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What to check for when purchasing Topsoil

It goes without saying that shopping for topsoil for your garden is far from glamorous and is one of the less exciting jobs associated with gardening. However, if you carry out some solid research before you decide which topsoil to purchase, it can be beneficial both for your garden and your bank balance!

A good quality topsoil will help your plant life thrive. If your soil has an unusually high level of clay, for example, a good layer of quality topsoil will give your plants the right balance of nutrients they need to survive and thrive. Subsequently, if you have given your plants the necessary nutrients to survive it will ensure that you are not replacing plants year after year.

So what should you be looking for that will help you decide whether a topsoil is of superior quality? There are four main areas to be looking at here:

what to check for

1. pH Levels

A good quality topsoil will have a pH level of between 5.0 and 8.3. A topsoil that is slightly either side of these figures will still be acceptable but it is advised that you opt for a one that falls between this range. This will give your plants the best potential to thrive.

2. Soluble Salt Levels

Soluble salts in your topsoil are potentially bad for your plants. If the level of soluble salts is high it can be difficult for it to absorb water, which is understandably bad for your plantlife. The perfect amount of soluble salt in topsoil is less than 2 dS/m or mmho/cm. If there is more than 2 dS/m or mmho/cm but less than 4 dS/m or mmho/cm, that is a perfectly acceptable level of soluble salt.

3. Texture

The texture of your topsoil describes the relative content of sand, silt and clay. If the content of any of these in your topsoil is considerably higher than the others it means your topsoil will be unable (or find it difficult) to sustain life. As a general rule you need to look for topsoil with less than 30% clay, less than 70% sand and less than 70% silt. A good balance of all three in your soil will give your plant life the best opportunity to thrive.

4. Sodium Absorption Rates

The sodium adsorption rate is the amount of sodium relative to calcium and magnesium. Sodium in your soil has a detrimental effect on the plant life so it is advisable to look for a sodium adsorption rate of between three and ten.


If you follow these simple guidelines then choosing the right topsoil should be fairly easy and this will translate to beautiful, healthy and vibrant garden.