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Garden Soil Vs Topsoil

When you are planning landscaping or gardening, the soil you use can make all the difference. The right soil leads to the best results for your landscaping and garden. Soil is where your plants will get water and nutrients to grow, and where they will spread their roots. While all soil may seem the same, it’s not. When it comes to having success with greenery, it’s important to know the difference between garden soil and topsoil. 

What’s the difference between garden soil and topsoil? 


Topsoil is made up of clay, silt, sand, and various other organic material. It’s often considered an all-purpose soil, meaning it can be used for a range of projects.  It comes from the top 12 inches of earth that are removed during construction projects. Its uses include:

  • Grading
  • Planting
  • Fill in low-level spots in a lawn before sod installation
  • As organic material that can reduce thatch
  • Strengthens the soils pest and weed resistance
  • As fill for raised bed planters

However, it’s best to avoid using topsoil that is thicker as it can prevent air from getting down the roots of your garden. Topsoils that have a mix of silt, sand, and clay are easier to till and are ideal for larger areas. 

The composition of topsoil will depend on the local environment as it does not usually get shipped long distances. For example, if the land was used for agriculture, the soil may have remnants of plant roots, tree bark, leaves, grass, etc. Topsoil’s colour can vary from brown to black, depending on the organic material in it. 

Garden soil

Garden soil is topsoil that has been enriched with compost and organic material. These materials break down and create nutrients in the soil that is ideal for plant growth. Often these mixtures are for a specific type of plant growth, such as vegetables, herbs, flowers, etc. It can be more expensive than topsoil but usually has fewer irrigation requirements. Garden soil can sometimes have better results over the long term for the specific plants it was developed to help. However, garden soil was not designed to be used with a variety of plants. If you are looking to use the soil for different plants, topsoil is a better choice. 

Can you mix topsoil with garden soil? 

Mixing topsoil and garden soil are a good way to ensure your plants and greenery have a variety of nutrients in the ground. However, you’ll want to mix them up well rather than just dumping them together. To do this properly, till the ground that you want to add the soil until it is soft. Then add just a little bit of the new soil and mix it up well. Add a little more, and again, mix it until it is blended. Adding topsoil as the final layer can help your plants adjust to their new space better. 

Is bagged topsoil any good? 

Bagged topsoil can be a great addition to enrich your garden or landscape, but you’ll want to be sure you get the right kind. When bagged, topsoil comes in various qualities and its important to read the fine print on the package to understand what is inside. Some topsoil is designed for planting while other is best for filling holes in your yard. It’s essential to get the right topsoil for the job you want it to do. 

Do I need to remove rocks from soil?

Rocks in your soil can cause a multitude of problems. They can prevent your plants from growing, damage your tools and equipment, and make it difficult to expand your garden or landscape. Removing them from your soil can help you have a healthier garden and an easier time of growing plants. There are different tactics you can take to remove the rocks from your soil, including:


If you have the time and energy, you can attempt to hand-pick the rocks from your soil. However, it can be difficult to ensure you get them all and that you go deep enough for deep-rooted plants to be successful in your space. 


you can also speed the process along by using a tiller, rake, and wheelbarrow. Start by loosening up the soil with a tiller and placing the larger rocks and boulders in the wheelbarrow. Then rake the soil until you have sorted the rocks from the dirt. You can then place those into the wheelbarrow and remove them. 

Topsoil screener

one of the easiest and most effective ways of removing rocks from topsoil is to use a screener. They are available in different sizes and models, depending on the type of soil you have and the size of the debris you need removed. You can use a stationary or vibrating screener, which will sift the soil through the screen. This removes not only rocks but other debris that can prevent greenery from growing well. An added bonus is that stationary screeners have no maintenance costs because there are no moving parts that need to be repaired or replaced. If you have larger boulders that you need separated, there are electric screeners that are wider and more capable of large jobs. 

Your Best Garden

The soil you chose for your landscape or garden plays a large part in whether you grow healthy greenery or not. The right soil will give you the best results. Your garden’s soil is more than just a pile of dirt, it is where your plants will get the nutrients and water to grow well. It’s where they will make their home and spread their roots. You want to be sure you are using the best soil for your project. Knowing the difference between garden soil and topsoil is a great place to start. It’s also important to know how to create your own healthy soil for planting. Removing rocks and other debris will help you get the best topsoil mix for your landscape. 

To find the right screener for your job, contact North 42 today.