Loam Soil vs Top Soil: What is the Difference Between Them?

In this article, we will address the basic questions on Loam soil vs Top soil, which soil is better? How much water can top and loam soil hold? As a home gardener, I can understand that you might be confused coming across the terms Topsoil, Loam soil, compost, or clay soil. 

Topsoil and loam soil might look similar in color and texture but they are different. Let us take a complete look at both soils to get a better understanding of them.

What is Loam soil vs Top soil?

Loam soil

Loam soil

According to USDA Textural Triangle (below), Loam soil contains 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay with no or lesser natural organic matter. Loam soil is a mixture of equal amounts of sand, silt, and clay. With the one element increased, it is named sandy loam, sandy clay loam, and silt loam. Loam soil is best used for agriculture and gardening.

Source: nrcs.usda.gov



Topsoil is the Topmost layer of soil with a depth of 8 to 12 inches packed with microorganisms and organic matter. It acts as a seedbed and rooting system for crops. Topsoil can vary from region to region and environment. Given below is the recent weekly report from USDA on the percentage of Topsoil moisture from the upper six inches.

Source: cpc.ncep.noaa.gov

Loam Soil vs Topsoil


  • Only less than 10 % of organic matter is present in natural soil. 
  • Both Topsoil and Loam soil contain less than 2% of organic matter.

Loam Soil Vs Top Soil: What are the Advantages of Each? 

Loam soil

  • The moisture retention of Loam soil is good with the free water and airflow in the soil.
  • Topsoil retains an abundance of nutrients which helps the crop to grow fast and healthy.
  • The loam soil with clay has the highest PH of 9.0 than other loam types.
  • Other than for plants, Loam soil is best used for pottery.


  • Topsoil is rich in nutrients such as Nitrogen, potassium, and magnesium. These nutrients are found naturally in Topsoil which helps plant growth. The nutrients make the soil fertile depending on the quantity of them in the soil.
  • The soil varies in texture with its environment and the area.
  • With an average PH of 6.0, topsoil is slightly acidic and alkaline, which is very good for plants.
  • The usage of Unscreened Topsoil taken from excavations are for creating or filling the garden. while the screened ones are more refined ones from unscreened ones, they are for growing flowers and plants.

Loam Soil vs Topsoil: What are the Disadvantages of Each? 

Loam soil

  • Loam soil is highly prone to erosion because of its texture.
  • Loam soil is mostly not for plants and vegetables.


  • Poor-quality soil might decrease plant growth.
  • Requires amendments often with organic matter and water.

Loam Soil vs Topsoil

Loam Soil vs Topsoil

Loam soil Topsoil
High Nutrient Filled with organic matter
Formed from Mixed soil Formed in a certain proportion in sand, silt, and clay
High moisture-holding capacity Better after adding compost or manure
Hard soil with a holdable texture Finer particles and tightly packed



  • Fixing patchy lawn
  • Leveling the flowerbed
  • Create new lawn
  • Improve drainage

Loam soil

  • To grow fruits like berries.
  • Common veggies like Tomato, Onion, Lettuce, and peppers.

Is Loam soil the same as Topsoil?

Loam soil is not the same as Topsoil though both are used interchangeably without knowing the exact difference in it. Loam soil has a fixed proportion of soil in it whereas Topsoil is not fixed. As well the texture and organic matter differ. 

Loam Soil vs Top Soil: Which is better?

Loam Soil vs Top Soil: Which is better?

All Loam is Topsoil but all Topsoil is not Loam.

It is not easy to say which is better than the other. But adding some organic matter with Loam soil can make the best Topsoil for the plants.

How much water can Topsoil and Loam soil hold?

With both Topsoil and Loam soil, the mixture of soils matters to determine the water-holding capacity. With the higher clay content, less water is needed. In the case of Higher sand content, higher water is needed. On average 1 inch of water per foot of soil can hold water in both Topsoil and Loam soil.


With a clear explanation of the differences between Topsoil and Loam soil, it is good to use both with the preferences of each. Selecting the right one for the crop is necessary to grow a healthy one. But the best way for you is to use the Loam soil as topsoil with organic matter.


Which soil is best for plant growth?

Loamy soil is best for plant growth because of its high clay content in it.

Why is topsoil good for plants?

With its texture and moisture content, Topsoil gives better space for plants to grow.

How thick should topsoil be?

Topsoil should be spread at least 2 -3 inches above the subsoil in the ground.