So, you’re interested in purchasing soil for a new project that will involve mud and a mess. Sounds simple enough, right? Actually, there are a number of factors that should be taken into consideration before you drop your next paycheck on a soil shipment. A main factor to be considered is the quality of the soil you’re purchasing compared to the price you’re paying for it. Research will lead you to make a more financially conscious and project-oriented decision regarding the quality and pricing of the soil you think you’re going to need.

The quality of soil varies greatly from distributor to distributor, and if you think you’re getting a deal that seems too good to be true, you might be. Don’t expect ridiculously low prices for topsoil purchased in bulk, or else you’re really buying disguised filler dirt that is worse than useless (because, in quantities of cubic yards, dirt and soil both take up an enormous amount of space that could be better used for something else). However, the good news is that soil purchased in bulk is and always will be significantly cheaper than its bagged counterpart – don’t pay for convenience, pay for quantity and quality. In the United States, you will pay a minimum of $54 per cubic yard of bagged topsoil. When purchasing soil in bulk, you will pay (after delivery) a minimum price of $20 per cubic yard of delivered topsoil. At the lower end of what can constitute a bulk purchase, you are already saving at least $34 per cubic yard of purchased soil. However, because people are often far too keen on paying extra money for the convenience of being able to take all of their soil home the day of their purchase, this is somehow an accepted price differential for soil of the exact same type and quality. Save your money and have bulk amounts of soil delivered to you unless you’re undertaking a very small and definitively one-time project (in which case purchasing bagged topsoil is okay because buying soil in bulk necessitates that you do something with it).

In terms of finding the best quality and type of soil for your needs, the kinds and specific breakdowns of the soil you’ll need for certain projects will differ. However, as a rule of thumb most plants will thrive in a soil with a pH of 6.2 – 6.8 (right in the middle – not too acidic or too basic, but close to neutral).  Plants also grow more effectively when exposed to organic matter in the soil, and anywhere from 3-5% organic matter will suit your needs well. Good topsoil, as opposed to filler dirt being offered for dirt-cheap prices, is a mixture of sand, silt (fine, inorganic matter), clay, and organic matter. If you’re unsure about the quality of the soil you’re purchasing due to a price that just might be too good or some other external factor, you can have further testing done on your end. Sending a small amount of the topsoil you’ve acquired from a distributor to a laboratory for professional testing can help you ensure that you’re getting soil that won’t waste your seeds. Poor quality topsoil is generally unscreened, meaning that it may still contain herbicide and pesticide residues, weed seeds, or other undesirables that will ultimately kill your plants. Another thing to consider when purchasing soil in bulk is that it may become damaged on its truck ride over to your location via what is known as soil compaction. In order to minimize the amount of compaction damage experienced by your soil, it is oft recommended that you have a predetermined route and location for your topsoil to be dumped.

Arguably the most important thing to consider is how much soil you’re really going to need for your project. If you’re unsure about the specific number answer to that question, you have a problem that needs fixing. Purchasing too much or too little soil can be the thing that makes or breaks a project due to extenuating factors (such as the weather). So, if you’re looking for a formula to help you calculate the amount of soil you should buy, look no further. An easy formula to use when calculating that number involves multiplying the length, width, and depth of your area. Then, divide that number by 27 to figure out the number of cubic feet you’ll need. Purchasing soil can be a lengthy and even time-consuming process, but if done correctly the reward significantly outweighs the investment.

References

Schroeder, E. (2014, October 17). Things to Consider When Purchasing Topsoil: Tallahassee.com Community Blogs. Retrieved February 3, 2020, from http://blogs.tallahassee.com/community/2014/10/14/things-to-consider-when-purchasing-topsoil/

Jensen, L. (2018, August 30). The Average Cost for One Yard of Topsoil. Retrieved February 3, 2020, from https://www.hunker.com/13406956/the-average-cost-for-one-yard-of-topsoil