Topsoil and Topsoil Testing
Topsoil can be purchase from a lot of places in Spain. Some good and some not so good. But wherever you buy your topsoil from, remember in Spain topsoil is just that - soil that has been removed from the top of a field.
This page is applicable to new topsoil or the topsoil on your existing lawn.
Topsoil can be purchased from garden centers, who will inevitably have or know somebody that has mounds of the stuff sitting there ready to be sold. It originates from many sources, such as the excavation soil from a swimming pool installation to soil that has been excavated before the footings of a new house are filled with concrete.
Tip: Without exception I have never seen topsoil in Spain that is good enough to grow a good grass lawn. It is either full of stones, weeds, or contains too much clay or sand. Basically, unless you really have to infill your land because there is no soil, it is better to improve your existing soil.
Note also the colour of the soil photo on the left.
Before purchasing the topsoil, remember to ask if it is weed free. Now this may be a naive question, but a least you will get some sort of answer. You will have to decide whether the answer is accurate. Ask to take a sample away, a bucket full will be enough to test.
Soil is mostly composed of Clay, Silt and Sand. Does it look good? If it looks yellow or white it probably contains a lot of sand. This type of soil does not retain water and will dry out quickly, and means you will need to water your lawn more frequently. If it is red in colour, it probably was good for growing grapes, but contains a lot of iron. This is not in itself bad, but the soil will have a tendency to be clayey and become water logged. To be sure why not let us do a soil composition test?
You can do your own simple soil test, before purchasing new topsoil. Its a good starting point, you will find out a lot about its texture and it will cost you nothing. Take a handful of the topsoil, add some water and squeeze until all the water has been squeezed out. Good topsoil for growing a lawn will contain loam (the brown stuff), organic matter (the black stuff), silt (the sludgy stuff) and sand (the beach type stuff).
Then prod it to see if the ball of soil breaks up.
For tests 1 and 2 you can correct by adding appropriate amounts of organic matter, sand and/or topsoil.
Plant 6 test pots with some of the topsoil, water well and leave in a warm sunny place for 10 days. Basically see what comes up, after all you don't want to be watering weed seeds when you think you are watering your grass.
Dig a hole about 8 inches deep into the topsoil and pour about 2" of water into the hole. Time how long it takes for the water level to reduce to 1".
|Fact: Tests 1 to 4 can
be performed before purchasing any soil.
More lawns fail, due to pH imbalance and composition than watering issues.
There are many people that want to touch and feel grass before they buy. However, very few of the tests on this page are followed before buying topsoil. Maybe it is because of the relative cost of a lorry load of soil versus the cost of turf, seed or plugs.
However, one thing is guaranteed, get the soil wrong and your investment in plugs, seed or turf will be a complete waste of money.
After these 4 basic tests have been completed you will be in a much better position to purchase your topsoil.