Top soil vs garden soil arguments usually end up pointless as most people say the same thing about these two types of soil. Topsoil and garden soil almost look and feel the same, but they have a lot of differences especially in their composition, availability and uses.

Top vs Garden Soil Performance

What are the differences between topsoil and garden soil? Continue reading this article to find out. 

Topsoil vs Garden Soil: What Exactly Are They?

Topsoil and garden soil are types of soil that differ in their composition. If you are an active gardener or landscaper, people must have recommended either topsoil or garden soil to you a lot of times. What is topsoil and garden soil made of? Let’s start by defining each.

– What is Topsoil?

Topsoil is soil that is usually composed of silt, clay, organic matter, and sand removed from the top 12 inches of the ground during construction projects. The exact composition of topsoil depends on the region from which it was collected.

Just view topsoil as the soil in the uppermost layer of the earth. Unless you have amended the soil in your yard or garden, what you are looking at is topsoil.

Topsoil has a lot of uses. For example, it is used in gardens to make lawns, raised garden beds, and also amend already-existing garden soil. Topsoil is readily available, so it is mostly cheap and available for bulk purchases.

– What is Garden Soil?

As the name suggests, garden soil is soil that is specially mixed for use in the garden. Garden soil is topsoil that has been amended with various organic materials, soil amendment products and fertilizers used for specific purposes.

Garden hand fork in soil

Garden soil is simply a premixed soil used in flower gardens, vegetable gardens, herb gardens, succulent gardens, fruit gardens or tuber gardens. What this means is that there are different types of garden soils and the use of any garden soil depends on the composition.

For example, soil bought for use in succulent gardens is different from that used for other types of gardens. In short, garden soil is simply mixed topsoil for specific gardens.

What’s the Difference Between Topsoil and Garden Soil?

If garden soil is made out of topsoil and topsoil can be used in gardens, what are the differences between topsoil and garden soil? Three major differences between topsoil and garden soil are listed below:

– Composition

Topsoil is composed of a rich blend of loam, sand and clay. The composition of any given topsoil depends on the region from where it was collected. As for garden soil, it is topsoil enriched with organic matter, fertilizer or compost to aid plant growth.

Topsoil is mostly earth materials, but can also contain some organic materials such as humus. Garden soil is a mixture of topsoil and soil amendments used for specific purposes.

You can plant in topsoil directly, but you should consider amending it first to boost its nutrients and properly aerate it. Any topsoil with a good ratio of loam and sand with little clay is suitable for planting. You should check the label for the proper composition of your topsoil.

– Availability

Topsoil is mostly always available. You can go to different gardening stores and almost always find enough topsoil, which you can get as much as you want in bulk. As for garden soil, you can always find garden soil but it may not always be in bulk. Also, you may not quickly find the specific garden soil you need for your garden.

Hands on top soil

The best way to shop for garden soil is to go to garden-specific stores. For example, there are so many only stores that sell products specifically for succulent gardens.

– Uses

There are also differences in the uses of topsoil and garden soil. The decision to use either topsoil or garden soil depends on the following:

  • Type of project: Projects such as landscaping and making raised garden beds will need topsoil as these projects are not aimed at planting just a specific type of plant. For special gardens, garden soil is used as it is already prepared.
  • Project scale and size: Since topsoil is mostly bought in bulk and cheaper, it is more cost-effective to buy and amend topsoil for your large-scale project.

In addition, some landscaping projects need both topsoil and garden soil, so you should probably ask your landscaping agent for further advice.

Which Should You Use Between Topsoil and Garden Soil?

Topsoil is an all-purpose type of soil while garden soil is usually niche-specific. Some projects that you could use soil for and the best soil for you are as follows:

– Raised Garden Beds

It is best to use topsoil for garden beds as topsoil for raised beds is more cost-effective than garden soil and can be purchased in bulk. Raised garden beds need a lot of amended topsoils. You can amend it for this purpose by mixing it with compost, rotted manure and rocks to boost its nutrients while encouraging water to drain quickly.

– Container Gardening

Planting in pots can be demanding when you consider the type of medium to grow your plants. To prevent your potted plants from suffocating due to clogged soil, you should use garden soil for container gardening.

– Landscaping

Landscaping requires a lot of soil, especially when the already-existing soil is poor or not enough in quantity. You should buy topsoil for landscaping and mix your already-existing soil with it. You can also use garden soil for some parts of your home if you intend to grow some special plants in a special garden.

– Hanging Baskets

There is a suitable potting mix or garden soil for hanging baskets. To prevent your hanging basket plants from growing weak due to bad soil, you should use garden soil for this purpose. Remember that the soil for these types of plants should be well-draining but able to retain moisture.

– Adding Soil to Lawns

If you need more soil in your lawn, the best soil for you between topsoil and garden soil is topsoil. Most lawn grasses can tolerate a wide range of soil, so you do not need a lot of amendments for your topsoil if you are using it on the lawn. You just need to make sure that the lawn soil is properly aerated and rich in nutrients.

It is cost-effective to use topsoil for your lawn, and not so recommended to use garden soil for grass.

– Niche Gardens

Do you have a special garden such as a succulent garden or a vegetable garden? The best soil for this is garden soil, as garden soil is already prepared for such purposes. You do not need to amend your garden soil for your niche garden as it is already properly formulated.

– Soil Amendments for Already-existing Soil

If you already have soil in your yard, lawn or garden and want to add to it, you can use either topsoil or garden soil. For proper soil amendment, you can mix in some soil amendment products such as compost and manure.

If your purpose of adding soil is to convert your yard into a lawn or make a raised garden bed, use topsoil. For special gardens to harvest the sweetest and most nutritious fruits, use garden soil.

Remember that with proper amendment, you can use topsoil for almost every type of project. Garden soil can be used immediately after purchase for specific projects while topsoil can be amended for every type of project.


Useful Tips for Planting in Topsoil or Garden Soil

Whether you choose to plant in topsoil or garden soil, you still need to do it right. Here are some useful tips for you:

  • Fertilizing your topsoil or garden soil: It does not matter whether you choose topsoil or garden soil, you will have to fertilize the soil sooner or later. You will have to fertilize topsoil sooner than garden soil. For topsoil, organic fertilizer such as rotted manure or compost is better while inorganic fertilizer is best for the organic matter-rich garden soil.
  • Know the composition of the soil: You should know the basic composition or properties of the soil before planting in it especially if it is topsoil. You should avoid compacted topsoil as it can suffocate plants and give them stunted growth.
  • Use your already-existing soil: You do not need to get new soil if you have enough soil in your garden. If you feel that the quality of your already-existing soil is poor, you should fix or amend it. You can discuss with your landscaping agent for soil amendment tips.

What if you choose to use your already-existing soil? How do you fix or amend it? Continue reading to discover some helpful tips and tricks.

How To Fix and Use Your Already-existing Soil

Fix and Use Already existing Soil

Do you need new soil in your garden? The answer is mostly no. If the quality of your soil is poor, you should amend it instead. Here are some recommended soil amendment products for your soil depending on the problem of the soil:

  • Lack of nutrients: If your soil is nutrient-poor, all you need to do is mix it with rotted manure, compost and other organic materials. You can also use inorganic fertilizer products, but they are usually not cost-effective.
  • Aeration: For oxygen problems in the soil, you can mix perlite, grit and other similar products with the soil. For lawns, you should buy a soil aerator to help aerate the soil.
  • Water drainage: Soil usually has water drainage problems when it has poor aeration. Use the soil aeration tips above for your soil with water drainage problems. For container gardening, you should insert rocks in the pot before adding the soil.
  • Plant pests: If there are pests in your soil, you should use a pesticide (organic or inorganic). For recurrent pests, consider practicing crop rotation and using sterilized topsoil.
  • Burning leaves: When the leaves of your plants burn from the outside, it could indicate that the soil has too many nutrients. Consider mixing topsoil with it or planting heavy feeders.

To mix soil amendment into your soil, till the soil and mix the product with the top 10-15 inches of the soil.


Should I mix compost and topsoil together for my garden?

Mixing compost and topsoil improves garden fertility and nutrient content, promoting healthy plant growth and soil structure.

Is Garden soil best for landscaping?

Garden soil is often suitable for landscaping as it provides a balanced mix of nutrients and drainage, supporting plant growth.

Do you put topsoil or fertilizer first?

Apply topsoil first to improve soil quality and structure, then follow with fertilizer for additional nutrient supplementation.


Now you surely know the difference between topsoil and garden soil. Here are some notes to remember:

  • Topsoil is the soil found in the first 12 inches of the earth, while garden soil is simply topsoil amended for a specific purpose.
  • Topsoil is readily available for bulk purchases and suitable for large-scale projects while garden soil is best for smaller projects.
  • You can use topsoil for a wide range of projects as topsoil is easily amended. For garden soil, however, it is only used for specific projects.
  • Projects that you can use topsoil for include constructing a raised garden bed, landscaping, making a lawn and amending your already-existing soil.
  • Some projects to use garden soil for are container gardening, constructing a niche-specific garden, and planting on hanging baskets.

After learning the difference and everything that you should know about garden soil versus topsoil, which do you think is most suitable for your project?

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