What Topsoil is Best for a Vegetable Garden?
Even if you’re an absolute amateur at gardening and never held a seedling in your life, you know that plants need good soil for growing. If you need to buy good quality topsoil for your garden, you can search for “topsoil near me” and buy some from the nearest store. For now, let’s check out how you can create the best topsoil for your garden.
- The best topsoil dilemma – If you’re a beginner, you may have the same thought process for soil as you do with most other things. Conventional wisdom says that more money would get you better soil. An expensive bag of topsoil would fare better than a cheap bag, right? However, that’s not the case.
You always have to improve topsoil irrespective of where it comes from and that’s why it’s better to just work with what you have in your yard. The only times you may need to buy topsoil is if your yard has too many rocks, stones, and weed seeds or for filling up containers.
- Basics of topsoil – As the name suggests, topsoil refers to the top layer of the soil. This is the part of the earth that has plant roots and a lot of organic matter. Depending on the type of plants you need to grow or the present condition of the soil, you may need to amend the topsoil and change its nutrient content and structure.
There are different types of topsoil you can buy at the store, and you should always opt for screened topsoil that is free from construction debris, rocks, stones, and other such stuff. At the store, you’ll also find “fill dirt”. This is low-quality and unscreened topsoil that has too much large debris and is low in organic matter. It is usually used to fill up holes or gaps in your yard and is not recommended for gardening.
- Testing the soil – If you buy bagged topsoil, the label will already have its composition, structure, and organic matter clearly stated for you. That’s why it’s not worth your time or money to get that soil tested. You’ll need to amend it anyway. Instead, you’ll want to test out the existing topsoil in your garden to know a few things about it. The information lets you know the changes that you need to make to that soil.
You can easily find soil testing kits at gardening stores and do the test yourself. Kits that test nutrient content and pH usually cost around $20. More extensive testing kits are going to be more expensive. Before that, you’ll need to know the ratio of sand, loam, and clay in your soil. For that, you need to fill up one-third of a glass jar with soil from different parts of your garden and top it off with water.
Next, shake the jar real hard till the water is mixed in well with the soil. Now, you set the jar aside and let the soil settle into three different layers. At the bottom you get sand, the middle layer holds silt, and the top layer holds clay. This tells you the composition of the soil. If you’re lucky enough, you may get loamy soil that’s best for growing plants.
- Chemical and biological tests – After you’re done testing the structure of the soil, it’s time to use those soil testing kits from the store to know the pH level of the soil and its nutrient content. If you want to be more thorough, you can hire an arborist to conduct the above-mentioned tests along with biological and compaction tests. In the end, you’ll need to use that information to amend the junky topsoil and change it into potting soil fit for growing plants.
- Improving the topsoil – To improve the topsoil, you can use all sorts of organic ingredients. Compost should always be at the top of that list since it is rich in both nutrients and biological matter and can improve the soil’s drainage and texture. You can also add organic fertilizers made from blood or bone meal and worm castings. Try to keep chemical inputs to a minimum since they deliver immediate results but degrade the soil in the long term.
You can make your own compost or buy some from the nearest store. The same holds for worm castings. You can start your own worm bin or buy castings online. To amend the soil, it’s usually recommended to mix around 5 parts of topsoil with 4 parts of compost and one part of worm castings. You can also experiment around and change the ratio to come up with the best amendment for your gardening needs.
- Things to do after planting seeds in the soil – Once the soil is amended and you have used it to create brand new gardening beds, you’ll obviously want to plant new veggie or flowering plant seeds. While doing so, make sure that the beds are aerated properly for good air circulation. You also need to leave enough room between the beds so that you can move around without stepping on the improved soil.
When you step on the soil, you render all that aeration or tilling useless since the pockets of air inside the soil collapse and that means roots will have a hard time breathing and spreading inside the soil. Finally, cover your garden beds with a thick layer of mulch to protect them from weeds and minimize water loss.
Irrespective of the condition of the topsoil in your garden, you can always test it out and change it according to your needs. Make sure to amend the soil with organic ingredients and lay off the chemicals. Whether you buy a cheap or an expensive bag of topsoil, you’ll need to add compost and other ingredients to make it into the best topsoil for your plants. To buy some topsoil, you can search for “topsoil near me” and get to the nearest store.