The Difference Between Topsoil and Compost


When you’re new to gardening and lawn care, things can be overwhelming. You need to research plant species, trees that will thrive in the local climate, take note of weather reports, and also know about different types of soil, fertilizer, and compost. If you need topsoil for any of your projects, you can search for “topsoil near me” and buy it from a nearby reputed store. However, before that let’s check out the differences between topsoil and compost.

The Differences

  1. Topsoil vs Compost – The ground your veggies, grass, and plants grow on has numerous layers. Topsoil is the topmost layer of any soil that sits above the bedrock. It is created over numerous years by the forces of nature and is usually rich in nutrients. It also contains a fair amount of organic matter. Usually, you’ll find a bit of organic matter, dirt, and even wood debris or rock in topsoil. However, usually, that amount of organic matter isn’t enough for plants to grow and mature to their full potential. That’s where compost comes in.

Compost is made of all kinds of natural ingredients that decompose into nutrient-rich organic matter. The nutrient acts as a natural and organic fertilizer. People usually prefer compost for gardening and other domestic purposes. Unlike chemical fertilizers, it doesn’t make the soil toxic or destroy the micro-ecosystem of your garden.

Compost also improves your soil structure, enhances its water retention capabilities, and reduces risks of compaction. Compost allows you to customize and improve the local soil to the best degree and give your plants the most nurturing base so that they can thrive.

  1. When to use topsoil – Topsoil is made from soil extracted during construction projects, land development, and field cultivation. Sometimes it is also added with organic matter to improve its nutrient content. Depending on the type of soil you want, topsoil may have a higher amount of clay or sand.

While the organic content decomposes, the sand and clay remain. Depending on the soil and clay content of the topsoil, you can use it for various purposes. For instance, you can use it to elevate the height of the flower or crop bed in your garden. You can also fill up patches and crevices in your garden. If you’ve recently de-rooted a tree, you may fill up that part of the yard with topsoil. For garden use, you can combine good-quality topsoil in bulk and mix it with a fair amount of compost to make top-quality garden soil.

However, you’ll also get a few undesirable things with topsoil. Since the soil is sourced from various places, it may contain weed seeds that may germinate and take over your turf or snatch away the resources from your plants. After you use topsoil in your property, you need to keep a close watch, especially during the dormant season of grasses and plants, and weed out anything that wasn’t planned.

  1. When to use compost – As mentioned above, compost is used to improve your soil in many ways. So, you use it when you need to improve the quality of the soil without changing the grade of the land. You won’t have nutrient-rich soil unless the previous homeowner was an avid gardener. Your soil would be very poor if you moved into a new home. The construction of a new home requires excavation of old yet nutrient-rich land.

You can add compost to the soil when you need to release nutrients slowly to match the growth pattern of certain plants. You can also use it to increase the water retention and nutrient content of the soil. If your soil has a poor structure, you can add compost to increase aeration and also improve its drainage capacity. Compost also contains a lot of healthy microorganisms that keep the soil healthy and also diseases control for your plants. If you have acidic soil, compost can be used to neutralize it and balance the pH level.

  1. Different types of topsoil – All topsoil isn’t made the same. When you buy topsoil, you may come across labels like “value” or “screened” topsoil. Screened topsoil as the name suggests has been screened to remove small stones and other large debris. It’s best suited for gardening projects where you can blend topsoil and compost.

On the other hand, there’s “value” topsoil that justifies its name with a cheap price tag. Value soil is unscreened and has a lot of the original debris from the excavation site. It’s also less rich in nutrients. However, it can act as a decent growing medium. You can buy it in bulk when you don’t need to worry too much about the nutrient content and soil structure. For instance, when you need to fill up holes in your yard.

  1. Making compost at home – You always need to buy topsoil. You can never make it yourself since it is done by the forces of nature. However, you can make some of the best compost at home. For beginners, it’s best to start with a compost pile or a compost bin. Making compost doesn’t just save you money, but also helps to put the organic waste of your home to good use and make a positive change for the environment.

To make compost you need to combine green and brown organic ingredients. Green materials include coffee grounds, vegetable scraps, wasted food, grass trimmings, and other organic matter rich in nitrogen. Brown material includes dried leaves, dead branches, wood shavings, newspaper, and other such organic matter rich in carbon. Combine them into a pile, add water, stir it up and let nature take its course. You’ll get gooey nutrient-rich compost within a few weeks.


Now that you know about the differences between topsoil and compost and how to use them for different needs, you’ll have a better clue about your gardening and outdoor projects. If you need good quality topsoil for your flower bed or lawn, you can search for “topsoil near me” and go to a store to buy it.

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