Topsoil vs Compost: What’s The Difference?

Topsoil and compost are two rather different materials. They have very similar uses, but they also differ in a number of ways that can affect how you use them.

This article will help you understand the differences between topsoil and compost, so you know what to expect when using these soil amendments.

What is Topsoil?

Topsoil is a soil conditioner that is the top layer of soil for lawns and gardens. It helps maintain healthy garden soil and plants, and improves water retention and drainage.

This top layer is also the most nutrient-rich part of the soil and when watered, the nutrients are provided to the plants.

Learn more about topsoil in this in-depth article: What is Topsoil?

What is Compost?

Compost is a mixture of organic matter such as food scraps, plant material, grass clippings, leaves, and other yard waste. 

Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed by microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. This decomposition process produces humus, which is rich in nutrients that plants need for growth.

The composting process breaks down organic materials into smaller particles that are easier for plants to absorb. It also helps to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.

When and How to Use Topsoil

Topsoil is a soil conditioner that helps plants grow better. It is used for lawns, gardens, and landscaping. Topsoil should be used when planting new plants, like flowers and vegetables. 

Topsoil is a mixture of organic matter, sand, and soil particles that has been mixed with water. It is usually applied to the top of the ground as a mulch to help retain moisture and nutrients. 

If you use topsoil, then you don’t need to worry about watering the plant for weeks sometimes, depending on your plants. That’s because it retains moisture well. 

To use topsoil, first remove any weeds. Then spread the topsoil over your lawn or garden area with an even distribution.

You may want to add some fertilizer before spreading the topsoil if you plan on fertilizing your lawn after planting seeds.

You should not apply too much topsoil at once because this could cause runoff problems. If you do decide to apply extra topsoil, wait until the rainstorms pass before applying additional topsoil.

When and How to Use Compost?

Using compost is great for growing vegetables, flowers, and herbs. However, if you want to use compost for other purposes, such as fertilizing lawns, you need to be careful.

If you add too much compost to your soil, it could cause nutrient imbalances in your plants. 

Composting has many benefits and is a great way to reduce waste, and also helps in reducing pollution.

Composting is best when done outdoors because it requires a lot of space. Also, composting is a long process, and takes about 6 months for decomposition.

If you don’t already have compost available, you can make your own backyard compost pile with a good mixture of brown and green organic materials.  

To use compost, simply add it to your garden soil. Make sure to mix it well with the existing soil. Adding compost to your soil increases its fertility level and makes it more nutritious.

When adding compost to your garden, be careful not to overwater your plants. Overwatering causes root rot and reduces crop yields.

To dig the compost into the soil, first remove any weeds growing around the roots of your plants. Then loosen up the soil around each plant’s base.

Finally, gently push the compost into the hole where you planted the seedlings.

Read the in-depth guide to Getting Started With Compost

Can I Mix Topsoil and Compost Together?

Yes, you sure can! Using both topsoil and compost together creates an even better environment for your plants. 

Using topsoil alone doesn’t provide enough nutrients for your plants. On the other hand, compost helps make up for the missing or lower amounts of nutrients needed for good health.

Mixing topsoil and compost allows you to get the benefits of both products without having to buy separate supplies. 

Topsoil vs Compost Final Thoughts

All in all, using either topsoil or compost will work just fine for most people. But there are times when one product works better than another.

For example, if you’re looking to grow grass instead of veggies, then you’ll probably prefer using topsoil.

On the other hand, if you’d like to grow lots of veggies, then you might find yourself preferring compost.

Here are other related articles to learn more about topsoil and compost: 

Topsoil vs Compost FAQs

Which is better topsoil or compost?

Compost is much easier to create than topsoil. Topsoil requires a lot of work and money. To create topsoil, you need to go to the store and buy soil and mix it together. If you don’t know what kind of soil to use, you should use topsoil. However, compost is easy to make. All you need to do is find some wood chips, grass clippings, leaves, straw, and kitchen scraps, and put them into a pile. Then cover the pile with other materials, such as newspaper, cardboard, plastic bags, etc. The pile will turn into compost in about six months.

Can I use compost instead of topsoil?

You can use compost instead of topsoil, but not for all uses. Compost is a mixture of organic matter such as leaves, grass clippings, food scraps, and manure. Compost helps soil retain water and nutrients, and improves plant growth. Topsoil is a mixture of sand, clay, silt, and organic matter. It is used for planting seeds and growing plants.

Is topsoil or compost better for the garden?

Topsoil and compost are both great for the garden. Choosing one or the other depends on their usage. Topsoil is organic matter such as decomposed plant debris, soil, sand, pebbles, and other fine materials that are mixed together to form a rich, fertile mixture used primarily for planting. Compost is made from dead plants, leaves, grass clippings, and other organic waste that are placed in compost piles where bacteria break down the waste into humus. The finished product is then added back to the ground as fertilizer.

Is compost better than dirt?

Compost is much better than dirt because it is organic matter that has been broken down into nutrients for plants. Dirt is just soil, which is mostly made up of minerals and rocks. However, compost requires some work and time to produce quality soil for your garden. If you don’t have the time or patience, then just use dirt.

Does compost turn into soil?

Yes, compost turns into soil, but only after 6 to 12 months of decomposition. Once you start adding organic matter to the soil, you will notice that the soil becomes darker and richer. If you want to speed up the process, the compost should be turned regularly. The compost should be turned at least once a week.

Can I use topsoil for potted plants?

Yes, you can use topsoil for potted plants. Topsoil is a mixture of soil and sand that allows water to drain through easily. But topsoil doesn’t contain enough nutrients. If you put your plant in topsoil, you should add some fertilizer and keep the soil moist.

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Written by:

Denise Davis
I am an avid gardener who has spent most of her life in the garden, growing and cultivating organic veggies for friends and family. I love the earthy smell of composting and making homemade fertilizers from natural ingredients like old coffee grounds or eggshells. Gardening is a great way to get outside, learn new things about nature, exercise your body (and brain!) and eat healthy food you have grown yourself!