How to buy soil
A soil buying guide
Soil is an essential part of any garden. There are a lot of soil uses from planting to gardening and from landscaping to general improvement. So when thinking about the best soil to buy, you will want to consider a number of different factors.
>> Consider soil uses
When determining the best soil to buy, consider what you are planning to use the soil for. If you are looking to grow small flowers, plants, herbs and vegetables in a container indoors or out, you are best off with potting soil. Potting soil is a mix made up of organic ingredients used to retain water and supply nutrients to your plants. When you shop for potting soil, consider different types available to you, such as all-purpose potting mix, premium mix, professional-grade, plant-specific and organic. If you are looking to grow trees, shrubs or other perennials in the ground, you are best off with garden soil. You can choose what type of garden soil you need based on texture or structure. If you want to landscape, consider sand, clay and loam as your choice of soil. Plant trees, bushes, green hedges, flower beds and grass to your liking.
>> Consider how much soil you need
When thinking about the best soil to buy, it is important to determine how much soil you need. Remember that soil sizes come in cubic yards. To determine how much you need, measure the area where you want to use your soil in square feet. Then measure the depth of that area in inches. Using the chart below, select the soil depth that corresponds to your project and find the matching number. Divide your square area by that number. The result is the soil size that you need.
Depth in inches
Divide by square feet by
|1 ||324 |
|2 ||162 |
|3 ||108 |
|4 ||81 |
|5 ||65 |
|6 ||54 |
|7 ||46 |
|8 ||40 |
For example, if you had a 100 square foot garden that had a depth of 6 inches, you would need 1.85 cubic yards of soil (100 / 54).
>> Consider different types of soil
When considering what the best soil to buy is, think about the different types of soil available to you. Each has its own soil benefits, and so creating the best mix can help you optimize drainage, moisture retention, aeration and nutrition, and give your plants exactly what they need.
- Chalk has a high pH and is best for lilacs, lilies and other flowery shrubs. When using chalk, combine it with peat, compost or manure to neutralize the soil for best results.
- Sand soil is low in water retention and is thus best for shrubs, cacti, tulips and hibiscus. Add mulch or compost in small quantities and more frequently to increase moisture and enrich nutrients.
- Silt retains water for long periods of time and keeps the nutrients in place for the plants to use, but it blocks much of the air and water passage. Silt is best for colorful flowers and lush grass.
- Gravel has many benefits. It helps growth by controlling moisture levels, stops evaporation and keeps the moisture in. Gravel also allows you to start planting earlier in the season and grow a wider range of plants due to its ability to absorb heat. This soil comes in a variety of textures and colors and can also be very decorative.
- Clay is great at retaining water and nutrients, but it blocks much of the passage of air and moisture to the plants. Clay is best for colorful flowers and flowers that need a lot of moisture. This type of soil is best used during fall and spring, so consider adding compost or mulch over the winter.
- Loam is considered to be the best type of soil as it can grow most plants without much adjustment to the soil. Loam provides easy flow of air, moisture and sunlight to the plants, keeps the water and nutrients in place and is good to use all year round. You can add compost or mulch to loam to balance the pH and improve it further.
>> Consider additives to your soil
When deciding how to buy soil, you have the option to add other ingredients to improve the quality. There are a number of additives you can add to the different types of soil you already have.
- Topsoil is rich in nutrients and can help you control the pH and water levels as well as control for evaporation.
- Mulch increases soil pores for water and air, and decreases sunlight and rain water. When mulch decomposes, it adds even more nutrients to the soil.
- Like mulch, compost is rich in nutrients and helps to improve your soil. In sandy soils, compost improves water retention, and in denser soils, it increases air and moisture flow. You can also mix compost with topsoil to improve drainage.
- Builder's sand opens up pores in the soil and helps with drainage.
- Humus adds fertility to the soil, retains water and helps with aeration.
- Limestone lowers soil pH, and sphagnum peat moss is used to absorb water and keep the nutrients in place.
Consider these additives so your soil is always in the best shape possible. When looking for the best soil to buy for you, keep in mind that you can always improve your soil.
>> Consider a soil fertilizer
When determining the best soil to buy, consider fertilizer. Most fertilizers are granular and are either organic or inorganic. Organic fertilizers are released slowly over months and even years, and are best for fall because nutrients become available for spring. Inorganic fertilizers supply the plant with nutrients in a matter of minutes and give them a quick boost. Fertilizers can also be liquefied. Liquid fertilizers are fast and cover a wide area and need to be reapplied every 2-3 weeks. For small plants consider plant foods, and for lawn, consider lawn fertilizers.
>> Consider gardening care
When thinking about the best soil to buy, remember to check out items for gardening and lawn care specific to your soil type. Consider using tools like hand pruners or garden shears. Also, when watering plants, avoid sprayer nozzles and instead use sprinklers. Water in the morning or evening time. To control for garden weeds, remove them thoroughly before planting and consider using products like herbicides. You can also try mulch, or you can solarize them by placing black plastic over them. For pests, consider using organic pest-control products, such as insecticidal soaps or pyrethrin sprays. Some of these may work better in various soil types than others.