British Columbia: Top soil or compost? need help to buy soil

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by wyx2000, Jun 29, 2012.

  1. wyx2000

    wyx2000 Member

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    I really like planting vegetable, now I need more veg beds, and need more soil.
    It is a new yard, so no soil at all, only a sand base, turf with a thin layer of dirt. I need buy some.
    I thought what I really need is dirt and then I can add things like peat moss etc. But then it seems I should buy top soil? I found there are top soil amender and top soil. top soil amender is pure compost and top soil is compost mixed with some sand.
    That confused me since I know compost will decay in a period of time, why all I get are just compost, where is the dirt?
    Any idea? thanks for your help.
     
  2. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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    Real top soil is a mixture of different sized rock particles, and organics. The best soil for vegetable production has a good mix of sand, silt and clay with about 4-8% organics. There is a lot of soil detail that one can go into with regards to cation exchange capacity, nutrient balance, mineralization, etc., which a home gardener probably doesn't need to go into.

    Your best bet would be to get some screened topsoil delivered via dump truck versus buying the bagged mixes at the garden centers. You can always amend that over time with compost and other nutrient sources. It can take a few years to build really good gardening soil...
     
  3. wyx2000

    wyx2000 Member

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    Thanks, are you saying the screened top soil is not enough while bagged mixes is ? Here is a description of top soil from Fraser Richmond

    Garden Blend Top Soil can be used for most gardening and landscaping projects. It is a 75% compost and 25% sand mix that provides sustained soil fertility, soil structure, growth stimulants and enough porosity to improve drainage.

    I only see compost and sand, does that mean it doesn't have clay?
     
  4. Lysichiton

    Lysichiton Active Member

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    Loosen up the top 4-6 inches of your subsoil before you add the "topsoil" you buy. Fork it over to mix it up a bit. Start composting all the clean, seed free material & add that to the beds over the years.

    Don't worry. Over time, your plant roots, worms & all the other soil activity that goes on in your soil will take care of the mix. Remember that soil is generally stratified (in layers), often with an organic-rich top layer over more mineralized lower layers.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2012
  5. wyx2000

    wyx2000 Member

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    Thanks.

    Maybe you didn't read my post, I don't have soil now at all. So there is no subsoil.

    I don't worry much about nutrition in the soil, I am more concern about the safety of the soil I am getting.
     
  6. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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    What Fraser Richmond sells as top soil is a soil amendment in my opinion. It does not have clay, and sandy soil does require clay to increase its cation exchange capacity, which helps plants grow much better by making nutrients available.

    Screened top soil would be the best starting point. You can then add amendments to make it better. If you want to get really serious, ask for a soil lab analysis of the top soil you are buying, or get a soil test done. Ask the lab for recommendations for amendments (per hundred square feet in your case) which in our climate sometimes requires the addition of calcium and magnesium plus trace minerals. The lab will specify how many pounds of amendments to apply per hundred square feet to create the ideal soil which then must be mixed into the soil.

    This sounds like a bit of work, but it will bring amazing results. Do it right the first time. By the way, most/all of the mineral soil amendments are considered organic as they are naturally occuring minerals. Use compost to provide nitrogen. Get your soil in the right balance, and you'll grow the best vegetables you have ever tasted.
     
  7. wyx2000

    wyx2000 Member

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    Thanks for your reply.
    But it seems you all think the different way, that is how to make a garden soil ready for planting. But my situation is I don't have any soil yet, I need buy them. Not add amendment to existing soil to a balanced result yet.
    So is there a place to sell soil like this? Should I just go get some potting soil? I think I do need clay, but the http://www.meadowsgroup.ca/ doesn't sell anything with clay, they claim their blend soil is what I need, which is 75% compost and 25% sand.
     
  8. wyx2000

    wyx2000 Member

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    Maybe I should ask where to buy some clean clay for vegetable garden? I have no problem to get some peat moss and manure to mix with it.
     
  9. Lysichiton

    Lysichiton Active Member

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    Whatever is under your turf is currently your "subsoil". Happens to be rock & sand on my lot. Definition from a dictionary "the stratum of weathered material that underlies the surface soil". Tree Nut says it right IMO.

    6-8 inches of screened topsoil over your current dirt in raised beds or just rounded-up should do it. BTW doing what I said & Tree Nut says has given me a great veggie garden in 3 years. I added some manure along the way. Plants & soil organisms do the work, you know. We just need to give 'em something to chew on & stir-up; make sure it drains a bit & then stand back...Lysichiton's quick & dirty gardening recipe, LOL. Also do a search for "Lasagna" gardening for your situation.
     
  10. wyx2000

    wyx2000 Member

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    My house a new one, I mean really new, it was not build on a previous lot, the lot was a dug and filled sand, then some concrete debris, more sand to lay it out and then a layer of turf moved from nursery, so typical you will see how they prepare a new yard for a new house now.

    The turf doesn't have much soil, less than 10cm. when I prepare several veg bed before, I dug the turf out and composted to use next year.

    I believe what is in the turf is no good soil, but I composted them and use anyway.

    I always lack of soil, so now I am thinking to buy a truck load when I am planning on more veg beds.

    But it bothers me when I read those compost are from city sewage, and material from garbage collection etc. I have no problem to compost anything from my own family, but from all city? that is hard to accept. And it came the question I asked too, the top soil they sold doesn't have clay in it, will it be enough for me to use?

    I believe you may not even need clay, it is just a material to retain water, right? So sounds like I could just use top soil contains compost and sand only?

    I am thinking another way, maybe I just get potted soil and mix with a little existing soil. I have organic potted soil from costco, it is from a company calls Answer garden, it is OMRI listed, it contains sphagnum peat moss, perlite and bark compost. Do you think it is safer than compost from city or the fraser richmond?
     
  11. Lysichiton

    Lysichiton Active Member

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    The compost you can buy & is mixed into commercial "topsoil" is not from the sewage or the garbage collection. It comes from the Green Waste collection only. The composting is done with a high temperature (160 F as I recall) by regulated commercial operators. There may be some pesticide residue & it cannot be considered an "Organic" material. I have not heard of any problems with it or experienced any myself. After the initial set-up with commercial topsoil, you should be able to rely on compost & manure from individual sources, whose methods of operation you can check. If you want to know more, Metro Vancouver is in charge of the local composters, I believe, & should be able to give you more information.
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2012
  12. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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  13. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    No need to blend the added soil and the existing soil together, in fact in doing so you are wasting part of the purchased soil.
     
  14. wyx2000

    wyx2000 Member

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    That is the question I started the thread, so any idea where to buy the normal top soil that contains 99% rock fragments?
     
  15. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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    click your mouse on the link I provided earlier...
     
  16. wyx2000

    wyx2000 Member

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    Thanks.
    So I can only find that kind of top soil on craigslist? How to ensure the quanlity?
     
  17. growing4it

    growing4it Active Member 10 Years

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    I think you should plan out your garden bed locations and buy a truck load of topsoil. Compost amendment great and something that you could do in the future after you get the volume and depth for your veggies.

    Depending on the volume you order it would make sense to order direct. If you do a search for soil suppliers coquitlam, or check the yellow pages, you'll find a list of suppliers. There are also company will will deliver a large bag of soil.
     
  18. wyx2000

    wyx2000 Member

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    Right, I know there are a few way to get them. I tried to figure out what is good and what is bad, certainly base on cost too.

    A large bad of soil is $99, one yard, too expensive. A truck load of five yard is $200, could contain recycle material from garbage recycle center. Also can get bad of 100% organic potting soil which only contains compost from bark, seems better, and the cost is $90 per yard.

    I may go for the potting soil, since I read that potting soil is right for raised bed which is just a big container like a pot.
     
  19. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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    We've done everything for you except buy the soil. The ad I pointed out on Craigslist was likely good top soil from a former vegetable farm. Even if the nutrients were depleted which is unlikely, it would be very easy to amend the soil to top quality.

    Potting soil is no good for vegetables as it has no minerals (rock fragments), only organics. That has been stated already. Your vegetables may grow but will have little nutritive value. But whatever, do what you want...
     
  20. wyx2000

    wyx2000 Member

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    Thanks for your help.
    I know I am a bit chatter here, I simple just want to get safe soil. It doesn't convince me the only source I can get the right soil is from a random seller from craigslist, if I don't concern about the safety, I could just go get those free landfill dug out by those owners who did reno etc.
     
  21. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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    Where go you think "good" top soil comes from? Where better to buy top soil from then a former farm now likely being turned in to a new shopping center? Or if it was bagged in costco would you buy it? Do a soil test first if you are concerned... It's less than $100 and the best money you'll ever spend if you are serious about growing.
     
  22. wyx2000

    wyx2000 Member

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    I see interesting result here http://www.heraldextra.com/article_bf29bbfa-cff9-5a79-9c62-3e5aaacf7810.html
    "The soils tested were first, loam topsoil purchased at a local greenhouse, with nitrogen added at 21-0-0; second, the same soil and nitrogen with "Black Gold Compost Blend"; third, "Mel's Mix Square Foot Gardening Soil"; and fourth, "Miller's Mix."

    Surprisingly, the loam-compost mix yielded the least vegetables, Ranstrom said. The same mix with just nitrogen yielded slightly better. The "Square Foot" mix probably tripled the yield of the first two, and Miller's Mix did even better."

    And the Mel’s Mix is

    1/3 vermiculite
    1/3 peat moss
    1/3 compost (from as many sources as possible)

    No intention to argue here, just want to know if these is one possible good soil for raised bed, which what I am trying to build.
     
  23. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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    Buy Miller's mix then, as it grows the most vegetables...

    However, the test means nothing to me, as the only soil analysis was PH which was way high on the alkaline side (way too high for vegetables) and not representative of our local soils which are acidic. It could have been deficient or unbalanced in any other number of things or ways. I would like to perform the same test with my garden soil as it would perform much better, and my vegetables even taste good. Also, any good compost contains soil, but I would suspect Millers mix contains industrial compost just like what you're trying to avoid.

    This could also be a quantity vs quality argument. Did they perform a Brix test on the vegetables to determine the amount of sugars and thus flavor? Did they perform mineralization ash tests to determine whether there were any minerals or other tests for vitamins in the vegetables? Make sure you take your vitamins and mineral pills cause your not going to get much with vegetables grown in mostly organics.
     
  24. RedTailHawk

    RedTailHawk New Member

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    Reading back through this thread, you seem to have some answers:

    I just purchased soil through meadows landscape that I believe comes from Fraser Richmond. When I went to inspect it on site, it seemed okay, but now that it's at my house, i notice it clumps/sticks together something terrible.

    Not really sure how to address this without buying more sand, etc. It seems like some people are having no trouble growing directly in it?
     

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