The question of where to use garden soil may seem as obvious as the question of who is buried in Grant’s tomb — many home gardeners naively believe dirt is dirt! ‘Dirt,’ as found around your home, makes a difference when contemplating seeding a lawn, planting a flower or vegetable garden, or laying a layer of soil for better property drainage.
When bulk garden soil is needed to add to the existing soil surrounding a home for a landscaping or gardening project, it is vital to seek out those who know the ‘diff on dirt.’ This article should please, in bringing the ‘grounding,’ to speak with any garden nursery pro with ease.
Essential Information To Know When Purchasing Garden Soil
Keep the following questions in mind when purchasing garden soil:
Finding The Best Soil Suppliers
The best means of locating quality soil suppliers is the word of mouth of other successful home gardeners, those pros of local garden centers doing business for many years, and the Cooperative Extension System, a community of Federal, State, and local government and private companies and associations helping agricultural and horticultural needs.
What Are The Characteristics Of Quality Garden Soil?
Quality garden soil is composed of a pH level of 5.5 to 7.5; there should be some organic compost, such as yard and leaf waste. Manure-based compost can add a lot of nitrogen, which is not beneficial for plant growth. The soil texture comprises sand, clay, silt, and humus, called loam soil.
If the clay is more than 40 percent, there can be drainage problems, and if there is more than 70% sand, the water that feeds the plant will run too fast through the soil.
What Is The Source Of The Soil Ingredients?
Soil mixtures can be produced by the nursery or soil yard, or outside suppliers. When there is an external source, ask if the nursery or soil yard guarantees the product is screened for rocks, debris, and clay chunks and is at least 98% weed free.
How To Order?
Make sure before ordering that the product descriptions are informative. Ask if you can pick up bulk garden soil yourself.
When And How Is Soil Delivered?
Know how long a bulk garden soil order takes to be delivered, especially in peak season. Confirm whether it will be delivered as a loose load to the driveway or in bulk bags.
Benefits Of Buying Bulk Garden Soil
All soil is not equal! It is imperative to consider the specific soil needed for garden and landscaping projects. When soil quality matters, the following are the benefits of purchasing bulk garden soil:
More is always less, and bulk pricing of garden soil will cost less than buying several individual bags of soil.
Bulk garden soil saves the hassle of having to ‘lug’ heavy bags of soil from store to car, from car to your backyard, risking this precious cargo breaking open in the car, trunk of the car, or on the patio or driveway.
The soil provider will instruct on how to measure the length x width x depth of ground to find the volume of garden soil needed to be delivered — no more, no less!
buying bulk garden soil eliminates the use of plastic bags that wind up in landfills.
Seeing What You Buy
There is no better way to assess the quality of garden soil than to get ‘down and dirty’ by touching, feeling, and seeing the quality of the soil. The forest industry usually manufactures bagged garden soil, which may contain a mixture of plant matter, fertilizers, and sand.
Where To Purchase Bulk Garden Soil
Big Box Stores:
Garden Center at Home Depot
Lowes Garden Center
Tractor Supply Company
Local Garden Supply Nurseries:
Bartell Farm And Garden Supply
Determining Price And Value
As the introduction explains, garden soil is more than ‘just dirt.’ The following factors determine the cost of garden soil:
There is a difference between topsoil and garden soil, though technically, garden soil is a form of topsoil enhanced with such ‘amendments’ (additives) as fertilizer and compost. Garden soil should match the soil composition in the area where you wish to plant a flower or vegetable garden or seed a lawn.
Natural topsoil is lighter in color and comes from such sources as natural excavation sites. Nature provides the ‘additives’ to topsoil in the form of grass, leaves, and bark that have decomposed in the soil.
Topsoil, sometimes referred to as fill dirt, isn’t ‘just dirt;’ dirt alone cannot sustain plant life. Topsoil is used primarily to level low spots in lawns and added to grounds to reduce thatch, pests, and weeds and fill the lower level of raised bed planters. The en
manufactured nature of garden soil makes this soil more costly, but the results are worth the cost. For large areas, consider a combination of bulk garden soil and topsoil.
Look for bulk garden soil with loam listed as an ingredient. Loam soil contains a balance of the minerals clay, sand, silt, and humus. Humus is the substance that remains after organic material decomposes.
The amount of garden soil needed for an area will increase cost and why bulk buying is the best way to keep the cost low. It is vital to tell the pros who know what you want to grow, as this will dictate the essential elements needed for garden soil. Adding amendments to soil is called soil aggregation, aka changing the structure of the soil.
Soil structure describes how the soil particles fit together to form small clumps or aggregates. Purchasing bulk garden soil from a private, local nursery or soil yard is your best option if you need soil for a large area.
Soil is priced per cubic yard. A cubic yard is comprised of an area that is 3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet which equals 108 square feet of coverage area using a standard depth of 3 inches. Bulk garden soil prices vary between $10 to $60 per cubic yard, and delivery charges are $20 to $120 per cubic yard.
Remember that a cubic yard weighs approximately one ton, so for large areas, you may want to factor in additional charges to spread the soil in the given site.
A typical delivery price is $710 to $1,000. Shopping locally from big box stores or local nurseries may help lower the delivery of your bulk garden soil.
Local Nursery, Big Box Retailer, or Soil Yard?
When planning your landscape or garden project, keep uppermost in mind starting with quality soil. The three options for purchasing soil are local nursery, big box retailer, or soil yard. The following list provides consumers with a general idea of what to expect when going to each business for the purchase of bulk garden soil:
Soil is comprised of three components: soil, compost, and mulch. If knowing what amounts of the three components of soil for your landscape project and the measuring the area for the correct amount of soil to purchase, the cost, and the logistics of delivery is mind-boggling, and indeed it can be, the small, private nurseries are more apt to employ the staff who can speak in detail of the ‘diffs of dirt.’ Other benefits of purchasing bulk garden soil from a local private nursery include the following:
- A variety of specialty soil mixtures with a range of prices.
- A knowledge of the soil mixture because of creating the mix.
- Private nursery prices may be more costly per cubic foot, but the cost is offset by the experience and knowledge of the private nursery owner invested in the business of gardening.
- Private nurseries may provide soiling testing and the ability to purchase one or two cubic loose, bulk garden soil. The consumer can also use their vehicle or truck, saving the delivery cost.
- Private nurseries provide the best compost because of being the creator of the compost mix.
Big Box Retailer
The most significant benefit to purchasing bagged bulk garden soil and topsoil from big box retailers such as Amazon, Home Depot, Lowes, The Tractor Supply Store, or Walmart Garden Center is, logically, the price.
- Big box retailers offer a greater variety of major national brands of garden soil.
- Big box retailers can purchase the major national brands in larger quantities and thus offer lower prices.
- While price is worthy of consideration, do not skimp on quality if you wish for a ‘fruitful’ harvest. Big box retailers are helpful for home gardeners who know the general type of soil to use for what they want to plant. However, consumers cannot be 100 percent assured of soil quality when the big box retailer buys the product in huge quantities from nationwide vendors.
Soil yards provide all the same benefits as a local nursery. However, the value of a soil yard is the ability to purchase in loose bulk rather than bags. The choice of a soil yard is best if needing more than two cubic yards of soil. Other considerations of buying from a soil yard:
- Buying garden soil in bulk is cost-effective, though the delivery price can be costly.
- Soil yards may provide bagged soil, but soil yards should primarily be used when needing bulk, not bagged, soil.
- Soil yards, like private nurseries, may provide the service of testing soil.
- Buying loose bulk garden soil provides the value of the soil yard delivering directly to the buyer’s driveway or location area.
The words of a 16th – century nursery rhyme: ‘Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?‘ comes to mind when considering a landscaping or garden project. This rhyme brings to mind the realization that soil is not simply dirt. Soil, like Mary, Mary, has contrasting elements that, when put in proper aggregation, fit well together. When all the details come together perfectly in the soil, OH MY, the garden greens and financial greens do flourish!
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.