Garden Soil | What and Where To Buy

Last Updated on 29/08/2022 by Barney

garden soil banner image

Garden soil is the life blood of your garden.  All the effort you put into the garden will not amount to very much  if you do not have the right foundation set in place – a great growing medium.

It’s a bit like a  dish without any seasoning. The dish could of been so much better with the addition of some salt and a touch of pepper.

This goes for your plants, fruit, vegetables and trees. Preparing a garden bed with good quality soil is giving your plants a good head start, vital for the long term success of planting.

A poor soil will need constant improvement and work. Costing you money and vaulable time that could be spent doing other gardening tasks.

There are many different types of soil for purpose.

Premium Soils

Premium soils are ones which have been formulated to fit a particular purpose. For example a fruit and vegetable topsoil will contain plenty of organic matter (not manure) have minimal stone content, be very free draining and friable ie does not stick together when wet like clay. A specially formulated fruit and vegetable topsoil will also have some sort of water retention polymer added to the mix. This is a great addition as plants will not dry out too quickly between waterings.

Beds and Borders soil 

A topsoil designed for beds and borders should contain a blend of organic matter and rich soil. Have minimal stone content, be light, friable and free draining. There are suppliers who also add a slow release fertiliser the mix. This is great for the establishment of new garden planting

Lawn preparation soil 

If you are laying turf or seeding a new lawn you will need a soil this type of soil. Lawn preparation soil is very different from premium or beds & borders topsoil. A lawn preparation soil will be a mix of soil, sand and soil conditioners. The addition of sand is extremely important as this helps with lawn drainage. Also, it will have little organic matter in it.

 Working out how much garden soil you need…….. 

This is a straight forward process. Soil is sold in either individual bags from your local DIY store or you can order on line and purchase a bulk bag.

Bulk bag top soils are sold in either 1 tonne bags or 1 cubic metre bags.

1 tonne bags of topsoil are approx 0.73 cubic metres.

Lets say you have a new lawn to lay and its dimensions are 5 metres long and 4 metres wide. For the depth of soil needed lets say 5cm deep. So thats 5m x 4m x 0.05m = 1 cubic metre.

Dangers of buying cheap garden soil ……

Beware of ‘cheap’ soil. Due to the huge rises recently on land fill costs many skip companies are offering soil. Whilst is this is good from a recycling stand point and reducing the impact on land fill this is more often than not classed as “as dug”. Taken straight from the ground and sold on without any preparation such as screening.

There are times when this is suitable for certain applications such as filling an area of the garden which is not to be planted on. A good example for instance is when a swimming pool or pond is being filled in. Filling these larger areas with a quality topsoil is not needed, and costly.

You are really taking your chances if you buy cheap soil. Remember, if it seems cheap it probably is just that, cheap and not very good. There is no way of knowing where it has originated from.

  • High percentage large stones
  • Glass, bricks and building waste
  • Clay based (should be avoided at all costs)
  • Subsoil (soil removed from a site from deeper under the ground)
  • Too much organic matter. The supplier has bulked out the soil to save costs by adding too much manure etc.
  • Contaminated with nasty chemicals and industrial residue
  • Wrong ph level.

It could also be contaminated soil taken from new developments around industrial areas. There is also a risk of the soil being full of weed seeds and that dreaded Japanese Knotweed! If you want to find out the danger of inadvertently adding this weed to your garden carry out a search for Japanese Knotweed. This makes very alarming reading and could affect the ability to sell your house!

There is a British Standard (BS3882:2007) for the classification and testing of soil from suppliers. Always try to buy from a supplier who has documentation and analysis for the testing of their soil. These should be readily available from a reputable supplier, in fact, they would be proud to show you their certification.

What to look for….

Always, always purchase a screened top soil. Screening is a process where the supplier puts the soil onto a huge machine which then removes all debris from the soil, stones over a certain size in diameter, plant roots and any other bulky nasties.

The British Standard grades soil into 3 categories. Premium, Multi purpose and economy grade.

Premium grade
Multi purpose Grade
Economy grade

We hope this guide and suggestion where to buy will help you make that very important decision when making a purchase. Remember, garden soil, is the elixir of life in your garden.