Whether you’re newer to the world of landscaping and gardening, or you’ve got a confirmed “green thumb”, you may be a bit confused about the differences between compost and topsoil.

It’s often difficult to understand when you should use one or the other – and even people who have been landscaping in Vancouver for years may not have all of the facts! That’s why we’re here with this in-depth article.

We’ll examine the difference between compost and topsoil, discuss what material is better for specific landscaping applications, and get you all of the information you need to make the right decision for your garden, or your landscaping. Let’s get started.

The Difference Between Compost And Topsoil

Here’s where the confusion usually starts – some people use the words “compost” and “topsoil” interchangeably. However, these materials are very different.

what is topsoil

Topsoil is, as the name may suggest, the “top” of your soil – and is usually composed of dirt and soil which is very high in nutrients and organic materials. Typically, topsoil is dug from other patches of land, or from gardens. Usually, it’s also sifted to remove debris such as weed seeds, debris, small sticks and twigs, and other detritus.

Topsoil is usually purchased directly from a garden supply center, or from an independent vendor. You can buy bags of topsoil and add it directly to your own soil, enhancing its nutrient profile.

This is especially useful if you have a clay-based soil, or you have a soil that’s lacking in nutrients, and need to enhance it for a specific plan to grow.

The main drawback of topsoil is that you’re never quite sure what quality you’re getting. Different brands and batches can vary dramatically in chemical and physical composition, which can result in serious inconsistencies.

what is compost

Compost is quite different from topsoil. Compost refers to a highly-nutritious blend of organic materials, usually created by an individual gardener from kitchen scraps, grass clippings, small twigs, and other organic material harvested from their property.

These scraps are “composted” in a compost bin or in a large pile. They are all piled together, and over time, micro-organisms and worms will begin to break down each individual piece of organic material. This results in an extremely nutrient-rich compost.

There are a ton of different ways you can use compost. You can mix it into topsoil or mulch for an additional boost of nutrients, or you can mix it directly into your existing soil to increase soil quality.

While most people make their own compost, it takes a while – up to 3-6 months – so you can also usually buy compost from local farms and suppliers, if desired.

Now that you understand the differences between topsoil and compost, let’s discuss the different applications for these two products.

Compost Vs. Topsoil For A New Lawn

If you have enough, compost is a fantastic choice for a new lawn. You can dig down into your soil by about four inches, then spread a layer of compost over the entire area, and mix it together thoroughly before the application of sod or grass seed.

This will boost the nutrient profile of your lawn, and result in fantastic growth. However, this requires a huge volume of compost – so it is a bit wasteful if you don’t have a large supply. Also, if you incorporate grass clippings and leaves into your compost, you may end up with weed seeds – which is not ideal for a new lawn.

Because of this, most people turn to topsoil for their new lawns. Topsoil is much more affordable in bulk, and can help build up soil that is clay-like or nutrient poor.

You can always add some of your compost to your topsoil. This combines the “best of both worlds”. You don’t have to use up your entire compost supply on a lawn, but you can still ensure your topsoil has plenty of nutrients for your newly-growing grass.

Topsoil Vs. Compost For A Vegetable Garden

Topsoil does have some good uses for a vegetable garden. If you need to build up a mounded area or a new gardening zone, an application of topsoil is the best, most inexpensive way to build it up.

However, you can eschew topsoil altogether if you have enough compost. Compost doubles as both a topsoil and a mulch – so it can be used as the base for your vegetable garden, without any topsoil required.

Typically, we would recommend using compost over topsoil for a vegetable garden, if at all possible. A nutritious compost will provide fantastic results when it comes to vegetable growth – and as your vegetables grow, die, and return to the soil, it will continue to become more and more nutritionally dense!

Understand The Difference Between Compost And Topsoil – Garden With Confidence!

Whether you’re landscaping in Vancouver like us, or you’re a home gardener looking to grow better fruits and vegetables, knowing the difference between topsoil and compost is essential. So think about this advice, get into the dirt, and start growing stronger, better plants!