Compost Vs Topsoil : Key Differences

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In Brief: Compost Vs Topsoil

Knowing the difference between compost and topsoil can make a world of difference to your garden. Primarily, the differences come down to how you use these two products. Compost adds nutrients and minerals to the soil, whereas topsoil is used to cover the soil in your garden. Here’s which one is better and when it should be used.

Not unlike a cake, soil is more than simply the top layer that we can all see. In fact, what lies beneath can make all the difference when it comes to the health of your garden or lawn.

The soil is the powerhouse of your plants, and both compost and topsoil make a significant difference.

Compost Vs Topsoil – Which Is Better and When?

Can be made using kitchen scraps and garden trimmingsNeeds to be bought
Used to nourish the soilUsed to create new gardens or above-ground gardening
Takes some time to makeImmediate availability(store-bought)
Saves landfills and does not contain pathogens or weeds when done correctlyMight contain weeds, stones, sticks, etc.
Full of nutrientsLack of appropriate levels of nutrients

When we look at the differences between compost and topsoil above, one can easily state that the compost we can make at home is the clear winner. However, this also depends on your purpose.

For instance, if you want to create a new garden, level a hole, or put plants in pots, you need to use topsoil. Topsoil is used at any time when you want to start anew or you need to raise the level of the soil.

Alternatively, compost is not used for the same purposes. In fact, gardeners use compost at least every year in order to nurture their plants and add many nutrients to the soil, keeping them healthy.

On the other hand, if you opt for making your own compost, this could take some time – from 2 weeks up to 2 years, depending on the method and materials you choose.

Compost is often added to topsoil in order to add nutrients.

Here’s a quick video demonstrating the main differences between compost and topsoil:


All About Compost

Compost is a mix of different natural materials that decompose into organic matter. It is full of nutrients that fertilize the soil.

Compost is often used to improve the structure of the soil, reduce compaction, and improve water retention and drainage. Compost is the key to having thriving plants.

Compost is used when you want to enrich the quality of your soil. Most gardeners add 1-2 inches of compost each year to keep their plants healthy and thriving.

This is because the numerous decades of agriculture and construction weakened the natural composition of the soils, leaving them depleted. Compost is a natural, environmentally-friendly way of providing food to your plants.

When you plant flower beds, veggies, fruits, or trees, you should add compost to the soil. You can do so by tilling or raking the compost into the soil, which will add nutrients to your soil.

If you are planning to organize new garden beds, set up pots for your patios, or do any other above-ground gardening, the situation is different. Compost alone will not let you achieve your objectives.

Finding quality compost is quite difficult. This is why most gardeners either choose to buy the compost from trusted sources or simply make their own compost.

All About Topsoil

Topsoil is the layered humus between the subsoil and the surface. The humus is composed of partially decomposed organic matter. This is the layer with the most nutrients.

The more compost you add to the topsoil, the better the quality is, and it becomes the stepping stone towards a great, healthy garden.

Topsoil is used in many situations. Often, it is bought in bulk to level or raise the soil to a desired level.

Topsoil is often taken from a field or a building site, and most of the time, organic matter is mixed in to provide nutrients.

It can be clay or sand, but sometimes, it also contains small amounts of compost, which decomposes over time. Nonetheless, sand and clay remain in its composition.

For example, if you want to build a flower or veggie bed and you need soil to raise it to your preferred level, you should buy bulk topsoil. This can be added to spots where large trees were removed, as well as many other locations.

One thing you need to be prepared for when you buy and use topsoil is weeds. Unlike compost, topsoil can shelter numerous weed seeds.

If you have a project and you plan to use topsoil, be ready to handle these weeds.

When it comes to the quality of topsoil, the process is not as straightforward. This is because there are no industry standards to regulate the proper quality of topsoil.

As a result, you should do thorough research before purchasing topsoil.

A quality product has both organic matter and compost combined with clay or sand. It should have a large number of sticks or stones, and you should find no or minimal debris.


In conclusion, the debate of compost vs. topsoil depends on your needs and intended purposes.

If you need to create a new project, topsoil needs to be chosen and then mixed with compost.

Make sure you spend sufficient time researching, as the quality of the topsoil is important.

For any other task, compost is the go-to choice for all gardeners, it is environmentally friendly, and it can be made with ease using household waste.