What is topsoil?
This is the uppermost layer of soil, and it has the highest concentration of microorganism and organic matter. Organic matter is what remain when stems, roots and leaves rot. It is made up of microbes, carbon, nitrogen and creatures such as beetles, worms, and other insects. It also has a rich concentration of nutrients including phosphorous, iron and potassium. Top soil changes depending on climate, the geographic region as well as human activity.
Quality attributes of the topsoil
- The pH level of dirt indicates whether it falls on the acidic or alkaline side of neutral. A measurement of 7.0 is considered neutral. A measurement below 7.0 is acidic, and above 7.0 is alkaline. Many plants prefer a neutral pH range, but some plants such as rhododendrons prefer acidic pH levels.
- The texture of topsoil is indicative of its quality. Texture describes the percentage of different sized particles present in the earth. Texture has a direct impact on how the earth will retain water, hold nutrients, and remain compacted around plants. Optimally, the dirt will contain an even mixture of the different sizes of particles. If one size of particles dominates the mixture, the quality of the dirt will suffer. Too much clay makes the mixture too dense and heavy. Too much sand makes the mixture too light and dry.
- Quality earth also needs to contain organic matter to increase its nutrient level, which benefits plants. The more organic matter, the higher the quality of the earth. It’s possible to add organic matter to earth to improve its composition.
- Some mixtures contain foreign fragments that can interfere with plant growth and till. The foreign fragments could be gravel or even cement particles from construction waste. The percentage of foreign fragments should be low, indicating quality soil. If the mixture contains a high percentage of fragments, it may be possible to screen it to separate the foreign matter.
- Weed spores may also be present in the soil. If the earth contains spores or traces of herbicides used to kill the weeds, it may not be possible to use it for efficient growing. Testing can indicate the chemical properties of the dirt to determine whether herbicides were used. Testing can also determine whether noxious weed spores are present in the mixture.
To determine whether topsoil is of high quality, pick up a handful of slightly moist earth. Squeeze it in your hand tightly and then open your hand to see how the soil responded. If it feels sticky in your hand, it likely contains too much clay. If it feels gritty and dry, it likely contains too much sand. If it feels smooth, it may have a high silt content. Ideally, the dirt in your hand should not have a dominant texture. Assess the color as well. The darker the color, the higher the organic content.
With attention to detail, you can determine whether topsoil has the attributes that will enable plants to grow well.
Types of topsoil soil
Topsoil can come in many different guises, mainly with alternating color, texture and even smell. There are, however, three main types of topsoil which you’re likely to come into contact with when shopping around and researching. These are clay, sand and silt. Clay topsoil is rich in nutrients and a great place to grow large foliage but it doesn’t drain very well because of its density so can be a poor choice in places with excessive rain or low geography. Clay topsoil should be used up high where possible with as much natural drainage as possible. Sand topsoil, on the other hand, drains extremely well but it barely holds any water at all and shouldn’t be used exclusively on its own (most outlets will offer a blend). Lastly, Silt topsoil is made from quartz and is exceptionally smooth and nutrient rich and, while not perfect on its own, is an excellent soil to blend with.
Benefits of topsoil
Nutrient retention. The good top soil is porous and can retain gas and water necessary for the growth of the plant. The nutrients are made available and distributed from the decay of organic plant and animal matters. When organic matter decays, soil microorganisms such as beetles promote the formation of humus which is very fertile. Healthy plant life. The retained nutrients stored in top soil promote of healthy plant structures and roots. Reduction in erosion. Healthy plant growth and root structures protects the top soil and its nutrients from being swept away by erosion