One of the most overlooked aspects of laying new garden turf is the soil beneath it. Not all soil is created equally, and good topsoil is one of the major factors affecting the health, resilience and vibrancy of your lawn going forward.
What is topsoil?
Topsoil is the uppermost layer of soil directly beneath your garden lawn, where the roots of the grass will mostly be concentrated. Ideal topsoil is dark brown and porous so that it can hold plenty of moisture and air and is packed with nutrients and organic matter for your garden lawn to feast on. Topsoil usually comprises the top 13-25cm (5-10 inches) of soil directly beneath the ground.
We offer a high quality blended topsoil supplied from sugar beet fields that ensures it contains valuable horticultural properties as well as a budget screened soil which is better if you just want to level off a garden or create a raised flower bed as cheaply as possible.
The importance of high-quality topsoil can’t be overstated in its relationship to a thriving, healthy garden.
What is screened topsoil?
Screening is essentially a large industrial sieve that removes large stones and rocks from soil before it reaches you. All of our topsoil, regardless of the grade, is screened before it reaches you.
What is topsoil made from?
The British Standard BS 3882, last updated in 2015, ensures topsoil meets certain thresholds for nutrient content, extractable phytotoxic elements, particle size distribution, organic matter content, carbon: nitrogen ratio, PH balance and several other factors.
The most vital element of topsoil that will benefit the growth and health of your new garden lawn is its nutrient content. Different plants have slightly different nutritional requirements however there are key nutrients, known as macronutrients, that are widely beneficial to most plants.
Nitrogen: This is one of the most vital macronutrients found in quality soil, particularly for garden turf as it gives the blades of grass their healthy green colour. Lawn grass requires more nitrogen than any other plant nutrient.
Phosphorous: Whilst not required in as high quantity as nitrogen, a healthy level of phosphorous in soil assists plants on photosynthesizing energy from the sun. A low level of phosphorous can result in stunted growth and a darker lawn.
Magnesium: Another key nutrient for lawn turf is magnesium which again hopes in the photosynthesis process. If your lawn is looking discoloured or pale this could be due to a lack of magnesium in the soil.
Calcium: This nutrient helps your lawn grow quickly and makes it more resilient and strong. Plants with access to calcium are able to better fend off disease.
Trace amounts of sulphur, iron, zinc, copper and boron are also found in topsoil and can benefit your garden lawn.
How to keep your soil at it’s best
Tips for topsoil during wet weather
It rains a lot here in the UK and this can result in topsoil becoming overly saturated. When soil is extremely wet and is walked on it causes it to compact, as the water displaces the air and then drains away. This results in extremely dense soil that does not contain the oxygen that roots need to stay healthy.
To avoid this firstly mix in additional organic matter to soil very rich in clay, as this will provide structure and additional drainage properties. When it is exceptional wet outside avoid compacting your topsoil more than necessary by staying off of it.
Tips for topsoil during dry weather
The opposite problem is true in summer when weeks of dry, hot weather can dry out the soil and cause your turf to struggle for water. It’s easy to see if soil needs watering, all you have to do is touch it. If it feels moist things are fine and you shouldn’t water it any more as overwatering can be extremely bad for plants too.
Some tips to avoid dry soil:
- Water your lawn in the evenings to allow the water to soak into the ground without evaporating.
- If there is a hosepipe ban don’t worry, as long as your lawn hasn’t just been laid very recently and although it may go yellow, it should recover from dry periods.
- Invest in a water butt if you’d like to still be able to water your lawn during droughts.
Over many seasons the nutritional quality of your soil will slowly decrease. This is both because your garden lawn is feeding on the nutrients and using them up and also because rainfall washes some nutrients further into the ground where grass roots can not reach. This is particularly a problem with nitrogen, which is drained away from the top soil more easily than other macronutrients.
How to fertilise turf
Compost or fertiliser is a great way to replenish the nutrients that your garden lawn needs. Ideally, you should fertilise your lawn at least twice a year, once in spring and once again in autumn. Over fertilising can harm your turf so be careful to read the instructions on the bag.
Follow these tips to fertilise your lawn:
- Maintain your lawn by removing weeds and aerating it with a garden fork, if it is particularly dry be sure to water it.
- Cut your grass about 4 days before applying fertiliser.
- Spread the fertiliser, ideally in the evening or when it is overcast, using the suggested rate from the supplier.
- Water the fertiliser after it is applied, this is extremely important as a high concentration of fertiliser in one area will cause it to burn your lawn. If you want to cheat try and fertiliser just before you expect it to rain as the weather will do the job for you.
How to apply compost to turf
Compost is extremely beneficial to lawn turf as it provides nutrients and improves the soil structure of the topsoil beneath your lawn. However, you can’t just dump piles of compost onto your garden lawn or you will smother and kill it.
Follow these steps to dress a lawn:
- Aerate your lawn with a garden fork or aerator if you have one. Aeration is basically just loosening the existing soil as compacted soil is bad news for garden lawns.
- Spread a very thin layer of compost across your entire lawn, you should still be able to see most of the grass after doing this. If you’ve applied the right amount your lawn should be mostly green rather than brown.
- Avoid walking on your lawn for a few days after you have dressed it – this will give your lawn a chance to grow around the new soil and absorb it.
We hope this helps explain what topsoil is and how it hugely benefits your garden lawn. We can supply screened topsoil and blended topsoil products alongside your order of lawn turf rolls.