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Characteristics of Quality Topsoil by Andrew Stratton

Characteristics of Quality Topsoil by
Article Posted: 02/16/2015
Article Views: 67
Articles Written: 5522
Word Count: 558
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Characteristics of Quality Topsoil

If you've ever sifted rich topsoil through your fingers, you probably felt the difference between this and the lackluster dirt that you might encounter in a landscape. Plants recognize the difference also, and they usually thrive when you provide them with organic matter in which to grow. Definition

Topsoil is the uppermost layer of dirt in a landscape. This layer of earth tends to be darker than the dirt underneath it, making it easy to identify. Gardeners will find it easier to work with because the underlying layer typically contains more clay, which makes it heavier and moister. The upper layer usually contains the highest level of nutrients, making it ideal for sustaining plant growth.

Quality Attributes

* The pH level of dirt indicates whether it falls on the acidic or alkaline side of neutral. A measurement of 7.0 is considered neutral. A measurement below 7.0 is acidic and above 7.0 is alkaline. Many plants prefer a neutral pH range, but some plants such as rhododendrons prefer acidic pH levels.

* The texture of topsoil is indicative of its quality. Texture describes the percentage of different sized particles present in the earth. Texture has a direct impact on how earth will retain water, hold nutrients, and remain compacted around plants. Optimally, the dirt will contain an even mixture of the different sizes of particles. If one size of particles dominates the mixture, the quality of the dirt will suffer. Too much clay makes the mixture too dense and heavy. Too much sand makes the mixture too light and dry.

* Quality earth also needs to contain organic matter to increase its nutrient level, which benefits plants. The more organic matter, the higher the quality of the earth. It's possible to add organic matter to earth to improve its composition.

* Some mixtures contain foreign fragments that can interfere with plant growth and tilling. The foreign fragments could be gravel or even cement particles from construction waste. The percentage of foreign fragments should be low, indicating quality soil. If the mixture contains a high percentage of fragments, it may be possible to screen it to separate the foreign matter.

* Weed spores may also be present in soil. If the earth contains spores or traces of herbicides used to kill the weeds, it may not be possible to use it for efficient growing. Testing can indicate the chemical properties of the dirt to determine whether herbicides were used. Testing can also determine whether noxious weed spores are present in the mixture.

Recognizing Quality

To determine whether topsoil is of high quality, pick up a handful of slightly moist earth. Squeeze it in your hand tightly and then open your hand to see how the soil responded. If it feels sticky in your hand, it likely contains too much clay. If it feels gritty and dry, it likely contains too much sand. If it feels smooth, it may have a high silt content. Ideally, the dirt in your hand should not have a dominant texture. Assess the color as well. The darker the color, the higher the organic content.

With attention to detail, you can determine whether topsoil has the attributes that will enable plants to grow well.

When looking for the right top soil, PA municipalities visit Britton Industries. Learn more about our services at

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