Getting To Know Dirt

You walk into a gardening supply center and notice stacks of plastic bags full of soil lining the aisle. There are important differences in those bags of dirt, and knowing how they are used will help you to have a healthier garden, flower bed and yard. When you talk with a landscape design company about yard improvement, you'll have a better idea of what types of soil to put where in your yard. Here is the real scoop on those bags of dirt.


This typically refers to the first few inches of dirt in your yard. This dirt should be a little spongy and contain a small amount of organic matter so grass can easily grow in it. It should not have a high percentage of clay or sand, or you'll have difficulty growing anything in it.

Over time, topsoil can be blown off, washed off, compacted or bereft of nutrients. If this is the case in your yard, have a landscaping service spread fresh topsoil over the yard. Have the landscaper use a tiller to mix the new topsoil with the existing dirt. If you don't mix the two, a barrier can develop between the new and old dirt that makes it difficult for water to penetrate the ground. You'll end up with erosion and drainage problems.

Sandy Soil

This soil has a high percentage of silica and quartz. It doesn't hold water well and is good for areas where you have poor drainage in your yard. Plants that grow well in near-drought conditions do well in sandy soil, but you can mix organic materials (compost) into the soil to help other plants grow there too.


This is made of leaves, bark, wood chips and other yard waste. It's very porous but holds onto moisture well. When mixed with topsoil, it loosens it up and adds more nutrients. When used alone on flower beds and gardens, it retains the water, prevents erosion and protects plant roots from direct sunlight. It also decomposes over time, adding nutrients to the soil.


This term is given to dirt that is a mixture of silt, sand and clay. It is an airy type of soil that helps with drainage in the garden and slows down evaporation. This is a good general-purpose growing medium for gardens and flower beds. Most plants will grow in loam without adding any other organic materials. If you have a large garden, have a landscape company deliver and spread the loam instead of dealing with multiple bags from the garden center.

Peat Moss

This is a dark brown or black mixture of soil dense with organic materials. This dirt keeps plants moist during the driest months. This dirt tends to be slightly acidic compared to the topsoil on which it rests. The high acidity is favored by some plants and it also makes them resistant to disease. Not all plants do well in peat, so check with a professional landscaping company, like Hickory Lane Farm's Nursery & Landscape LLC, before spreading this throughout your flower beds and garden.

Garden Soil

This is a generic term given to dirt mixtures used for growing specific plants. You can find garden soil for roses, flowering shrubs and potted plants. Match the garden soil with the particular type of plant you are growing because other plants won't do a well in soil with a different pH and organic composition. If in doubt, use a good loamy soil, which accommodates nearly any type of plant.