Good topsoil is the key ingredient for any landscaping work or garden beds. You need it for growing veggies, for a lush lawn, and for productive trees. If you need topsoil for your garden or landscaping projects, you can search for “topsoil near me” and source it from a nearby shop. However, have you wondered how topsoil forms? Let’s check it out:

The Details

  1. Natural topsoil formation – Soil is formed when climate, living organism, and the topography affect parent geological material over a long period. Parent materials like rocks and boulders are broken down over hundreds and thousands of years by rainfall, drought, temperature changes, wind, and biological elements like plants, micro-organisms, and animals to form soil. That’s why soil differs so vastly from one region to another.

Topsoil is the topmost layer of soil and is usually the most fertile layer rich in nutrients, minerals, and organic matter. That’s why it’s best for growing plants. Natural topsoil is formed when natural processes break down organic matter for several hundred or thousands of years. Just 1 or 2 cm of natural topsoil can take as much as 500 or 1000 years to develop.

That’s why the composition of topsoil is very complex and can’t be replaced by commercial topsoil. While commercial topsoil can replace necessary nutrients and organic matter for plant growth, it can’t replace the actual topsoil material. That’s why you should take every necessary measure to prevent erosion by wind and water.

  1. Natural topsoil variation – Six factors make topsoil differ dramatically from one region to another. Let’s check them out:
  • Parent rock material – As mentioned above, topsoil is mainly made from parent rock material and hence it inherits the properties of that material. Parent rock material can vary drastically around the globe. Some are soft, others are hard. Some may have more sand while others contain more clay.
  • Climate – Climate is another big factor that leads to the variation of topsoil. Rainfall and temperature and major factors that have the greatest influence on the breakdown of parent rock material.
  • Landscape – Where the soil lays also influences topsoil formation. For instance, soil on hills is shallower since it is more likely to erode while soil at plains and at the bottom of hills tends to be thicker.
  • Life – Living organisms also influence soil formation in a big way. They die, rot and turn into organic matter that increases the fertility of the soil. Some microorganisms mix up the soil with that organic matter and also change its texture.
  • Humans – Like every other thing on the planet, humans also affect topsoil formation. Everything from large construction and infrastructure projects to agriculture and gardening. These activities displace soil, parent rock material, add nutrients, or contaminate the soil.
  • Time – Time is another factor that affects topsoil. It takes thousands of years to break down rocks into soil. Older soil gets more decomposed organic matter and is more fertile while newer topsoil is less fertile and shallow.
  1. Commercial topsoil – Commercial topsoil is made by making natural topsoil go through an artificial process. You can purchase it for your garden, landscaping projects and can even be used on an industrial scale. Depending on market demands natural topsoil is mixed with various things to change its composition. Apart from sand and clay, peat moss, compost, shredded wood, lime and other types of material may be added to natural topsoil to make various types of commercial topsoil.

That’s why you see different categories of topsoil at your local store. You’ll find topsoil mixes for different uses in different places. They may contain different ratios of sand, silt, and clay and have a different profile of macro and micronutrients including phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, and more.

Some soil would have boosted fertility to grow the best crops while others would be suited for certain types of plants and trees. You’ll also find topsoil that is made just for landscaping projects and isn’t meant to host growing plants. They are usually used to fill up holes in your lawn and for leveling purposes.

  1. Commercial topsoil manufacturing – various brands make commercial topsoil in different ways. However, there are a few basic steps that everyone does. First of all, it’s about sourcing natural topsoil. Natural topsoil may be sourced from one of several sites. It may come from excavated soil at mines, construction projects, and more. Since this is out of most manufacturers’ control, they get what they can.

After the soil is sourced it is cleared of vegetation and even root systems. It’s a two-step process where the soil is cleared of vegetation including bushes, debris, logs, and more. After that comes the grubbing process where tree roots are removed from the soil. Next comes the grading process where the soil is pushed into manageable piles according to its coarse or fine texture and is ready to be mixed.

After soil goes through the grading process, it is mixed with the right quantities of silt, sand, and clay to get the appropriate topsoil texture for its intended purpose. For instance, if you need soil that drains well, you’ll want one that has a higher sand ratio than others.

When the topsoil has the right texture, it is mixed with organic matter like shredded wood, compost, ash, lime, and other materials to add nutrients to the soil mix. Again, the goal is to get the appropriate nutrient composition for its intended purpose.

Finally, the soil goes through the screening and tumbling process. Soil that would be used for growing plants is screened to get rid of rocks, gravel, stones, and other large debris. After that, it is tumbled to make the topsoil mix uniform. Once that’s done, the soil is ready to be bagged and delivered to the market.


While natural topsoil can form over thousands of years, commercial topsoil can be formed far more quickly and easily. Depending on your needs, you may need to buy different types of topsoil for your gardening and landscaping projects. To buy topsoil from a nearby store, search for “topsoil near me”.