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Screened Vs. Unscreened Topsoil


Creating your ideal landscapes depends a lot on the soil you use. Knowing the difference between screened and unscreened topsoil will help you select the right type for your project. 

Whether you want to grow a garden or some grass, topsoil is a key ingredient to getting it right. Screened and unscreened topsoil have different benefits and uses. 

Uses for screened Topsoil

Screened topsoil is also dirt that has been removed from building sites, but it has the debris removed by screening it through a topsoil screener. This is done with a topsoil screener, which removes clumps, rocks, tree roots, sticks, etc. It is a better option for gardening and mixes well with other soils and elements like compost and fertilizer. You can also use it for lawns, flower pots, planters and a base for sidewalks. Another benefit of screened topsoil is that it is loose and provides excellent drainage for plants. It allows the water and nutrients to permeate the soil at all levels, which helps your plants grow. 

Uses for Unscreened Topsoil

Unscreened topsoil is soil that has been excavated from a construction site, such as a residential building project site. It has not been sifted and may still have tree or plant roots, sticks, and even rocks in it. Topsoil elements will vary from location to location and really depend on the soil type at a particular site. For example, if the area has a lot of clay below the surface, that material will also be in the unscreened topsoil you buy. Unscreened topsoil is best used to fill in low areas or levelling. It can also be a good fit for wall support, raised bed filler, creating a base for gardens, installing fixtures or other construction or maintenance projects. However, it’s not the ideal soil to use for your garden.  It may contain air pockets that trap water, preventing adequate drainage, hinder roots from growing, and ultimately cause plants to rot. 

Should topsoil be screened?

Screened topsoil is more valuable because it has various uses, including gardening, landscaping, etc. The consistency of screened topsoil offers the best water and nutrient flow for your plants. It also allows for resilient root growth and has many nutrients that various plants can use for development. While screening your topsoil may take a little more time, it is worth the time if you want healthy and vibrant plant life from your project. Some of the benefits of screening topsoil include:

  • Create a loose soil that is easy to work with and mix into your existing earth
  • Consistent texture for the ground that allows plants to grow their roots deep
  • Nutrient levels allow plants to grow taller and trees to produce more fruit
  • Reduce the likelihood of weed growth as many of these roots are screened out

Whether you opt for screened or unscreened topsoil depends on how you want to use the soil. If you are looking at growing plants, flowers, grass, etc., you’re better investing in screened topsoil because it will enable flora to grow easier. 

There are different models and sizes of screeners for topsoil, which allows you to get the best screened topsoil for your project. Some of the topsoil screeners available include: 

Stationary screener – this type of screener is a basic unit that is simple to use. It has been built strong so that it will handle a lot of topsoil screening work. Moreover, you won’t have to worry about maintenance as there are no moving parts. The stationary screener relies on gravity for the sifting process, which can take a little more time, depending on the amount of earth you want to screen. A stationary unit is a good fit for those occasional projects that could benefit from having screened topsoil. 

Vibrating screener – this unit allows for a quicker screening time. It is powered with either a 110v electric vibrator or a gas-powered vibrator. The screening platform is spring-mounted and resilient to weight. It works by shaking or vibrating the screen to sift the soil on top, removing any larger pieces of debris, plant or tree roots and weeds. If you want to screen larger sizes of dirt, a vibrating screening is a suitable unit. It can be used to screen aggregates, topsoil, composite and more. You can also choose from various screen sizes, so you get the correct type of topsoil for your project. 

What is screened topsoil good for?

Screened topsoil has a variety of uses and is one of the most valuable types of soil. It can be used to create a base for a vegetable garden or in a raised garden bed. It is also a good fit for flower gardens and containers. You can use screened topsoil to fill lawn areas, plant trees or shrubs, and more. If the project calls for more than an inch of soil, it’s wise to use screened topsoil. Consider adding screened topsoil over an unscreened layer of topsoil. This allows for your plants to grow deep roots. Due to its loose consistency, you can also add extra elements to screened topsoil such as compost, manure, or peat. Doing this can enrich the soil more. 

What is unscreened fill?

Unscreened fill dirt is soil that has been removed from a construction or building site but not sifted or screened. It can be used to fill holes in your landscaping or raise areas of land. Depending on where it was sourced, unscreened fill may have rocks and other debris still included. Due to the inconsistent mixture and lack of nutrient value, using unscreened fill for gardens or plants is not advisable. 

Finding the right topsoil for the job 

Before you begin your project, you’ll need first to determine what you want to use the soil for and then select the best type for the job. If you’re working on a mini-construction project for your property, unscreened topsoil may be good enough. However, if you want to build a garden or do some landscaping, screened topsoil is best. If you need to find the best topsoil screener for your project, let North 42 help you.