A concrete house pad, more typically referred to as a slab, or slab-on-grade foundation, must be properly planned for and poured to ensure that it will adequately support the structure. One of the first aspects of slab construction that must be taken into account is the dirt work. Dirt work, or sub-base and sub-grade
preparation, is key to ensuring that the slab will be evenly supported and not fail. Top soil must be removed from the site before sub-grade fill can be compacted and base material imported.
Other Peopcontent, several inches of soil may need to be removed and replaced with a sand or gravel mixture. For shallow excavations, hand tools may be adequate but for sites where more than a few inches of soil must be removed, machinery may be warranted.

Compact the sub-grade material using a hand tamp or machinery. Recognize and fill in low spots.

Pound stakes into the ground in each corner and every several feet along the sides of the site perimeter.

Stretch out and tie strings between the stakes at the height of the planned sub-grade. Ensure that the strings are level using a string level.

Move soil around or import fill to fix any low or high spots. Compact the fill that is rearranged so that this sub-grade layer is uniformly dense and level.

Raise the strings or temporarily move them. The new height indicated by the strings should reflect the planned sub-base layer thickness, about 4 to 6 inches or as dictated by local code or a professional engineer.

Place the crushed stone for the sub-base on top of the sub-grade material. Only place enough at a time to create about a 3-inch layer of stone, spread it around with a garden rake or other tool so that it is roughly even and compact it before placing the remainder of the stone.

Replace or check the guide strings to ensure they are level and spread the top layer of the crushed stone. Bear in mind that most slabs must have thicker concrete around the edges to support the load. For a specific situation, this may be dictated by code. To accommodate thick slab edges, slope the gravel near the edges so it
is thinner around the perimeter. Compact the crushed stone, check to make sure it is level and make any corrections before continuing with slab construction.
Fill dirt is earthy material which is used to fill in a depression or hole in the ground or create mounds or otherwise artificially change the grade or elevation of real property.[1]

Fill dirt is usually subsoil (soil from beneath the top soil) and underlying soil parent material which has little soil organic matter or biological activity. Fill dirt is taken from a location where soil is being removed as a part of leveling an area for construction; it may also contain sand, rocks, and stones, as well as earth.

Fill dirt should be as free of organic matter as possible since organic matter will decompose creating pockets of empty space within the fill which could result in settling. Uneven or excessive settling of the fill can result in damage to any structures built on the fill.

A common use of fill dirt is in highway maintenance to build up the shoulders of highways so that the ground on either side of the pavement is at the same level as the pavement itself and that the highway shoulders are sufficiently wide as to allow vehicles room to pull off of the highway if needed.

A second common use of fill dirt is to fill in a low-lying construction site to raise the level of the building foundation in order to reduce the chances of flooding. Several massive uses of fill dirt are with improvements to the Port of Seattle Sea-Tac Airport, the addition of a new runway to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta
International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Shin Kansai Kuko or New Osaka Airport off the coast of Japan, a project involving the creation of a new man-made island of some five square kilometers.

Fill dirt is most often mined from commercial sand and gravel mines then imported to the project site, and must meet specifications for gradation outlined by the Project's Geotechnical Engineer. The logistics and availability of fill dirt material has become a growing concern for the commercial sand and gravel industry in
recent years as the need for fill material has surged and the available resources in mines are depleted. This directly impacts the public and end-user as the cost of construction increases due to the logistical challenges of importing material from greater distances as materials grow more scarce.

In an effort to combat the costs and increasing logistical challenges related to dwindling sand and gravel stockpiles, some services are offering contractors and the public a way to exchange fill dirt materials in addition to locating operating sand and gravel mines. Internet based services such as Site Import Export
siteimportexport.com and Free dirt [1] allow consumers and contractors a way to locate free fill dirt by connecting them with another contractor or consumer in need of a dump site on a nearby project.

Fill dirt is also used for landscaping projects which involve the creation of ridges and earth structures for pools, waterfalls, and other water features as well as to break up a level area in order to provide more interesting textures to the landscape.A road, railway line or canal is normally raised onto an embankment made of
compacted soil (typically clay or rock-based) to avoid a change in level required by the terrain, the alternatives being either to have an unacceptable change in level or detour to follow a contour. A cutting is used for the same Hauling dirt is a business that helps in maintaining the cleanliness of the surrounding areas by
eliminating large chunks of dirt to be disposed.  The price for hauling dirt varies depending on the location.  The amount of dirt that needs to be transported is the major factor considered when pricing this service.  You need to remember that there are companies that do not charge by truck capacity; rather they charge
based on the actual amount of dirt. - See more at: http://www.howmuchisit.org/hauling-dirt-cost/#sthash.sWnO6pPZ.dpuf    A truck that can transport 16 cubic yards of dirt may charge $500 to $700.  If you only fill up half the truck, the price will be cut in half, costing around $250 to $500 depending on the company.
Bigger trucks that carry around 22 cubic yards of dirt can cost $700 to $900.
A truck that can carry up to 20 cubic yards of dirt charges anywhere from $175 to $395 depending on the amount of dirt placed on the actual truck.
If you want to have the dirt taken away from your property, it can cost $400 to $800 per truck load.  For example, Ace Hauling charges $575 for a 13 to 16 cubic yard truck to take the dirt away and dump it.  Other companies may charge by the hour to haul away.  On average, the hourly rate can vary from $55 to $95 an hour.

What are the extra costs?

Filtered dirt is going to cost more for landscaping projects.  This dirt is going to be free of stones, twigs and more.
A distance surcharge may be charged by the company if the dirt has to be picked up.  This is for those that want to have the dirt hauled away.
A mixed load surcharge will be charged by the company if the dirt is mixed with junk or other items.

What is going to be included?

Loading and cleanup is included with the payment.  The person in charge will keep an eye out on how clean the area is where the dirt came, as well as the proper loading of the dirt into the truck.
The truck, as well as the haul away, is the main portion of the price.  The company will dump the dirt off in a legal, designated area.

How can I save money?

Get quotes from different companies that offer dirt hauling services.  Also, ask for any inclusions with the payment as some companies may include additional features for which you may have to pay with other companies.
If you have dirt at home that you want to have hauled away, put a free ad on Craigslist.  Many people are more than willing to come to your location to pick it up at no charge.

Bigger trucks that carry around 22 cubic yards of dirt can cost $700 to $900.
A truck that can carry up to 20 cubic yards of dirt charges anywhere from $175 to $395 depending on the amount of dirt placed on the actual truck.
Bigger trucks that carry around 22 cubic yards of dirt can cost $700 to $900.Proper planting is essential for healthy, vigorous growth of ornamental plants in the landscape. It assures rapid plant establishment by providing a favorable environment for the developing root system.

Planting involves more than merely digging a hole and sticking a plant in it. Giving careful consideration to the preparation of the planting site, the time of year for best plant establishment and the handling requirements of different nursery stock will help you avoid problems later on.

This publication offers step-by-step guidelines that will help you achieve planting success.
Surveying the Planting Site

Before planting, survey the site for potential hazards to plant growth. For instance, new construction sites are often littered with pieces of mortar, plaster or limestone, creating an alkaline soil condition and inhibiting a plant's ability to absorb nutrients. Chemical spills, such as motor oil or gasoline, can also impair plant
growth. It may be necessary to remove the top 6 to 8 inches of soil and replace it with a good grade of topsoil. Compacted soils also inhibit root growth.
Figure 1. Ornamentals can be grown on poorly-drained soils if they are planted on raised beds.Figure 1. Ornamentals can be grown on poorly-drained soils if they are planted on raised beds.

Poorly drained soils cause plant problems. Waterlogged soil will suffocate the root system and kill a plant. Improve poorly drained sites by deep tilling to break apart a layer of hard packed soil, or "hard-pan," several inches below the soil surface. Slope beds planted near a foundation away from the building, and route water
from drain spouts away from plant beds. On extremely heavy soils, construct a raised bed, 12 to 18 inches high, of well-drained topsoil, and slope the sides of the bed away from the plants to avoid pockets of standing water.  Another option is to install a sub-surface drainage pipe to carry water to another area (assuming
there is somewhere for the water to drain).

Soil samples, taken two to three weeks before planting, will determine lime and fertilizer requirements. Your county Extension agent can provide you with details on how to take a soil sample for testing.  The University of Georgia’s Agricultural and Environmental Services Lab also has soil test kits available for purchase
online at http://aesl.ces.uga.edu/soil/Georgia.htm.
Selecting Plant

Always purchase fresh, high-quality plants. Poor-quality plants are not a wise investment.

Most ornamental trees and shrubs marketed today are grown and sold in containers, although field-grown plants, sold balled-and-burlapped or packaged bare-root, are also available during certain times of the year. Container-grown plants should have healthy, vigorous tops and white feeder roots on the outer edge of the
root ball. Do not be timid about inverting a few plants, removing their pots and examining their roots. Container-grown plants generally transplant well throughout most of the year with minimum shock, although fall and winter months are the best time to transplant.
Figure 2. Woody ornamentals for the landscape are commonly sold three waysFigure 2. Woody ornamentals for the landscape are commonly sold three ways: container-grown (left), balled-and-burlapped (center) and bare-rooted (right).

Large trees and shrubs grown in the field are often sold balled-and-burlapped. Because a large portion of the root system is destroyed during digging, they transplant best during the cooler months (October through April). Some trees are grown and marketed in fabric bags, and can be transplanted throughout the year,
although the fall and winter months are best.

Packaged bare-root plants, such as roses, should have plump, healthy stems and good root systems that are kept moist in a packing substance like sphagnum moss or wood shavings. The best planting time for these plants is from December to mid-March.
Holding Plants Until They Are Planted

If plants cannot be planted right away, place them in a shaded area and keep the roots moist. If balled-and-burlapped or bare-root plants must be held several days before planting, cover their roots with sawdust, pine straw or soil to conserve moisture. Avoid placing the roots in water or buckets for long periods of time
because they will suffocate. Container plants may need daily watering.

Make sure plants are well watered before planting and ensure the root ball is thoroughly wet. A dry root ball is difficult to rewet after transplanting.
Planting in Individual Holes

The old adage "never put a ten-dollar tree in a two-dollar hole" applies when planting individual trees and shrubs. Research at the University of Georgia has shown that a large planting hole – at least twice as wide as the root ball – encourages rapid root growth and plant establishment. Dig the planting hole only as deep as
the root ball. If the hole is dug deeper, backfill it with soil as necessary and tamp it firmly to prevent settling. Make certain the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Some landscape professionals plant the top of the root ball 1 to 2 inches above grade if they know the soil is likely to settle slightly.
Figure 3. Dig the planting hole two times wider than the root ball. Make certain the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface.Figure 3. Dig the planting hole two times wider than the root ball. Make certain the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface.

Research has also shown that it is not necessary to add organic amendments, such as peat moss, compost or leaf mold, to the planting hole. Organic matter can act like a sponge in the planting hole, absorbing and holding too much moisture and causing the roots to stay too wet. When planting just one plant, it is best to
backfill with the same soil removed from the hole. Be sure to break apart any clods and remove stones or other debris before refilling the hole.

Before planting balled-and-burlapped plants, cut any wire or cord from around the trunk and pull back the burlap from the top one-third of the root ball. This will allow newly formed feeder roots to grow into the new environment. When planting on poorly drained soils, remove the burlap completely. When planting trees
or shrubs grown in fabric bags, remove the entire bag before planting.

To eliminate air pockets, water the planting site as the backfill soil is placed in the hole. Use your hand, not your foot, to gently firm the soil around the roots. Water thoroughly when finished and water again several hours later.
Figure 4. This balled-and-burlapped plant, with the cord cut from around the trunk and the burlap pulled back, is ready for planting.Figure 4. This balled-and-burlapped plant, with the cord cut from around the trunk and the burlap pulled back, is ready for planting.

Slow-release or liquid fertilizers can be added to the planting hole, but granular general-purpose fertilizers, such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10, can damage tender roots. Wait until the plants are established before applying a granular general-purpose fertilizer. (See section on caring for newly planted trees and shrubs.)

Finally, shape a small ring of soil, 2 to 3 inches high, along the perimeter of the planting hole. This forms a saucer on top of the soil, which directs water to the roots and prevents runoff.

Finally, uniformly apply a 3-inch layer of mulch over the soil surface. Mulches promote rapid rooting by maintaining uniform moisture levels and temperatures in the soil and by preventing weed competition. Landscape fabrics can be placed under the mulch to help prevent weeds and to conserve moisture.
Planting in Beds

A group of ornamental plants in one area of the landscape will grow more uniformly when planted in a well-prepared bed rather than in individual holes. Begin by deep tilling to a depth of 12 to 15 inches. Then incorporate about 1 pound (2 cups) of an eight to 10 percent nitrogen fertilizer, such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10, over
every 100 square feet of bed area. Only incorporate lime into the bed if the soil test recommends it. After preparing the soil, follow the planting procedure recommended for planting in individual holes.
Figure 5.When planting a group of ornamental plants in the landscape, prepare a good bed by deep tilling to a depth of 12 to 15 inches.Figure 5. When planting a group of ornamental plants in the landscape, prepare a good bed by deep tilling to a depth of 12 to 15 inches.

Planting Annuals and Herbaceous Perennials
Figure 6. Plant annuals and perennials on raised beds to ensure good drainage and improved visibility.Figure 6. Plant annuals and perennials on raised beds to ensure good drainage and improved visibility.

To achieve the best color displays, annuals and herbaceous perennials must have good drainage, adequate nutrients and available water at all times. Begin by deep tilling the native soil to improve its structure and to ensure good drainage. Then, elevate the bed 6 to 12 inches by adding soil amendments. A raised bed not only
ensures good drainage, but also improves the visibility of the color display.

The type and quantity of soil amendments used depends on the structure and texture of the existing soil, and whether amendments have been previously added to the site. A combination of composted organic matter, composted animal manure and large-particle sand, such as Lithonia granite, are frequently used to amend
beds. If bagged organic amendments are used, apply one 40-pound bag per 100 square feet of bed area and incorporate it to a 6- to 8-inch depth. An ideal soil is moist, yet well drained.
Figure 7. Containers let you put splashes of color where you want it, regardless of soil type, and offer an alternative to flowerbeds. For best results, use quality potting soil and a well-drained container.Figure 7. Containers let you put splashes of color where you want it, regardless of soil type, and offer an alternative to
flowerbeds. For best results, use quality potting soil and a well-drained container.

Slow-release fertilizers, such as Osmocote, are excellent for flowerbeds because they give the plants an even supply of nutrients throughout the growing season. Several formulas are available, although one with at least an eight- to nine-month release duration is recommended. Follow manufacturer recommendations for
application rate.

After planting, apply about 3 inches of mulch on the soil surface to conserve moisture and prevent weeds. Fine-textured mulches, such as pine straw or pine bark mini-nuggets, stay seated better on the bed than coarse-textured mulches.

Finally, water thoroughly. A liquid fertilizer can be applied with the water at planting to provide some immediate nutrients.
Staking and Guying Tree
Figure 8. Trees with a trunk diameter greater than 1 inch and a height exceeding 4 feet usually require staking or guying.Figure 8. Trees with a trunk diameter greater than 1 inch and a height exceeding 4 feet usually require staking or guying.

Protective staking may be necessary for young trees, trees less than 4 feet tall, or trees planted in high foot-traffic areas, such as school grounds or shopping centers. Stakes also protect young tree trunks from lawn mowers and weed eaters, which can severely damage the bark. An area of mulch around the tree is an
alternative to protective staking.

Trees with a trunk diameter greater than 1 inch and a height exceeding 4 feet need staking or guy wires to hold them in place until they are established. Staking or guying a tree keeps it from blowing over and uprooting during establishment. Trees with a trunk diameter up to 3 inches can be supported by two to four stakes,
depending on the size of the canopy. After they are placed in the ground, the height of the stakes should equal the height of the lowest scaffold branches. Place the stakes along the perimeter of the planting hole, and pound them several inches into the ground to hold them firmly in place.

Secure the tree to the stakes with strong, 12-gauge wire. Attach the wire just above the lowest scaffold branches. Place the wire encircling the tree in a piece of old garden hose to prevent bark injury. Use three guy wires for trees larger than 4 inches in trunk diameter.

Give the tree some slack so it can move slightly with the breeze. Research indicates that a tree allowed some movement during establishment develops a larger root system and stronger trunk than one that is kept stationary.
Figure 9. A root ball staking system is an alternative to guy wires.Figure 9. A root ball staking system is an alternative to guy wires.

Remove stakes and guy wires four to six months after planting to prevent girdling and trunk injury. Remove stakes from fall-planted trees at the start of the spring growing season and from spring-planted trees at the end of the summer growing season.

An alternative staking method that is becoming more popular with arborists and landscape professionals involves placing four wooden stakes (2 x 2 inches wide and 4 feet long) opposite one another just outside the root ball, leaving 4 inches of each stake protruding from the soil. Screws are used to secure two additional 2 x 2-
inch stakes to the vertical stakes (see Figure 9). This technique prevents the root ball from rocking during establishment, and does not harm the bark of the tree like guy wires sometimes do.
Trunk Wrapping

Trees often have their trunks wrapped to prevent injury during transport from the nursery to the garden center. When purchasing a tree with its trunk wrapped, remove the wrapping at planting time or shortly thereafter. It is not necessary to wrap the trunk of newly-planted trees.
Care of Newly Planted Ornamentals

Watering: Regular watering is critical during establishment of newly planted trees and shrubs.  Keep the root system moist, but not too wet, for the first six to eight weeks after planting. The amount of water and frequency of application depend on the soil type and the type of plant. Trees and shrubs may require watering
twice a week when there is no rain. Annuals and ground covers may need daily watering during establishment. Let soil moisture be your guide for watering frequency.

Fertilization: There are many slow-release fertilizers on the market that feed plants from six to 12 months with one application. Slow-release fertilizers generally cost more than general-purpose fertilizers, but they require fewer applications. Follow application guidelines on the bag or container.

If you use general-purpose fertilizers, use light applications for newly-planted ornamentals during the first growing season. For shrubs less than 12 inches tall, apply 1 level teaspoon of a 12 to 16 percent nitrogen source (12-4-8 or 16-4-8) or 1 level tablespoon of an eight to 10 percent nitrogen source (8-8-8 or 10-10-10) three
times during the growing season (March through September). Broadcast the fertilizer along the perimeter of the planting hole.

Give trees 2 tablespoons of a 12 to 16 percent nitrogen source for each inch of trunk diameter three times during their first growing season. Broadcast fertilizers evenly over an area extending 6 inches from the trunk to 1 foot beyond the branch spread or canopy.

Newly planted ground covers benefit from a complete, balanced fertilizer, like 8-8-8 or 10-10-10. An application rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet is sufficient. When broadcasting fertilizers over the top of the foliage, be sure the foliage is dry, and water soon after application.

For information on the care of established ornamental plants, see Georgia Cooperative Extension Bulletin 1065, Care of Ornamental Plants in the Landscape.
Steps for Planting Success

Survey the planting site. Modify the site, if necessary, to ensure a good growing environment. Select plants adapted to the site conditions.
Purchase healthy, pest-free plants.
When holding plants for later planting, keep them in the shade and water them regularly.
Water plants thoroughly before planting to saturate the root ball with water.
Thorough soil preparation is essential for healthy plant growth. When planting a group of plants, rototill the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches. When planting a single tree or shrub, dig the planting hole two to three times wider than the root ball.
Place the plant in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface.
Remove any wire or cord from around the stem of balled-and-burlapped plants. Pull back or remove the burlap from the root ball if possible.
Water thoroughly immediately after planting to settle the soil and to eliminate air pockets, which can dry out roots.
Use stakes or guy wires to support trees or large shrubs on exposed, windy sites. Supporting devices are only temporary and should be removed a few weeks after transplanting.
Apply 3 to 5 inches of mulch to the soil surface to conserve moisture and to prevent weeds.
Water as necessary during the establishment period. Keep the soil uniformly moist — not too wet or too dry.
Allow trees and shrubs time to become established before applying fertilizer.

oil Origins

All soil descends from the rock formed as the primordial stuff of Earth cooled. Wind, heat, cold, rain and moving water -- all involved in the evolution of cooling rock and conversion to a nitrogen-based atmosphere -- broke down the surface into rocks, gravel, pebbles and, finally, grains of sand. As life began, plants and
animals -- carbon-based lifeforms -- lived and died upon the surface, adding organic material to the mix. Lacking gardeners or developers to mix the organics uniformly, however, local organic matter rested only in the top inches of local sand, creating a mosaic of combinations of minerals and essential elements atop the
rocky subsoil. This narrow band became topsoil.
Fill

The material called fill dirt, or only fill, typically contains topsoil, but it also contains rocky subsoil and lots of other material in a mixture without a standard composition. When farmland, forests or old roadbeds are cleared, the materials, organic or not, all go into the same pile. Organic contents, as anyone who has ever cut
down a tree and left the stump and roots intact knows, sinks as it decomposes. So fill provides the substance to fill depressions and contour berms. In addition to cleared land and leftovers from previous construction projects, fill contains the tops of steep hills and hollows of retention ponds, including their topsoil. Fill
raises grades and contours the rolling hills of subdivisions, but it provides little fertility for plants.
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Topsoil

The topsoil in the first 4 to 12 inches of Earth’s covering supports the roots of a variety of plant roots -- the nutrient gatherers. Successful topsoil contains nitrogen, carbon and other nutrients. It provides easy drainage yet retains moisture and allows some penetration of light and air. Topsoil is important; a study by the
University of California-Davis and California Department of Transportation found that dry-weight production of growing plants along roadwork laid over topsoil exceeded that planted on fill by about 250 percent when the same seed and fertilizer were used. The study also found that plantings on fill tended to die out after
three to five years.
Garden Soils

Every lawn might do better when planted on topsoil, but all topsoils do not make superb garden soil. A garden typically requires proportions and amounts of nutrients different from those that occur in the few inches on which lawn grass can succeed; corn and squash are demanding guests that pay big dividends. Because
no standard exists for topsoil, your topsoil may be thin or deep and clay, sand or loam. Amending topsoil with organic matter in the form of compost increases its fertility and depth. Soil tests can determine what help your part of the soil mosaic might need.
irt?Dirt is what you find under your fingernails. Soil is what you find under your feet. Think of soil as a thin living skin that covers the land. It goes down into the ground just a short way. Even the most fertile topsoil is only a foot or so deep. Soil is more than rock particles. It includes all the living things and the materials
they make or change.

Let?s take an elevator ride from the surface to the bedrock below. We?ll pass several distinct layers, orhorizons, as we go. Together, these layers form thesoil profile. Going down!


Soil Profile         


Ground level:Plants grow and animals live here. A thick cover of plants can keep the soil cool and keep it from drying out.Decomposersrecycle dead plants and animals intohumus.

Topsoil:Plants grow and animals live on top of the soil. This is sometimes called the organic layer. A thick cover of plants can keep the soil cool and keep it from drying out.Decomposersrecycle dead plants and animals intohumus.

Subsoil:This is a mix of mineral particles and some humus near the top. Subsoil is very low inorganic mattercompared to the topsoil. This is the layer where most of the soil's nutrients are found. Deep plant roots come here looking for water. Clays and minerals released up above often stick here as water drains down.

Weathered parent material:Thishorizoncan be very deep. There's no organic matter here at all. We're out of reach of all living and dead organisms down here. It's all rock particles, full of minerals.

The entiresoil profileused to look like this all the way to the surface. Physical weathering broke theparent materialup into small pieces. Don't be fooled! This layer may contain rock particles that are different from the bedrock below. A river or a glacier might have brought it from somewhere else.

Bedrock:We finally found solid rock! The bedrock formed before the soil above it. It will wait here until erosion or an earthquake exposes it to the surface. Then some of it will be weathered to become the next batch ofparent material. The soil-making process will start all over again.




When you go to the garden center, you see bags of topsoil. You might think that’s just what your garden needs to produce better vegetables or flowers. That’s not always the case. In some instances, your garden soil may just need some fertilizer and other amendments to give you a bountiful harvest of fruits and vegetables or a
garden filled with bright, healthy blooms.
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Topsoil

Topsoil is just what the name implies: It is soil removed from the surface of the earth. Depending on the location, topsoil may go as deep as 12 inches. Topsoil has organic matter in it from whatever grasses, leaves or bark that have decomposed on it. As a farmer works native topsoil, any organic matter from the surface
changes the color of topsoil to a darker color than the subsoil that is below the normal depth of cultivation. Topsoil taken from agricultural land may have chemical additives, such as weed killers.
Topsoil Texture

Topsoil varies by location depending on its texture. Most topsoil has a textural classification. The most common is loam. Loam has less than 52 percent sand, 28 to 50 percent silt and 7 to 27 percent clay. The various combinations affect how well the topsoil mixture drains water. Nurseries offer the following topsoil textures:
silt loam, silty clay loam, clay loam and sandy clay loam. Each is different based on the percentage of sand, silt and clay in the mixture.
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Garden Soil

Garden soil is similar to the dirt that exists in your garden. It has its own texture composition of sand, silt and clay mixed into it. Soil from your garden and from the garden center is similar with variations based on the texture. Either kind of garden soil may have amendments, such as fertilizer or compost, added to it. The
amount of amendments depends on which ones have been added to the soil over the years. Ideally, purchased garden mix should have a pH of 6 or 7 to help keep soil from becoming too alkaline or acidic.
Soil Testing

When you decide your garden’s soil could use a boost, combine garden and topsoil to reap the benefits of both. Run a soil test on the garden soil in your garden. You can pick up a soil test kit at a local Cooperative Extension office or contact a soil testing company, depending on your location. Follow the directions on the
package for testing the soil. Return the soil sample to the extension office where they analyze it for what fertilizers and amendments the soil actually needs. Use the results of the test as your guide to improving garden soil or purchasing topsoil.
Combining Topsoil and Garden Soil

Don’t plan on just dumping on the topsoil. To add topsoil, first till the existing garden soil thoroughly. Add a couple inches of the topsoil best suited for your garden over the top of the garden soil. Till the garden again to create a mixed layer of new and existing soil. Cover the garden with a final top layer of topsoil. By creating
layers, the plants are better able to adapt to the new soil.


Major difference between dirt, soil

True gardeners rarely refer to soil as simply dirt. They understand the difference between the stuff you dig up in your backyard versus the "black gold" that consist of compost, manure, decomposed organic matter and millions of beneficial microbes that are actively at work underground.

By The Windsor Star May 20, 2006



True gardeners rarely refer to soil as simply dirt. They understand the difference between the stuff you dig up in your backyard versus the "black gold" that consist of compost, manure, decomposed organic matter and millions of beneficial microbes that are actively at work underground.

Fortunately, converting dirt to soil is an easy process. Within this context, understanding three commonly used gardening terms -- texture, structure, and tilth -- should help clear up one of the dirtier mysteries of gardening.

Let's start with soil texture. Texture refers to the relative percentage of sand, silt and clay within the dirt.

Ideally, you want to have an equal amount of each. When these three are proportionate, the soil is said to be loamy.

Soil with great texture allows plant roots to spread, moisture to be retained (but not to excess) and essential air pockets to exist between the tiny spaces of the soil particles.

Next is soil structure. Simply put, structure is how sand, silt and clay fit together. Good structure is evident when the soil holds together if squeezed, but breaks apart or crumbles easily when disturbed.

As I work to achieve ideal soil structure, I am constantly working to blend the right amounts sand, silt and clay to get the results I described above.

In my Georgia garden (which was mostly clay) I usually find adding plenty of compost and aged manure do the trick.

The compost is homemade.

However, the cow manure is another story.

Since I live in a suburban neighbourhood, a pasture of cows or stable of horses is not an option. Fortunately, composted manure is available by the bag at many garden centres and home improvement stores.

But all bagged manure is not the same! Many contain fillers and are inferior in quality. I've had great results with Black Kow composted cow manure because it's pure composted manure. It cost a bit more per bag but, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.

Unfortunately, it is not available outside the southeast.

When a soil has good tilth, it drains well. It is loose enough to allow for adequate drainage, yet dense enough to retain moisture long enough for plant roots to utilize it. This is why garden soil should neither contain too much sand or too much clay.

The key is to know from which extreme you are starting. If soil is too dense, then your action is to loosen it up by adding gritty organic material like composted bark. For soils that are too loose, you want to increase the water holding capacity. Sphagnum peat moss is an option for this. However, in either case, organic material
continues to break down over time. Monitor your soil constantly, and amend when needed.

Understanding what makes perfect soil will get you well on your way to having the best garden ever.

Regardless of your current soil texture, structure or tilth, you can change what you already have.

Call it a soil makeover. By adding organic material like compost, humus, composted cow manure, leaf mulch, peat moss, etc. -- and a bit of persistence -- you can greatly improve your soil.When it comes to starting a garden or establishing a new lawn, all dirt is not created equal. Fill dirt and topsoil are both used to fill in
spaces that are lacking in soil, but they differ substantially in composition and in costs. Both fill dirt and topsoil are sold in bulk by the cubic yard. One cubic yard covers approximately 50 square feet with 4 to 6 inches of soil.
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Getting the Right Soil

Fill dirt is used when large, empty spaces need filled, such as a former inground swimming pool hole or a natural depression that is going to have a structure put on it. Topsoil is generally reserved for the top several inches of the ground, to provide a proper foundation for new grass or fill in a garden spot where a gardener
wants to establish new plants.

Understanding Composition

Fill dirt often has debris in it such as rocks, roots and large clay clumps. Screened fill dirt that is certified free of most debris is available at a higher cost. While most commercially sold topsoil is free from large debris, the only requirement is that it was collected from the top few inches of ground. In general, topsoil is
richer and has more nutrients than fill, but its content is not legally guaranteed. Always request screened topsoil and ask for a breakdown of its composition.

Customizing Your Order

Soil can be mixed by the supplier depending on your needs. Talk to the vendor and ask what your options are and how you can customize your order of soil. Depending on your plans, certain soil types may meet your gardening needs best. For example, higher amounts of sand help soil drain quickly while clay retains
moisture. Organic matter also improves drainage as it conditions soil and adds to soil fertility. Matching soil composition to the needs of your plants helps ensure garden success.

Choosing Wisely

Ideal topsoil should be a screened combination of sand, clay and organic material with a pH level acceptable to healthy plant growth. Most plants grow best in a near-neutral range between 6.0 and 8.0 pH. While topsoil varies significantly, standards do exist. Topsoil that meets the specifications of the American Society of
Landscape Architects is certified to have acceptable amounts of clay, sand and organic material, and meet standards for cleanliness and pH balance. Never buy non-certified topsoil sight unseen.

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homeadvisor.com/landscapingWhen it comes to growing plants, you may think that dirt is dirt. But if you’d like your plants to have the best chance to grow and thrive, you’ll need to choose the right type of soil depending on where your flowers and vegetables are growing. Just like in real estate, when it comes to topsoil vs
potting soil, it’s all about location, location, location. The difference between topsoil and potting soil is in the ingredients, and each one is designed for a different type of use.
Topsoil vs Potting Soil

When looking into what is potting soil and what is topsoil, you’ll find out that they have very little in common. In fact, potting soil may have no actual soil in it at all. It needs to drain well while staying aerated, and each manufacturer has its own special blend. Ingredients such as sphagnum moss, coir or coconut husks, bark,
and vermiculite are mixed together to give a texture that holds growing roots, delivering food and moisture while allowing the proper drainage required for potted plants.

Topsoil, on the other hand, has no specific ingredients and can be the scraped top from weedy fields or other natural spaces mixed with sand, compost, manure, and a number of other ingredients. It doesn’t work well by itself, and is meant to be more of a soil conditioner than an actual planting medium.
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Best Soil for Containers and Gardens

Potting soil is the best soil for containers, as it gives the right texture and moisture retention for growing plants in a small space. Some potting soils are specially formulated for specific plants, such as African violets or orchids, but every container plant should be grown in some form of potting soil. It’s sterilized, which
eliminates any chances of fungus or other organisms being spread to the plants, as well as free of weed seeds and other impurities. It also will not compact like topsoil or plain garden soil will in container, which allows for better root growth of container plants.

When looking at the soil in gardens, your best option is to improve the soil you have rather than to remove and replace the existing dirt. Topsoil should be mixed in a 50/50 mixture with the dirt that’s already sitting on your land. Each type of soil allows water to drain at a different rate, and mixing the two soils allows
moisture to drain through both layers instead of pooling between the two. Use topsoil to condition your garden plot, adding drainage and some organic matter to improve the garden’s general growing condition.

Do you know the difference between dirt and soil? Do you know what makes up Vermiculite and Perlite? And when should you use compost? Read on to learn how to distinguish between the basic and not-so-basic growing mediums, and find out what type of soil or medium is the best bet for your gardening needs.

Dirt:  Dirt is bland and often either rocky or silty and void of nutrients. If you add water to a handful of plain dirt, it will not compact well, if at all.

Soil: Soil is rich in nutrients and microbes, and when scooped up in your hand, it will clump or form a loose ball easily — often without water being added. When red-wiggler or earth worms are present in soil, it’s a sign of fertile ground  in which to grow plants.  Dirt on the other hand, is lacking the crucial nutrients and
microorganisms that are necessary for healthy plants to grow. Worms will not thrive in dirt.

Compost: Compost is decayed organic-plant matter that must only be used when it has “cured” or broken down completely.  Compost that has cured will look and smell just like rich, dark, garden earth. It must show no signs of the previous form of  organic matter that it once was.  If the former state of vegetation is still
visible or distinguishable in the compost, it is still breaking down and the nitrogen level in the compost is too high to safely apply on or around plants. If it is used at this point in the breakdown, it will burn and most likely kill plants. Composting times vary depending on methods used to compost.  When in doubt, allow the
compost to set longer or test a bit in a small potted plant before amending large quantities of garden soil with compost. Compost should be added yearly to gardens to keep the earth soil rich and for the continuous release of nutrients into the soil.

Peat Moss: Peat moss is essentially decomposed and dry organic matter containing some form of non-living or petrified moss. It is great for absorbing water and gradually releasing the water along with minerals that are present in the peat.  Peat moss is great to add to compost and soil mixtures to lighten the density and
reduce watering requirements.

Perlite: Perlite is volcanic minerals that have been pulverized and heated. This is added to soil to make it porous. It is also used as a soilless medium in plant mixtures for drought tolerant plants such as cactus and succulents.

Vermiculite: Vermiculite is an altered form of the mineral of mica. The Mica ore is heated to very high temperatures to make vermiculite. It is also added to soil mixtures to increase the soil’s porous ability and is used in soilless mediums for drought tolerant plants as well.

Recipe for Rich Soil

To create a basic, healthy soil-mixture for growing a variety of plants combine 4 parts soil to 1 part compost and ¼ part Peat moss and ¼ part either Vermiculite or Perlite. Mix well.

Happy Planting!psoil is the surface portion of undisturbed soil. It may be only an inch or so deep on thin mountainous land, or several or many feet deep in the river valleys and coastal plains. It is usually a darker color than the deeper subsoil because of it's higher organic content. Because of this relative organic richness, it
is generally easier to handle than subsoil. It cultivates better, is less sticky or likely to cake. But with these advantages come some disadvantages--particularly the likelihood of weed seeds that accumulate in surface soil.
Subsoil is usually lighter in color, more sticky, less fertile and more difficult to handle. Typical are foundation diggings. Because such soil comes from a greater depth, it usually contains no weed seeds. For lawn making this advantage may be big and even outweigh the disadvantages. Subsoils are fairly easy to improve.
How To Improve Your Soil

You can't really change your soil's texture but you can improve it. However, it takes a large amount of effort and a long time to see any kind of permanent results. If your soil is extremely light (silty or sandy) you will probably want to mix in some fine-particle ingredients to make it less porous and more moisture-retentive. If
your soil is very heavy (clay-like) you will want to loosen it, again making it more porous and better drained.

The ideal is, of course, somewhere between extreme lightness or heaviness. Such soils are called loams. Loam is a rather indefinite description as you can see, but implies enough large or coarse particles (like sand) so that porosity and drainage are good, and yet sufficient small particles (like clay or organic materials) to
hold fertility, nutrients and moisture abundantly. Such a soil is almost automatically a good home for beneficial microorganisms.

One of the best ways to improve either a heavy or a light soil is through the addition of organic materials. This seems to be a contradiction, but as you'll see below, it's easy to understand why it works so well.
What To Do If Your Soil Is Too Heavy

Clay soils are sticky-slippery when wet, and bake hard when dry. They hold water and fertility well. However, the tiny clay particles have the shape of plates and nest so tightly that they practically eliminate pore space. Roots can hardly penetrate, and water drains poorly. Such soils are difficult to cultivate except at a certain
stage of moderate moistness which may occur only a few days out of a year! Usually they are so slow to dry out in spring that you cannot do early planting. Then in summer they may cake and crack unmercifully. While this may not be too bad under a lawn, it is bad in a garden.

For your garden soil, try mixing two or three inches of organic material into the top six inches of a cultivated bed, to loosen it and improve its structure. Drainage can also be improved by loosening the soil through cultivation and by mixing in soil amendments. If the soil remains soggy much of the time, it may even be
desirable to lay tile lines about two feet beneath the surface, to carry off standing water to a drainage channel.

There are several common misconceptions about improving clay soil. One is that adding sand to a clay soil will loosen it up and improve it. Adding sand to a clay soil will probably make it harder and more like cement. Another is that adding gypsum to a clay soil will improve it through a process called "flocculation." This is
true, but only if you have a very sodic soil (high in sodium), a quite rare soil type not found on the North Coast. Gypsum is a calcium sulfate product sometimes used for pH correction. On our soils it is better to use lime for pH correction. While gypsum does not help raise soil pH as well as lime, gypsum does supply the
nutrients calcium and sulfur to soil. Shredded wallboard is an ideal additive if your soil needs these nutrients - it is available free from Doug Lantelme, owner of Bayside Drywall; call 443-8728.
What To Do If Your Soil Is Too Light

Silty or sandy soils suffer the opposite troubles from heavy ones. They tend to be so porous that water and nutrients flush through, and this means overly frequent watering and feeding. But they can be cultivated and trod upon at any time of year without fear of compacting them--a concern with clays. You can increase their
ability to hold moisture by adding clay-like materials or organic materials. About five percent clay thoroughly tilled six inches deep into sandy soil, or two or three inches of organic material similarly mixed in, should do the job.

Humus, Composts and Mulches
How You Can Produce Humus

An easy old-time method of increasing soil organic content was to grow ryegrass or soybeans, and then plow them under as a green manure. You can do this in between harvests if you grow a winter cover crop. Much the same effect can be obtained by mixing purchased organic materials--such as peat--into the soil. But
avoid introducing weed seeds. This will be a hazard if you obtain manure from a local barnlot. There may be weed seeds in the hay, or even in piles of sawdust left to rot at the mills.

Such organics yield humus when they decompose, but they should be mostly decomposed when you use them. If organic materials high in carbohydrate (such as sawdust or straw) are mixed fresh into soil, a temporary imbalance of fertility results until decay has progressed. The little organisms which cause rotting
compete with garden plants for nitrogen. If you are mixing incompletely decomposed organics into your soil, you should add at least a pound of actual nitrogen to each 1,000 square feet or your plants may starve at the very time you think you are helping to nourish them.
Often organics are first put on as a mulch--that is, a surface layer. Some decomposition occurs during the growing season, and then the residues are mixed into the soil.
Composting

Many gardeners prefer to have a compost pile where they dump weeds, fallen autumn leaves, and grass clippings, and allow them to decompose into humus. Practically anything that was once alive can be added, including garbage from the kitchen such as non-meat table scraps, egg cartons, paper towels, eggshells, coffee
grounds, shredded paper from the office, etc. Various techniques are used, but the main objective is to encourage the microorganisms to attack the organics. These little organisms need moisture and air in order to flourish. So a compost heap should be arranged to drain adequately, but it should be dished out at the top to
trap water rather than shed it. In some instances, purchased bacteria or earthworms are added, but usually nature supplies these adequately.
For quick composting, layers of rich soil are often interspersed between the organic material, possibly with lime and fertilizer added as well. Loosening or turning the compost aerates it and speeds the decomposition. A well-laid pile will function even in winter, for the internal activity releases heat.
The time it takes to produce humus, in favorable conditions, may be only a few weeks. But if you are not in a hurry, you can pile things up as they accumulate, and they will gradually rot to black humus in the oldest part of the pile.
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