Before beginning any planting or landscaping project, make sure the soil is of excellent quality. Bringing in fresh topsoil can help improve your garden soil.
1. Check the Texture
It's a myth that soil color can tell you the quality of the soil since nutrient-rich soils can come in a variety of colors depending on the minerals and organic matters the fuel their development. Instead, check the texture of the soil. Good topsoil will have a slightly gritty feel when rubbed between your fingers, but it will also loosely clump together when squeezed. It should hold moisture without feeling like a sponge or compacting so tightly that it doesn't easily break apart on its own.
2. Skip Sterile Options
Topsoil is rarely sold sterilized or labeled as weed-free because the only way to ensure there are no weeds is to heat the soil enough to kill them -- which will also destroy all the helpful soil micro-organisms you want in your garden. It's well worth it to deal with a couple of introduced weeds in the name of good topsoil, so avoid any that has been sterilized.
3. Know the Source
Local topsoil is often preferred, especially if you are hoping to grow native plants in your landscaping. These plants have adapted to the local soil conditions. It's also important to know the source so you can verify that it isn't from an area with known soil contamination that could compromise the health of your garden and landscaping.
4. Avoid Impurities
Topsoil that contains a lot of rocks and large roots is not a good value, so you want to make sure the soil you purchase is free from these impurities. One or two pebbles may sneak into your delivery, but it shouldn't be a major concern. You can help ensure there are few impurities by verifying that the topsoil dealer screens all of their topsoil. This process ensures only the good, arable soil particles make it into the delivery truck.
5. Read the Label
Many soil dealers test their topsoil and can provide a general guideline on the nutrient and mineral makeup of the soil. Although fresh topsoil won't replace the need to fertilize, knowing that the soil you chose is rich in nutrients will verify that it is quality soil. You can also use the label information to help guide which types of fertilizers you will need to apply.
Contact a topsoil dealer in your area to learn more.