How to Spread Topsoil: A Step-by-Step Guide

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How to Spread Topsoil

Something is very satisfying and spiritual about putting one’s own two hands in the earth and growing food. Amateur gardeners, compost-professionals, and anyone in-between will need the best techniques for getting the most out of topsoil. In the long run, this will help the garden, fruits, vegetables, and lawn to flourish, which will result in increasingly higher-quality results.

The steps for effectively spreading topsoil are:

  1. Find the right topsoil
  2. Find the right tools for the job
  3. Spread the topsoil
  4. Add aeration to the soil
  5. Plant and let it grow!

This article will cover all the important information about preparing a garden and spreading topsoil, the materials needed, avoiding pesticides, and much more. Quickly become an expert at spreading topsoil and create so much life in the garden that an overabundance will grow!

How To Spread Topsoil: A Step-by-Step Guide

Spreading topsoil is complex with a large margin of error, but can be broken down into the basics of choosing the correct materials for the job (depending on if it is a large, medium, or small area) and distributing the topsoil evenly.

This can be done using simple materials such as a wheelbarrow, shovel, push spreader, or rake. A significant aspect of the process of which to be aware is material selection. Not only can the wrong materials and chemicals make a person sick, but it can also ruin an entire garden. Certain combinations of topsoil will not work, and there are plenty of rookie-mistakes that must be avoided.

The proper topsoil will be simplified within this guide, but it is important to know the goals for the garden and utilizing topsoil. By creating adequate topsoil, the following will improve in the garden:

  • Drainage
  • Aeration
  • Fertility
  • Speed of growth
  • The overall quality of output

Protect the garden investment by offering the garden the topsoil it deserves. It will not only be about spreading the correct blend of topsoil but also about adding the right amount. Too much could be harmful, while too little will not work.

Some tips before spreading topsoil are:

  • Rake the garden to remove any rocks or large objects that do not belong.
  • Topsoil is used for lawns predominantly, while compost is mainly used for gardens. It is possible to use compost and topsoil together in a garden. It will act as a super-powered soil that will enrich the garden.
  • Don’t damage the grass or the yard that is already present. Topsoil is just that – it’s the soil on top, so don’t make the density so thick that water cannot penetrate the original layers.

A gardener is nothing without tools, so let’s cover the best recipe for topsoil, depending on the garden’s purpose and the tools needed to spread the topsoil.

Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.

Genesis 2:15

1. Find the Right Topsoil  

Often the best materials are the ones already available! This is why gardening is not quite as overwhelming or intimidating as people may believe.

Topsoil will react best when mixed with other soil that has a similar composition. Don’t add a completely foreign topsoil that doesn’t mesh with the original garden or lawn. The reason it’s best to stick with the same general consistency and composition is that this guarantees the garden will continue aerating and draining correctly.

The wrong topsoil will clog the garden and stop everything up. The materials most used to create topsoil are:

  • Compost – Composting is used to add nutrition to the lawn and recycles nutrients instead of sending them into overflowing landfills.
  • Peat – Topsoil will need a balance of moisture and dryness, so gardeners who are utilizing compost will need something dryer to counterbalance it. Peat or organic peat moss is terrific for gardening.
  • Sand – Sand is popularly used and known as being a key ingredient in topsoil, but it is a tricky one. Certain kinds of topsoil are already dry, and sand can make them too dry. Sand’s purpose in topsoil is to offer small air pockets that increase airflow in the soil. This allows oxygen to find the garden’s roots and grow them from within.

Tips for selecting the best brands of topsoil are:

  • Airflow is essential to a thriving garden, but too much sand or the wrong combination (such as clay) can result in a concrete-like soil.
  • Sand will also offer fewer nutrients than other options, so it is to be used sparingly. We recommend trying to find a moist sand variation that is specifically for topsoil.
  • Find an organic farm or business in order to avoid spreading toxic pesticides or herbicides around the yard.

2. Find the Right Tools for The Job

Laying down topsoil does not need to be an intimidating task. Use the following items to spread and apply topsoil:

Small Area (Home Garden)Medium Area (Large Yard)Large Area (Golf Course)
Hand Tiller/ForkRolling AeratorPull Behind Spreader
RakeLarger Topsoil-Specific RakeSpecial Golf Course Machine
Planting HoeWheelbarrowLandscape Rock Rake (5-feet wide)
ShovelMini Push Spreader

For compost or a thicker combination of topsoil, use this compost spreader from Amazon.

Best Rakes for Spreading Topsoil

Some of the most highly rated products recommended for spreading topsoil are:

  • Yard Tuff Drag Mop – This product is unique because of its material tow that levels out the topsoil as you go. The design aids in evenly spreading the topsoil. It may be necessary to step around the yard in aeration shoes to poke holes afterward, but this product guarantees even soil with a 5-star review and a 1-year warranty.
  • Aluminum Landscape Rake 36-inch – With a 3-foot rake and long teeth, this rake will penetrate soil and allow aeration to occur easily. Suited to a small or medium-sized area, it also is affordable and lightweight.
  • The Groundskeeper Rake – The real selling point of this rake is its affordable price and long-tooth combs. They are flexible and allow twigs and sticks to move through without blocking the even spread of topsoil.

3. Spread the Topsoil

Now that you have all the tools and materials required for the job, it’s time to spread the topsoil!

The steps to do this will be as follows:

  • For Small Areas – It may be easiest to toss the topsoil combination in an even consistency around the garden by hand. Use smaller tools like a till or rake to spread the topsoil or deepen it’s layering.
  • For Medium Areas – For a broader landscape such as a 1-acre yard, the best tools to utilize will be a mini push spreader or a rolling aerator, which will aid in swiftly spreading out the topsoil. Fill it, push the spreader forward at an average walking pace, and allow the topsoil to fall onto the ground. Use these to spread grass seedlings or simplify compost spreading as well.
  • For Large Areas – Those who own a huge property that boasts dozens of acres will need machinery to match the size of the job. Purchase the full-sized push spreader or invest in something like the landscape rock rake.

4. Add Aeration to the Soil

Aeration with pitchfork

After spreading the topsoil, go back over it and make sure it is evenly spread and aerated. Do not suffocate the lawn and inhibit future growth.

Regardless of the landscape available, the materials selected, or the tools being used to spread the topsoil – the steps and things to keep in mind for all approaches will be:

  1. Topsoil should have air pockets. We recommend using a rolling aerator or something with spikes. It is possible to poke holes in the yard by hand, but this could be tedious and not as consistent as using a tool.
  2. Topsoil should be around 1-2-inches thick. Some recommend closer to ¼or ½ of an inch, so use good judgment based on the climate and moisture in the area. Don’t go beyond two inches as this is the maximum depth to be certain all exposure to airflow is not cut off. Airholes will still need to be added.
  3. Confirm that the topsoil is reaching about 6-8-inches of depth into the soil. Topsoil should be seen falling into the air pockets and not thickly caked on top. If it still appears caked, add more air holes with a more extended tool to puncture deeper.

The air holes are offering proper drainage, which will keep moisture balanced and avoid flooding or dehydration in the landscape. Tools and aeration will be critical to balancing these two extremes.

If the yard doesn’t appear to have enough airflow with the topsoil currently being used, consider purchasing a highly-rated product like Liquid Aerating Soil Loosener, where no machinery will be required, but the soil will still detoxify.

It’s always an option to use simple tools already available at home like a shovel, rake or hands!

5. Plant and Let it Grow!

Now, let nature take its course! Water the lawn often and follow the guidelines of each specific flower, fruit, and vegetable planted, as each will vary. A cactus may only need to be watered around three to five times a month, while a cucumber plant may need closer to eight watering sessions per month.

Understand what is growing and what it needs, aiming to plant produce that requires similar watering schedules and nutrients next to each other.

Now that you understand the process from start to finish, the next sections will be guidance on picking the healthiest and safest materials, avoiding pesticides and ways to encourage garden growth!

Why to Avoid Pesticides in Topsoil

Gardeners may think that pesticides will keep a garden free of pests, so how bad can they be? As logical as this may seem on the surface, a healthy ecosystem and garden are supposed to have some pests and worms. They add nutrients to the soil, and it is the cycle of life that nature intended.

As tempting as it may be to use a potent topsoil product that is not organic or lists pesticides as their main ingredient – it’s not worth the risk. In most cases, a small-scale topsoil project is created and gardeners don’t need to risk their health. The impacts of pesticides on health are:

  • In 1977, “it was estimated that every year, 20,000 fatalities result from the use of pesticides.”
  • The World Health Organization describes pesticides as “intrinsically toxic.”
  • Pesticides have been linked to causing organ damage, learning disabilities like autism, mental illness, and death. There is much criticism against the EPA for allowing many of these harmful pesticides to be used, but as Global Healing Center puts it, “The EPA is aware but turns a blind eye.
  • Pesticides are linked to Parkinson’s Disease.
  • The United Nations reported in 2017 that an estimated 200,000 die each year to pesticide poisoning.
  • Even a Chemical Pesticide and Human Health Study done on current agriculture practices states, “current agriculture has to implement environmentally friendlier practices that pose fewer public health risks to the public .”

Countless studies have been done, but they all agree on one thing – pesticides are harmful to human health.

Best Organic Topsoil Products

Topsoil will be the dry aspect of the garden (comprised of sand, peat, and nitrogen-rich materials) while compost and fertilizer will be the moister aspects of the soil (carbon-rich materials). Since there is a delicate balance on how dry topsoil should be, as well as some risks for mixing sand with clay-filled soil, be careful in selecting topsoil products.

Consider the following when choosing topsoil:

  • Will any of the other ingredients used in the garden react badly with too much sand?
  • Are you already using compost?
  • Are you growing food or adding topsoil to the lawn?

Then, purchase the correct topsoil for the purpose. To get you started, some great topsoil that is non-toxic and safe to use are:

How to Help the Garden Grow Faster

If the garden is delayed in its growth rate or falling behind, a few techniques can be tried to help strengthen the soil. Those who want to get experimental and test the effects of growing fruits and vegetables at a faster rate while enhancing the flower garden can use these tips to increase the power of the topsoil!

Some tips to help the garden grow faster are:

  • Don’t Forget about Mulch – Mulch is an excellent resource to assist in eliminating weeds, and it helps to retain moisture in the soil. That moisture leads to further heat retention, which aids in the growth process and nutrient-production in soil.
  • Add Nutrients – The primary nutrients gardens need are phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen. Whether it’s topsoil, compost, fertilizer, or any other growth-enhancers used, be sure to offer the garden the critical nutrients that it requires to flourish. It is good to use the 6-12-6-rule on ingredients that say that gardeners should seek a balance of 6% nitrogen, 12% phosphorus, and 6% potassium.
  • Utilize Rainwater – Keep buckets out to catch the rain and preserve water. This will help any gardener’s energy usage and bill while also making the most of the resources available! Rainwater is often the cleanest option along with the cheapest, with stating, “The quality of rainwater is unsurpassed when it comes to watering plants and landscapes.”

Final Tips and Takeaways:

Growing a garden is a passion that anyone can take on at any time. If you dream of having more flowers, fruits, and vegetables, or are just sick of looking at brown grass, then take matters into your own hands and create a lifelong meditative practice of gardening.

A few final words of wisdom regarding topsoil are:

  • Re-examine the topsoil and be sure there are aeration holes and the low spots are all covered. Make sure it is evenly spread and not cutting off the air supply to the roots.
  • Be careful combining sand and clay soil as they can stick together and form a solid substance that ruins the entire garden.
  • A combination of topsoil and compost will be the best option for retaining moisture and allowing aeration.
  • If using compost, allow it to develop for a full six months before adding it to topsoil.

In Conclusion

Topsoil is an integral part of maintaining a healthy lawn and garden. Always be diligent in choosing the best topsoil and providing proper aeration and nutrients to the land. This will allow for beautiful lawns and plentiful gardens!

Check out Our Favorite Products page to find everything you might need to help make your garden a success!

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Corey Leichty

Hi, I’m Corey and I love using gardening as a way to provide food for my family, learn life lessons alongside my wife, Andrea, and teach life lessons to my two sons. Do you have gardening questions? Not finding what you are looking for? Please feel free to Ask a Question (Click Here!) and I will get back with you as soon as I can!

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