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Topsoil vs Compost: What Should You Use?

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    Posted on 21st August 2020 by Hintons

    Looking to lay new turf? Or are you trying to cultivate a new area for planting trees, flowers and shrubs? Whatever the reason you’re seeking advice on soil types, your two main options are topsoil or compost. 

    It’s important to make sure you get the best material for your needs, so this month, at Hinton’s Waste, we’re going to walk you through both types to help steer you to whichever is best for your project – starting with the difference between topsoil and compost.

    a wheelbarrow in a garden with top soil in from Hintons Waste

    What’s the difference between topsoil and compost?

    Both compost and topsoil are used for providing nutrients and for growing or filling in parts of a garden, but they can have slightly different uses. 

    The main reason for the difference is that topsoil is a more well-rounded soil option because of both the nutrients and structure it offers for plants. It’s called topsoil because, under your lawn, one of the first layers you’ll hit is the “top” part of the soil. When compared with compost, a drier, softer substance, topsoil can retain more water and may come with more natural debris depending on the screening quality.

    Should I use compost or topsoil?

    The decision to use compost or topsoil really rests with you, it’s better to think about what you’re trying to achieve and which soil will offer the best results.

    You can always seek professional advice from a soil and aggregates provider, but a quick rule of thumb is that if you’re filling in a large plot of land, or are seeking to give existing plants, shrubs and trees some space, then topsoil is best. Pure compost should be reserved for potted plants or flowers, as it can offer the quick burst of nutrients without needing to bed in with existing surroundings.

    Can I mix both topsoil and compost?

    Compost can dry out quite quickly, so mixing it with topsoil is a great way to provide balanced bedding for plants and flowers. You get the best of both worlds with a mixture since topsoil will offer a robust home for roots with plenty of water, while compost will provide a boost of nutrients.

    There are, however, certain projects which will benefit more from one than the other if you can’t afford compost or you need to fill a large area.

    Projects which better suit topsoil

    Since topsoil contains its own nutrients but is often cheaper than compost, there are some projects which suit topsoil better, these include:

    • Laying large patches of turf
    • Sowing seeds for new turf
    • Filling in large areas of bedding
    • Filling in borders
    • Levelling off parts of a garden
    • For raised beds of plants or vegetables

    Projects which better suit compost

    Packed with nutrients, but unable to retain much water or hard structure, compost is ideal for small purposes:

    • Small plants in need of a boost
    • Potted plants

    As you can see, topsoil is a far more versatile material, so while both have their uses, for anything beyond potting or small plants, topsoil is a more cost-effective and durable material for a garden project beyond a single plant or pot.

    For a reliable, competitively priced topsoil provider in Croydon, Sutton and London, look no further than Hinton’s Waste. We’ll help you get the right topsoil for the job – regardless of the size of your project – ensuring your garden gets off to the best possible start. Whether you’re a homeowner or a property developer, call our team today for more details on swift, professional topsoil delivery.


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