Topsoil vs compost: which to use and when
If you have even the smallest touch of green in your thumb, you'll know that creating a beautiful, healthy garden involves more than just planting flowers. Choosing the right organic materials is actually the key to having your garden flourish.
Two of the most crucial materials for gardening are topsoil and compost, but their similar looks and textures make it easy to get them confused. But don't worry, we're here to help!
With nearly six decades of experience in the industry, the team at M B Wilkes knows a thing or two about gardens. In our guide below, we'll explain what topsoil and compost actually are, what sets them apart, and when to use each type to achieve the best results for your garden. Let's go!
Are topsoil and compost the same?
No. Topsoil and compost are two different things, but they both play essential roles in landscaping. Here are the key characteristics of each type, as well as how they differ in their uses!
What is topsoil?
Topsoil is the upper layer of soil (hence the name!). It's generally the first 5 to 10 inches (12 to 25 centimetres) deep, and it serves as the primary hub for Earth's biological soil activity.
Topsoil is formed over time through the weathering of rocks and the decomposition of organic matter. It contains a mix of mineral particles like sand, silt, and clay along with organic matter like vegetation, dead animals, and leaves. This results in a treasure trove of organic nutrients and minerals, providing the perfect nourishment for healthy plant life.
What is topsoil used for?
Topsoil is commonly used in landscaping projects to establish vegetation or improve soil quality. It provides a stable foundation for plants and helps retain moisture, allowing roots to grow and thrive.
With that said, topsoil alone might not have enough organic matter or nutrients for optimal plant growth. This is where compost comes in!
What is compost?
Compost is a soil amendment made from the decomposition of organic waste, such as leaves, twigs, kitchen scraps, and other biodegradable materials. This decomposition process is carried out by microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and worms, which break down the organic matter into a dark and crumbly material. Compost is rich in nutrients and organic matter, making it an excellent soil conditioner.
What is compost used for?
Often referred to as "black gold" by gardeners, compost is prized for its ability to enhance soil health. It's used to improve soil structure, water retention, and nutrient content. When added to soil, compost enhances fertility and promotes healthier plant growth.
Should I use compost or topsoil?
When deciding whether to use compost, topsoil, or both, you need to consider the specific needs and conditions of your garden. The main difference between compost and topsoil is that compost acts as a soil amendment while topsoil forms the actual soil, so keep that in mind to make the best decision for your garden.
Compost works wonders for more demanding plants like vegetables, as it will give them the nutrients they need to flourish. Other types of plants can also benefit from compost, depending on what you have in your garden and the climate you're in.
For plants in pots, topsoil alone might not be enough since they can't reach out for more nutrients with their roots. In such cases, adding compost becomes a must to provide those potted plants with the nourishment they need to thrive.
If you'd like more specific advice, feel free to reach out to our team – we'd be happy to discuss your project and recommend the right option for you!
Can I mix compost and topsoil together?
Yes. In fact, it's usually recommended!
Compost is fantastic for enriching soil, but it can dry out rather quickly. Mixing it with topsoil is a great way to provide balanced bedding for plants and flowers. It offers the best of both worlds – the root support and water retention from topsoil, combined with the nutrient boost from compost.
Keep in mind that this may not be the ideal solution for every project. Depending on the plants you intend to grow, using only topsoil or choosing a different topsoil-compost ratio may be best.
Enhance your garden with premium topsoils and composts from M B Wilkes
At M B Wilkes, we supply high-quality soils and landscaping products for a variety of garden projects. Whether you're looking for a solid foundational topsoil or a compost that will help your flowers flourish, you can rely on us to provide you with the exact materials you need for a healthy garden – all at some of the most competitive prices on the market.