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The Ultimate Decision: Topsoil or Garden Compost?

When beginning a new project in your garden, the question of ‘topsoil or compost’ will usually come up more than once. Gardeners often wonder whether or not topsoil is a reasonable substitute for garden compost, and where to use it. Reading this may clear up the confusion in many a gardener’s mind!  


Topsoil, for those who are unaware, is the top layer of the soil in which everything tends to grow. If the project that you are beginning involves planting in a shallow part of your garden, then topsoil is probably the better choice than garden compost. Also, if you are creating new garden beds or adding/replacing a lawn, topsoil is what you will need. Any project that involves shallow soil, or if all of the soil in your garden is very shallow in general, then topsoil is the best choice. Topsoil comes in threes varieties – economy, general purpose and premium. The economy is perfect for filling larger areas due to it’s cheaper price tag – for any project where the quantity of the topsoil is more important that quality, then economy topsoil is for you, as it is unscreened and may contain stones, roots or weeds, so the quality is never amazing. The general purpose is as the name suggests – it is suitable for nay garden projects. Premium is the best quality topsoil that you can find – it should not contain any seeds or roots, and is best utilised to make up potting compost. You can buy topsoil in a bulk bag, which can prove more expensive than garden compost. However, it will last you a very long time if you have somewhere dry and sheltered to store it.  

Garden Compost

Garden compost, on the other hand, provides better nutrients for growing plants in pots. When plants are confined within a pot, it is difficult for their roots to spread and find alternative sources of nutrients. In this case, you will need to fill the pot with garden compost as opposed to topsoil, as it contains more organic matter, nutrients and fertilisers. Garden compost is also more suitable for the growth of plants like vegetables, as these generally require even more nutrients than regular plants. They will grow better in compost, but will still need to be ‘fed’ as regularly as possible to ensure that they grow to the best of their ability.  

Garden compost with topsoil?

It is possible to mix the two together to utilise the benefits of both soil types. You will gain the advantages of topsoil – it dries out more slowly, which means less watering, and it holds it’s structure better – together with the benefits of garden compost (as mentioned above, it contains a lot more nutrients and organic matter to nourish your plants).   Don’t want to do it yourself? Our Garden Maintenance service lets you have the garden you want with a fraction of the work.

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