If you are importing amendments or soil into your yard it is unreasonable to expect them to be weed free. A wise gardener with an established bed of perennials will hold their breath for two weeks after they have top dressed a lawn or filled their garden. There would be a daily weed patrol, sometimes even at night with a miner’s helmet. This gardener will know to nick out any unwanted growth immediately.
This gardener will also know that even perfect diligence can miss one…there under the Hosta leaf is that bit of green gout that has now grown into the plant. Now the poor guy will either have to pull the weed for the rest of his life or get rid of the Hosta. If he is a nice gardener he will not gift this plant to a friend.
If you do not think this is important than the point of this article is to get you to see. In fairness you may not have had to deal with Bishop’s Weed, Mare’s Tail or Creeping Charlie before, your naivete is pardoned but be warned. It is not even possible to rationalize the cost of an infestation, how long the sentence is in hours or the cost in plants.
The ideal way to make using soil for top dressing and amending garden beds safe is to create a “soil nursery” garden or an annual bed. The logic of this is simple. Monitor the soil for a year before using it in an established garden. Use this garden for gifted plants like split Hostas and Irises etc. These gifts can prove very expensive if they have weeds growing in them.
Practicalities. A bag of dirt (a yard) would create a garden 15’ by 3’ x 6” deep. You could fill about 17 four foot window boxes. The following spring you can use this soil to top dress lawns or add to established gardens. Get a new bag of dirt and replenish your “soil nursery”. On small city lots this is hardly feasible but you could work through a half yard of soil and buy 10 smaller bags.
Many people will buy baskets and at the end of the year throw them out with the dirt still in them. Why not dump them on the lawn and rake it in. The soil has no best before date after all and every little bit helps.
Pause before reacting to your garden. Spring is crazy explosive and full of energy but you are the parent of that two year old, you do not have to have the same energy. Just enjoy it.
Why exactly are you buying dirt and do you really need it? I have been consulting for years and it amazes me how people in the spring do too much and do not understand garden techniques, think “helicopter parenting”. Garden tips are not difficult and by becoming gardener you ironically become more relaxed.
Some Useless Info
Bagged dirt is amended dirt. It is not magical. Consider amending your own. This could save time. If your dirt is clay sand is needed.
Bagged dirt is good dirt and is more consistent, it is not a “pig in a poke”. If you order from another local supplier look into what he has to offer and talk with people.
Cheap top dirt? You get what you pay for.
Part of the unseen costs of the large bags is it takes longer to shovel out. It takes a solid hour to unpack a bag using muscles you never knew you had. (use a shorter spade) To unload a truck would take 20 minutes, to pick up from drive and clean up 35 minutes. (all using muscles that are practiced)
See point above. Price in a massage therapist if you do not shovel often.
Returning the bag to supplier takes time and makes a mess in your car.
Consider that about 17 bags (2 cu feet) has the same volume of soil. Price out getting these delivered and do a cost comparison. (The large bags we unpack generally have more than a yard for those who are doing the math) (the same thinking about weeds is needed for any soil)
For some reason I think of Fanny Mae and how she changed recipes by defining a pinch and dash, changing them to teaspoons and cups. Here are some conversions for you.
A bag will top dress a lawn 40’ by 20’
There are 11 wheelbarrow loads in a bag (4 cu ft barrow two thirds full)) (plus 3 shovel loads)
It takes 55 minutes to unpack and move 180’
the last three barrow loads are the most difficult on one’s back. Consider throwing a child to the bottom with a bucket to niggle out corners.
…and yes I know how many spade fulls of dirt there are. How many do you think?