Soil Calculator | How much soil do you need?

Soil Calculator | How much soil do you need?

By Kacper Pawlik and Bogna Szyk

Last updated:


May 12, 2021

We created this soil calculator as a tool to help you calculate how much garden soil you need – whether it is topsoil, compost, mulch or topdressing. After all, you don’t want to overspend on materials for your garden, do you? Keep reading to get a better understanding of how our topsoil calculator works, so you will never need to worry about those tedious calculations again!

For the curious reader, we have prepared information on topics that every farmer or amateur gardener should know. We will present to you a soil definition and explain where it comes from. We will also talk about the different types of soil and two processes that will help you when growing plants – soil conservation and soil degradation.

If you are in the middle of fulfilling your dream of building your own house, don’t forget to check our concrete calculator to see how many bags of cement you will need!

Soil Calculator | How much soil do you need?

How much soil do I need?

“How much soil do I need?” – it is a question frequently asked by people beginning their adventures in gardening and plant cultivation. To answer this question, the first step is to establish the volume of soil needed. You can do it in the following way:

  1. Determine the length and width of the area you want to cover with soil. For example, we can assume an area of length l = 14 yd and width b = 4 yd.
  2. Calculate the area, multiplying the length by width. In our case, A = 14 * 4 = 56 yd². You can also type the area directly into our calculator if you choose a more sophisticated shape. We’ve got area calculators for of many geometric figures, such as the trapezoid or the hexagon. For even more examples, visit the 2d geometry section of our math calculators.
  3. Establish the depth – thickness of the topsoil layer. Let’s say it’s d = 0.5 yd.
  4. Multiply the area and dirt layer thickness to obtain its volume: 56 * 0.5 = 28 yd².
  5. The volume of soil required is equal to this value. Our soil calculator will display it for you.

Different materials than topsoil? No trouble! Take a look at our sand calculator or the gravel calculator, created exactly for this purpose.

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All right, but how much is a yard of dirt?

To calculate the weight of a cubic yard of soil, you simply have to multiply the volume by its density. Just type the density of soil (you will probably find it on the packaging) into the topsoil calculator and this calculation will be performed effortlessly.

Once you know the total weight of soil you have to buy, you won’t have to worry about overspending on this material. But how much exactly will you spend? How much is a yard of dirt? Our dirt calculator can also help you with that – all you have to do is enter the price of topsoil (per unit of mass, such as tonne, or per unit of volume, for example, cubic yard). The calculator will then display the total cost of the soil you need. Now it’s the time to begin planning the plant spacing!

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Dirt calculator – how to estimate garden soil quantity?

Let’s deal with a real-life situation. Imagine that you have just built your beautiful house, with a roof finished with warm red tiles. You want to surround it with a grass yard and pavement made of tiles. To calculate the number of tiles and the amount of paver sand you need to buy before getting to work we recommend you visit our tile and paver sand calculators. It would be a shame to buy too much or even worse – not enough materials, and have to go back to the home improvement store.

Now, let’s get to the grass yard. We want to calculate the required quantity and cost of garden soil. As you can see, we cannot just type the width and length into our dirt calculator as there is a pool in the middle of it. How to deal with this problem?

Soil Calculator | How much soil do you need?

  1. First, we need to divide the grass yard into four rectangles: 1, 2, 3, and 4.

  2. Now, we have to measure the width and length of each sector: * Sector 1 has the width of 2 yd and the length of 25 yd; * Sector 2 has the width of 3 yd and the length of 2 yd; * Sector 3 has the width of 3 yd and the length of 10 yd; * Sector 4 has the width of 2.7 yd and the length of 25 yd.

  3. Let’s calculate the area of each rectangle: * Sector 1: the area is equal to 2 yd multiplied by 25 yd, which gives 50 yd²; * Sector 2: the area is equal to 3 yd multiplied by 2 yd, which gives 6 yd²; * Sector 3: the area is equal to 3 yd multiplied by 10 yd, which gives 30 yd²; * Sector 4: the area is equal to 2.7 yd multiplied by 25 yd, which gives 67.5 yd².

  4. We have to sum up these four different areas to get the area of the whole yard.

    50 yd² + 6 yd² + 30 yd² + 67.5 yd² = 153.5 yd²

    You can already jump to the third point of topsoil calculator instruction in How much soil do I need? paragraph.

  5. It is time to choose the desired thickness (depth) of the topsoil level. Let’s make it 0.6 yd. We want to create enough space for the roots of grass to grow freely and without any obstacles. Furthermore, a thicker layer of topsoil will be able to absorb more water and hold the moisture for a longer period.

  6. You can calculate the required volume of soil by multiplying the grass yard area by the desired thickness of soil.

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    153.5 yd² * 0.6 yd = 92.1 yd³

  7. The last thing to do is to assess the estimated weight of the required soil and its cost. The weight of the cargo may come in handy when transporting the soil. It would be nice to know that your truck or trailer will endure the burden of your purchase. As we have already mentioned, you should find the density of the chosen soil on its package. You just need to multiply it by the volume of our topsoil layer. And last but not least – money. Can you afford such an expense? Maybe we could save some money by reducing the thickness? To know that, you need to calculate the total cost. With our soil calculator, you can do it by multiplying the volume of purchased soil or its weight by the price of one cubic yard or price of one ton (other units of weight or volume are also available).

Oh, and if you were wondering whether we can also help you with finishing your interiors, yes, you’re right – we’ve got calculators for that as well! You can organize the space with drywalls and then paint the rooms using our drywall and paint calculators. Now, there is nothing left to do apart from relaxing in the cool water and inviting your friends for a barbecue!

What is soil? – Soil definition

Have you ever wondered what are you stomping on? Was it it always here or has it been here since eternity? Well, the easiest way to answer these questions would be to explain that the soil definition is that it is a mixture of things that have fallen or just found themselves on the ground. It consists of organic matter, liquids, gases, minerals, and living organisms. The soil has been created by endless interactions between those ingredients, with the additional influence of some third parties, such as climate, weather and lots and lots of time. It usually starts with a parent material such as quartz, calcite or feldspar which undergoes weathering – the process of disintegration. Weathering can be caused by:

  • physical factors: temperature changes, cycles of wetting and drying and movement of material by wind, water or gravity
  • chemical factors: processes of solution, hydrolysis, oxidations and many others
  • living organisms: bacteria, fungi, earthworms, and even human activity

Weathering of soil makes the parent material disintegrate over time into smaller and smaller pieces. This way sand, silt, and clay (the core soil ingredients) are created.

Basic types of soil

If you do not consider yourself a pedologist (a soil scientist), you can assume that there are six different types of soil:

  1. Sandy soil – it feels dusty in hand. Sandy soil dries very fast in sunny weather as it does not hold water very well. Escaping water washes away many minerals, so you have to apply some amendments or mulch to give your plants appropriate conditions for growth.
  2. Clay soil – this type of soil feels sticky and elastic – a little bit like plasticine. The water doesn’t go into it very well because there are not many empty air spaces in the structure of clay soil. It is rich in ingredients so if you maintain sufficient drainage, your plants should develop freely.
  3. Silty soil – it is an excellent type of soil as it is very rich in ingredients and has very good properties of holding moisture.
  4. Peaty soil – it feels spongy-like. This type of soil is characterized by outstanding water holding capabilities but also poor composition of minerals. You should mix it with sources of rich organic matter and care for its pH level (check the next paragraph – Soil degradation versus soil conservation).
  5. Chalky soil – this soil consists of many larger particles – bigger grains and stones. It is alkaline which means it has a high pH level. Because of that, you should use some acidic fertilizer to ensure the best growth for your plants.
  6. Loamy soil – the best type of soil a gardener can dream of! It is very rich in ingredients, it holds water very well, and its structure assures good drainage. These perfect properties are caused by a well-balanced composition of sand, clay, and silt.

Soil degradation versus soil conservation

Soil degradation is the soil process most feared by farmers and gardeners alike. It makes the soil lose its cultivating capabilities by weakening the structure and washing out the rich ingredients. There are several mechanisms of soil degradation:

  • Soil acidification – when the pH level of soil drops too much, and it becomes too acidic for plants to grow;
  • Soil salinization – when there is an excessive salt accumulation also inhibiting the growth of plants;
  • Soil contamination – when the soil is exposed to human-produced waste or other toxic materials. The microorganism living in soil are able to assimilate waste material to some extent but sometimes it is just too much…
  • Desertification – when cultivated land transforms into a desert;
  • Erosion – when some physical forces such as water, wind or a drop in temperature cause the weathering of the soil (go back to the What is soil? – Soil definition paragraph), and then transport it away from its original place, e.g., a gale-like wind moving huge masses of dry topsoil.

In order to prevent soil degradation and keep it in good condition, you should care about the soil in your garden, yard or field just as much as you care for your plants or grass. Maintaining the quality of your soil is called a soil conservation.

If your soil is too alkaline you can use sulfur or aluminum sulfate to make it more acidic. The other way around, if your soil is too acidic, apply ground lime. It will balance the pH level of your garden soil by making it more alkaline. Make sure that your soil has enough water. You can use some irrigation systems to ensure that your garden soil receives a regular water supply. Check whether your soil has enough nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium as they are essential for plants to grow. If there is a nutrient deficiency use fertilizers or mulch to enrich it. Finally, another way of soil conservation is to protect it from physical forces. You may surround your yard with trees and bushes that will keep the wind away.

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