Compost Vs Topsoil – All The Facts You Need To Know

topsoil bundles for topdressing

So you have heard of all the benefits of adding nutrients back into your soil by adding a fresh layer of topsoil and you don’t know what sort of soil you want to add.

I will look at the benefit of compost vs topsoil as there are many benefits of adding soil or compost and would encourage everyone to carry out this practice as it does have many natural benefits that everyone should be taking advantage of.

These days I normally use compost out of my compost bin over the top of my lawn but in previous years before I had a compost bin I did spread a nutrient-rich soil mix.

The only certainty is that adding compost or topsoil mix to your lawn is better for the health of your lawn than not adding anything at all.

The Benefit Of Adding Topsoil To Your Lawn

There are many benefits to topdressing your lawn with topsoil or compost and I definitely encourage you to carry out this practice with some regularity.

When you top-dress your lawn it will result in your grass becoming much healthier and this will mean it becomes more drought and resistant be less prone to infestations.

When you add a layer of topsoil the biggest benefit is that all the nutrients in this fresh layer of topsoil will get absorbed into the root system where it will have the most benefit.

As your lawn constantly feeds off the nutrients in the soil these do need to be replaced and you can do this with fertilizer, however, if you add topsoil it will mean you do not have to use fertilizer or you can at least reduce usage and this means you will have a more natural organic lawn.

Another massive benefit of adding topsoil to your lawn is that it starts a chain of beneficial events as the soil starts to fully decompose it will encourage the thatch in your lawn to also start to decompose, some thatch is essential but it builds up over time so this is a way to encourage it to naturally reduce without having to rip it out.

If you have an uneven lawn then adding topsoil is a perfect solution because as well as adding vital nutrients that will improve the health of your lawn it will make it a more even surface if you do it correctly.

Different Types Of Compost For Topsoil

When you are using a pure compost to top-dress your lawn you ideally should sieve it before you apply it as you want it to be in as small pieces as possible so it can actually work it’s way down to the soil and not sit on top of your lawn.

The most popular types of compost are:

  • Composted wood waste – this is made from wood chippings and cuttings from trees that have been composted.
  • Composted green waste – this is made from garden waste and kitchen food waste and is the type of compost most people produce in a compost bin.
  • Composted manure – this is raw manure that has been composted and it usually has some straw content as that is where animals to their stuff.
  • Sterilized loam compost – this is loam that has been treated to make sure there are no undesirable chemicals or organisms still growing in it, this is a good choice for compost if you ask me.

Whatever type of compost you decide to spread on your lawn you will see massive benefits to the health of your lawn after a few months, as it does take time for the nutrients to work their way down and have an effect.

Check out this article I wrote on the benefits of fertilizer compared to compost.

Different types of topsoil

Topsoil is what it says, it’s the layer of soil at the top where the roots of plants grow so it is vitally important you have a healthy layer of topsoil.

I would encourage you to buy the highest quality topsoil you can afford when you are adding topsoil either when laying a lawn or topdressing your lawn to add nutrients back into it as it will lead to healthier growth for a longer period of time.

Different types of topsoil include:

  • Clay soil – Clay soil is made up of tiny particles that hold water but doesn’t drain very well, This means if you have clay topsoil you should space out how often do you water it as it needs time to drain
  • Loam soil – Loam soil is actually a mixture of sand, clay, silt and organic materials and it is the most nutrient-rich type of soil you can find. Due to its nutrient-rich makeup, it is ideal for adding as topsoil to your lawn.
  • Sandy soil – Sandy soil is the opposite of clay soil in that it doesn’t hold water very well so you will need to water plants growing on it regularly.

That is the three main types of topsoil and they all have different benefits, if your lawn doesn’t drain very well you might want to add sandy soil and if your lawn isn’t holding water you might want to add clay soil or if you want the most nutrients you should add loamy soil.

Check out my article on the best grass for clay soil.

Can I Use A Compost & Topsoil Mix

Yes, you can use a mix of compost and topsoil and it is actually a very good idea as you will get the benefits of both compost and topsoil.

Compost is generally more nutrient-rich than topsoil but it can be more difficult to spread due to the organic nature of it so if you mix compost and topsoil it will result in a more nutrient-rich mixture that is easier to spread over your lawn.

You do have to remember that when you add a layer of topsoil whether it is compost or soil it can take several months for the nutrients to work there way down to the root system and that is when you’ll see the benefits of your work.

When you buy compost out of a store it more often than not will be a mix rather than a pure compost so you should read the label and decide which is best for the purpose you are using it for.

Best Time To Apply Compost Or Topsoil To Your Lawn

When you see the benefits of adding compost or topsoil to your lawn it will surely become a regular thing.

Most people choose to add a fresh layer of topsoil to their lawn every year or every other year but the question is what is the best time to topdress your lawn with compost or topsoil.

You definitely have to add topsoil to your lawn when it is growing at the time I try to carry out this routine is always the start of spring just after my lawn starts to grow for the season. Technically you could topdress your lawn with topsoil anytime you want but I always feel it is best to add it at the start of the growing season.

This gives the grass better conditions for growing and no matter how thin you spread your new topsoil there will always be some grass that gets trapped below and will have to grow its way out to the sunlight again.

I also feel that you get more instant benefits when you topdress at the start of the growing season as you can watch the improvement of your lawn happen all summer as it grows healthier than previous seasons that you chose not to topdress it.

How Much Compost Or Topsoil Should I Use For My Lawn

Whether you choose to use compost or topsoil to add a fresh layer of top dressing for your lawn the principles of how much you should use are basically the same.

The end result when you apply a fresh layer of compost or topsoil should be an evenly spread thin layer that is only between about ¼ of an inch and ½ an inch thick.

If you get the amount wrong and you end up spreading far too much new material over the top of your lawn the result will be you end up blocking the sunlight from the grass and it will turn yellow, you could ultimately end up with large patches of bare soil.

The way to calculate how much compost or topsoil you actually need to achieve a thin layer is to use this topsoil calculator, simply measure your lawn in square feet and input the thickness required in inches which should be 0.5 inches and you will get the results you are looking for.

Check out this article I wrote about using too much soil for topdressing.

How To Apply Topsoil To Your Lawn

The easiest way to topdress your lawn is to use what I call the molehill method.

To apply topsoil using this simple method you first put bundles of soil evenly over your lawn that look like little molehills.

I work out roughly what the quarters are on my lawn then I put 6 bundles of soil in each quarter.

When I have evenly placed the soil in bundles like this I then use the flat side of a rake and rake the soil bundles out so that the soil forms a thin layer that should be ½ an inch or less deep evenly over my lawn.

You should run the rake over your lawn a good few times as the idea is for the soil to work its way down to the soil of your lawn and not be sitting on top of the grass.

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