets.
Available for bulk purchases and gardening purposes.It is precisely prepared to support a plant’s rapid growth and also development.
Most suitable for raised garden beds and lawns.Ideal for fruit orchids, vegetable gardening, and succulent plants.
It is readily available and inexpensive.Garden soil is unsuitable for grasses.
Do not contain harmful pathogens.It may contain disease-causing pathogens.
A side-by-side comparison of topsoil and garden soil
A side-by-side comparison of topsoil and garden soil

Useful Tips for Planting in Top Soil and Garden Soil

These are the valuable tips for planting and improving the topsoil and garden soil;

Add organic matter to your topsoil and garden soil: Firstly, Mixing leaf litter or compost into your topsoil and garden soil improves its structure and texture. Secondly, It will add nutrients to the ground and support the plant’s healthy growth.

Adding compost to the garden and topsoils will release the beneficial microbes that continue to work on compost while adding and improving soil nutrition.

For the best results, add organic matter every year in spring or fall to encourage lush green growth. In addition to compost, mix coffee grounds, shredded leaves, and aged manure to improve garden soil’s texture, fertility, and water retention.

Mulch the topsoil and garden soil

Mulching the soil surface with horticultural sheets or cover crops prevent the beneficial microorganisms from the scorching sun and encourage their activities (decomposition of organic material). It also discourages the growth of weeds in raised flower buds while conserving soil moisture and preventing plant roots from sunlight damage.

Do not compact the soil

Avoid continuously stepping on your garden soil because it compresses and kills beneficial microbes. The best way to avoid soil compaction is planting in raised beds because it will eliminate the main course of soil compaction.

Disrupt the garden soil as little as possible

It involves no-till or no-dig gardening practices because it does not expose the microbes to direct sunlight. Also, these gardening practices do not harm the soil’s natural ecosystem, which is vital to healthy, crumply, and nutrient-rich soil.

Note: Add organic matter to the top one-inch soil layer, then let the earthworms feed on it and convert it into nutrient-rich fertilizer.

Adjust the soil pH

Before using topsoil and garden soil for grass lawns and vegetable plantings, check the soil pH and adjust them according to the plant’s growth requirement. If the garden soil’s pH levels are acidic (lower than seven), then annuals, vegetables, and grasses cannot absorb nutrients.

Therefore, add limestone, bone meal, wood ash, and compost to improve or increase the pH of your soil. While for alkaline soils, add elemental sulfur, aluminum sulfate, or sulfuric acid to lower the soil alkalinity. By adjusting the soil alkalinity, boron, zinc, and magnesium will be available to the root system.

Which Type of Soil is Right: Top Soil vs. Garden Soil

Deciding between topsoil and garden entirely depends on the project type and size. For example,

However, Topsoil is not niche specific and best for landscaping. It can be used to fill the low land spots in the preparation of lawn and sod installations. This soil makes the perfect choice for raised beds in landscapes because these planting sites are not for particular plants.

Topsoil is also cheap and available in bulk for larger projects. 

Garden soil is more niche-specific and only prepared as a growing medium to aid the plant in healthy and rapid growth. It is expensive and not available in bulk for more significant projects. However, this high-quality, rich soil is ideal for container gardening, such as window boxes, hanging flower baskets, and ornamental shrubs.

Note: For large areas to cover in gardens, you can mix both soils with a few amendments, such as sifting the topsoil and incorporating organic and synthetic fertilizers. It will improve soil texture and health through beneficial microbes.

FAQs on Top Soil vs. Garden Soil

How is Soil Classified?

Soil is classified based on the composition of soil materials and their nature.

So, On a soil particle basis, there are three types: sandy, clayey, and loamy soil.

  1. Sandy soil majorly consists of sand and also, some part of clay and silt.
  2. Loamy soil has sand, clay, and also, humus.
  3. Clayey soil consists of clay in large amounts than silt and humus.

Based on the material nature

  1. Alluvial soil is made of river deposits.
  2. Black soil solely consists of humus.
  3. Red soil consists of iron oxides.
  4. Desert soil contains minerals.
  5. Laterite soil consists of hydrated oxide of iron and aluminum.

How to Preserve Topsoil?

In many regions, topsoil is prone to erosion and nutrient leaching caused by wind and flooding. To protect the texture of topsoil from erosion, plant trees, shrubs, and cover crops such as alfalfa during the “off-season” when you are not growing vegetables in your garden. Cover crops also add nutrients to your topsoil and garden soil absorbed by the previous crop.

Can I use Garden Soil instead of Topsoil?

Using garden soil and topsoil depends upon whether you are growing plants over a small or large area. Use topsoil as your base medium for landscaping and raised garden beds, while unique one, such as flower beds, uses garden soil.

Can I grow vegetables in topsoil?

Yes, you can grow vegetables in topsoil but make sure to amend it with organic fertilizers such as well-rotted manure or worm castings. Adding these organic ones improves the soil’s nutrition and texture.

For More Details: Few More Queries

Which soil is best for growing plants?

Both topsoil and garden soil is best for growing plants. However, topsoil is always available in bulk and is best for landscaping, while garden soil is for potted plants and hanging baskets for its rich nutrition (due to compost) and texture. 

Does garden soil contain fertilizer?

Yes, garden soil contains fertilizer but is organic, such as compost, worm castings, and animal manure. So, that’s why it is only used for specific niches like succulent, fruit, and vegetable gardens for its ability to aid plants in growth and development.

Can I use topsoil for potted plants?

Using soilless media for your potted plants is best because of their lightweight and good aeration properties.

On the other hand, topsoil and garden soil is too heavy for potted plants and negatively impact growth and development. (A growth medium, ensuring good aeration and drainage, is ideal for potted houseplants).

What is Loam Soil used for?

Loam soil is perfect for potted plants because it provides good aeration and drainage. This soil also retains plenty of soil moisture without suffocating the plant roots.