If you are developing a garden quite often you will find that you have to import top soil to achieve the change in levels required or to improve your existing soil. The bad news is the term top soil covers a whole range of products that are just not fit for purpose. In recent year the GardenAdvice team have tested a whole range of soils for our own projects and the projects of our members and viewers. In about half the test the soil has been rejected. For example a fine sandy loam we tested turned out to have come from the soil washed of sugar beet as it was harvested. It look fine but as sugar beet is a maritime plant the soil had large quantities of salt added to it creating an ideal soil for growing vegetables but not growing vegetables as it was sold for.
You are best to try to buy top soil locally and one of the best sources of information is your local skip hire company in the past AMA skip hirehave been helpful to the GardenAdvice team on where to find a good local top soil supply. Ring them up and ask if they have any top soil for are tipping any top soil from builders digging out foundations for an extension to a house or new house or any other projects. Its likely that you will still have to pay only if its for the skip hire but at least you will now the soil is local.
The GardenAdvice teams on buying top soil
- try to make sure you now the source of the top soil and see it before its loaded and delivered
- If possible get a soil test especially if its for a vegetable growing project – you do not want to be eating vegetables grown in soil with heavy metals in it.
- Make sure if you soil is coming from a large stack or pile that it has been been stood for more than 6 months ideally less. This is because soil without air soon dies and becomes sub soil.
- Ideally make sure the soil has been passed through a screen to remove the largest stones etc
If you have the time a great way to test soil is to add some to a pot and grow a few tomato seedlings in it. They will take about 14 days to get to 50mm high and will show any problems with the soil. Contaminated soil will show as dead plants or yellowing leaves