What is the Difference between Topsoil and Compost?

Soil is a place to start when you are trying to lay a new landscape or project for a garden. We all thrive for healthy soil with the right mix of nutrients in it. With the labels like Topsoil and Compost, it will be a riddle to choose quality products for the crop. We will help you decide whichever is best for you by explaining all about topsoil and compost along with their differences.

What is Topsoil?

What is Topsoil?

Topsoil is the top layer of the soil packed with natural nutrients with some organic matter and specks of dirt. Topsoil is added to retain moisture in the soil because of its loamy texture. It can be bought from a nearby garden center to match the soil and contains little compost to make it first-rate healthy soil. Topsoils are sedimented soils.

Uses of Topsoil

  • Can be used to raise the bed level of the Landscape

Topsoil can be used to level the landscape by raising it above the subsoil to plant.

  • Filling in the area of cultivation

It can be used to fill in the area of cultivation if needed.

  • Create a new lawn

 To create a new lawn, topsoil must be used in a field to either lay turf or to grow grass.

  • To improve existing soil

For gardens with poor soil quality, Topsoil will help fix it and make it quality soil.

According to the Social Science Society of America,

  • Topsoil is the most productive layer of soil.
  • It takes more than 500 years to form one inch of Topsoil.
  • Five tons of Topsoil spread over an acre is only thick as a dime.

What is Compost?

What is Compost?

Compost is considered black gold because of its various benefits to the garden. It consists of organic decaying matter such as twigs, shredded leaves, animal waste, and food scraps. Compost acts as a natural fertilizer and is environment-friendly. Compost is excellent for plants and vegetables. 

Uses of Compost

  • To boost plant growth

Compost is used to boost plant growth by adding it to topsoil.

  • Acts as a Soil conditioner

Compost is filled with nutrients which make it the best conditioner for soil.

  • Conserve water

Compost conserves water efficiently due to its ability to retain water.

According to EPA the five areas to control in composting basics are, The browns(plant waste) and greens(grass, vegetable, and fruit waste) should be in equal amounts in the compost pile along with the required water. The particle size should be small with a certain oxygen level and temperature

In short 

  • Topsoil is to improve the bulk of the land and compost is to improve the quality of the soil.
  • Quality Compost should be dark brown with worms and mites, with about 70% of moisture.
  • Quality Topsoil contains organic matter and compost mixed in sand and clay soil with minimal debris.

Difference between Topsoil and Compost

Difference between Topsoil and Compost

Topsoil and compost are both ingredients to add to the soil to make the soil packed with nutrients.

Topsoil can be used in large plots of land, existing plants, shrubs, and trees to add to the soil, whereas compost can be used in potted plants, fruits, vegetables, and flowers where it acts as moisture retention for the roots.

Compost moreover is used to amend the existing soil but topsoil is used to add a quantity of soil.

Compared to Compost, topsoil has better moisture retention.

Compost is all natural but takes time to make, topsoil needs to be paid to get, and no quality guarantee for it.

Difference  Topsoil Compost
Pro and cons Pros Cons Pros Cons
1 To create a new lawn Mostly Paid to buy Full of nutrients Takes up a lot of space
2 To Level out and fill in the garden No quality guarantee Great for potted plants Takes time to make
3 Improve soil quality Improve soil health Smell
4 Moisture retention Eco-friendly

Can Topsoil and Compost be Mixed Together?

Yes, compost and topsoil can be mixed together. By mixing the two, you will get the potting compost for your pots. In case of establishing a new garden plot: If the existing soil is adequate then add the compost to have good quality soil.

If the existing soil is not adequate in terms of nutrients in it, then add topsoil and compost.

Compost acts as an add-on to topsoil to pack more nutrients into the soil. Topsoil is a lesser expensive substitute for the other, with a greater water-holding capacity.


In the end, topsoil and compost are intertwined together to grow healthy plants, fruits, vegetables, and trees. Compost is mostly preferred as it is eco-friendly and cost-effective but topsoil is necessary to make the most out of the compost. Choosing wisely will lead to better utilisation of it.


Can plants grow in compost alone?

Compost has a low moisture content which makes it bad for the plant to grow.

How long does the compost last?

Compost can last for three to four months after the composition.