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how to make topsoil?

Discussion in 'Nurseries and Growers' started by "Ground Control", Jan 7, 2008.

  1. "Ground Control"

    "Ground Control" LawnSite Member
    Posts: 133

    I am looking into starting a landscape supply center and I don't really know where to get topsoil or if I can screen it myself. Can I get excavation companies to dump their excavated dirt from foundations on my property and then can I screen it? What all is in topsoil....is compost mixed in with it? Thanks for any info....
  2. PerfectEarth

    PerfectEarth LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,734

    No offense GroundControl, but as SouthernGreenScapes said (minus the tone), you should really know what topsoil is. "Topsoil" is not really MADE, it's naturally "deposited" over a very long periods of time (an true inch takes hundreds of years.) What an excavation company will dump and market as "topsoil" will be sod, topsoil, and majority CLAY and possible rock. I would do some serious research if you want ot find a good source. A screen or shreader is expensive for an onsite operation. Then you'll need a good loader. And you'll need dry storage.

    Topsoil has around 8-10% organic material in it. Some supply yards sell a "Landscape" or "Perennial" mix that is premixed and contains sand, compost and (hopefully) a decent topsoil.
  3. "Ground Control"

    "Ground Control" LawnSite Member
    Posts: 133

    Thanks for the reply PerfectEarth, no offense taken. I guess it wasn't a very clear question. I know what true "topsoil" is but most nurseries and supply yards sell what they call "topsoil". In most cases this isnt real topsoil take from the top layer of ground is it? I thought that a mix could be made similiar to topsoil by screening dirt and maybe adding compost, or sand to clay soils, or clay to sandy soils. Sorry for my lack of knowledge....haha:confused::cry:
  4. muddstopper

    muddstopper LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,342

    Takeing loose dirt and mixing in compost isnt topsoil. If you are really talking about building topsoil, expect it to take some time.

    A decent portable screen can cost around $30 grand. With the screen being portable, you can take it to the site the soil is being removed from and screen the materials there. This allows to sort the real topsoil from the plain dirt instead of having it all mixed together in a big dump. This means haveing to have a loader as well as a dumptruck to transport the screened soil to your site for storage as well as for hualing off the waste.
  5. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,720

    I've got a step brother in the topsoil biz, and we've discussed this question before...

    The makeup of a 'perfect' topsoil mix would be exactly 1/3 sand, 1/3 clay and 1/3 silt.
    And of that 33.33% 'silt' component; a certain percentage would of course be of organic origin- 50% or so, give or take a little.

    Are you going to be able to buy such a perfect mix such as this all the time?

    Not likely.

    They're usually much more heavy on the sand and silt side.
    This is because many topsoil outfits are run by the same folks that handle gravel pits and the like... and often they 'mine' the lowland of topsoil in much the same way as a gravel pit.
  6. PerfectEarth

    PerfectEarth LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,734

    Here's how you farm topsoil for a big project! Scrape the weed layer off (you still get some, of course) and pile it up!

    That field will last us a season, tilling down the piles and working on the flat areas with a pulverizer or tiller- it makes the most gorgeous stuff you've ever seen!

    Work-Nov. 06 049.jpg

    Work-Nov. 06 043.jpg
  7. bishoplandscape

    bishoplandscape LawnSite Member
    Posts: 169

    Around here we'll dig a pond or swamp to recover all the peat let it completly dry out and screen it, 50/50 peat vs sand some times less sand comes out very nice. Perfectearth has it down!
  8. coopers

    coopers LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,224

    Perfect earth, you have any other pics of the screening process and end result?

  9. barefeetny

    barefeetny LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 533

    in ny

    there is a guy who hauls horse manure

    he gets it for free...

    he bought a small peice of bank and gets sand for free

    the municipalitys do ditching and haul tandem loads to a lot he has


    He mixes equal parts and calls it topsoil

    is it really?

    No... allthought it contains some topsoil...

    does it work? yeah i grew plently of grass on this stuff... i ve bought 100s of yards of this stuff at the price he sells it for... its the best clean fill you ever have seen...


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