The Difference Between Dirt and Topsoil

dirt piles
If you are working on a landscaping project around your home or business, you may be left a bit confused by some of the terms you see out there in the landscaping world. For example, what, exactly, is topsoil? Isn’t that just dirt? Well, no. There are a variety of products on the market today, and it is important that you pick one which is right for your needs based on the project at hand.

What is Dirt?

This question might seem rather silly, but it is important to know what should be considered ‘dirt’ from a landscaping perspective. Generally, dirt is what is known as fill in the landscaping world, and it is dirt which has been pulled out of the ground from a depth of beyond a few inches under the surface. As the name would indicate, this fill can be used to take up space, but it really isn’t too beneficial in terms of growing plants or other vegetation. There is little in the way of nutrients or organic matter in most fill products. In other words, it really is just dirt.

Topsoil is Another Story

There is a significant difference between a product which is promoted as topsoil, and one that is marketed as just plain dirt. Topsoil, as the name would indicate, is a product that has been taken from the top few inches of the earth. At this level, there are many more nutrients and bits of organic material than would be found at a deeper depth. Therefore, in terms of growing plants and the like, topsoil is going to be far more productive. It is, of course, also more expensive than just purchasing regular dirt.

Local in Nature

While the general idea of topsoil is the same from place to place, you can expect to see wide variances in the actual product that will be sold as topsoil depending on where you live or work. For instance, some regions have a high percentage of sand in the soil, meaning topsoil that has been collected in that area will be sandy in nature. On the other hand, other regions may have a high level of clay, which will feel and behave in a completely different manner. Knowing what kind of soil is native to your area – and what its strengths and weaknesses are – will help you figure out what modifications may be needed to the topsoil in order to make sure it is well-suited for your purposes.

You certainly don’t just want to buy a pile of dirt when you really need topsoil. At the same time, you don’t want to pay for topsoil when you really only need fill dirt. To make sure you get the right product for the project in front of you, be sure to do your homework and ask plenty of questions. Once you know what your options are in terms of soil products, you should have an easy time picking the right one.