Save Money Buying Soil and Compost in Bulk (2023)

Buying soil in bulk is a great way to get large amounts of topsoil, compost, or mulch for landscaping and gardening projects. While you can buy soil and mulch in smaller bags at home improvement stores and garden centers, options like landscape supply stores offer both of these landscaping products in larger quantities for a lower price. Since places like landscaping supply stores will probably require a minimum quantity of soil, often one cubic yard, a bulk purchase is ideal when you're tackling a big yard project. You'll also want to consider whether you can pick it up yourself in a truck bed or trailer or whether you need to look into delivery options.

Whether you're completely redoing your yard or have a massive garden project in the works, purchasing landscaping products in bulk is a fast and easy option for your outdoor space. Here, learn how to buy bulk soil and calculate the needs for your project.

Types of Bulk Landscaping Products

In landscaping, gardening, or any major project involving soil products, there are three major components to consider: soil, compost, and mulch. Each of these soil products has different applications, depending on your project. Landscaping stores also offer hardscaping materials like stone and gravel in bulk. First, choose which landscaping material is right for your needs:

  • Topsoil: Topsoil usually refers to the top 2 to 8 inches of ground soil. Topsoil contains some organic matter along with minerals and nutrients, and is the most productive layer of soil. Topsoil in the garden is used to top off your plant bed, or it is mixed with rich, organic material.
  • Compost: Compost is decaying plant or animal matter that turns into nutrient-rich soil. Gardeners or landscapers can add compost as a soil amendment to topsoil, garden soil, or potting soil to enrich it with nutrients. It acts as a soil fertilizer, encourages better drainage in clay soils, and allows sandy soil to hold onto nutrients.
  • Mulch: Mulch can include landscaping coverage like wood chips, shredded yard waste (shredded leaves and grass clippings), straw, and sawdust. Landscaping mulch not only looks polished, but it discourages the spread of weeds and supplies shade to the undergrowth. It covers the soil and helps retain moisture normally lost through evaporation in the summer and provides insulation in the winter.
  • Gravel and stone: Gravel and stone can be purchased in different sizes from pea gravel to larger crushed stones. These products are great when you want to hardscape with gravel for a finished look, and they come in a variety of colors to suit different home styles.

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Where to Buy Soil in Bulk

Most people buy soil, compost, mulch, and gravel in bulk from local landscape supply stores. Once you understand what type of soil products you need, ask the local experts. Talk to gardeners, the specialists at the garden centers, and your local cooperative extension. The cooperative extension will likely be your most productive resource; it is their mission to serve as a community education resource on agriculture and horticulture. Avid gardeners and local hobbyists usually purchase bulk dirt, too.

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Cost of Buying Soil in Bulk

A truckload of topsoil typically costs between $340 and $1,251. Delivery fees may also be added, and the price will vary based on the total amount of soil needed.

Creating quality soil requires time, labor, and expensive equipment. The cost of soil varies by location, quality, and quantity. In general, your cheapest option will be products that are not enriched or screened. A cheap topsoil or garden soil with little to no organic material will be the least expensive option. Soil costs rise depending on how much compost is added, the type of organic material in the compost, and if the soil contains added fertilizer or nutrients.

When it comes to mulch, it depends on the type you get. If you are looking for wood chips, the mulch market follows the lumber world. Woods chips from redwood and cedar would cost more than a pine shaving mulch or straw.

How Many Cubic Yards Do You Need?

What Is A Cubic Yard?

A cubic yard is a measurement of material that is 3 feet long, wide, and tall, and it's often used in bulk soil calculations. One cubic yard of topsoil, compost, or mulch goes a long way in your landscaping. It's equal to 27 cubic feet and covers about 100 square feet of space for 3” thick material, or about 50 square feet of space for 6” thick material.

Calculate Depth of Soil

Coverage DepthSquare Feet/Cubic Yard
1 inch324
2 inches162
3 inches108
4 inches81
5 inches65
6 inches54
7 inches46
8 inches40

Calculate How Much You Need

Bulk soil, compost, and mulch are sold by the cubic yard. Calculate the cubic yards you'll need for different planting depths using the depth of soil calculation chart (below):

  1. Measure the square footage (length x width) of the area that you'll need to cover in soil
  2. Select the depth in inches of coverage that you want.
  3. Determine how many square feet/cubic yards are necessary based on the chart.
  4. Total the square footage of your garden, and then divide that number by the total square feet/cubic yard number.


Calculate the amount of needed soil for a 25-foot-by-20-foot (500 square foot) garden:

  1. Your garden has an area of 500 square feet.
  2. You want 6 inches of mulch.
  3. The corresponding number on the chart for a 6 inches depth is 54.
  4. Divide your square footage (500) by 54, which equals 9.26 cubic yards.

In this example, it means you need 9.26 cubic yards of soil or mulch to cover a 500-square-foot garden to a depth of 6 inches.

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Determining Soil Quality

Even if you get a few great recommendations, examine the product before you buy it. Soil companies usually have several blends available, such as topsoil, lawn soil, garden soil, and a compost/soil blend. Some will even allow you to custom-make your mix, such as 40 percent compost with 60 percent topsoil (this might have an extra charge).

When assessing the quality of a garden soil, look for a dark, crumbly, slightly moist, loosely packed sandy loam. It should consist of less than 15 percent clay soil and at least 5 percent organic matter. Topsoil and compost should be similarly textured, ideally loose and crumbly. It should have an earthy smell, but it should not be offensive or overwhelming.

You can have the soil professionally tested, but it will take time and can cost more than $100. Some companies may offer soil analysis or soil certification.

Soil Characteristics

  • Organic content: The soil should be at least 5 percent organic matter and the type of organic matter is important. While yard and leaf waste is a neutral compost, nitrogen-heavy compost like manure can damage some plants.
  • Soil texture: Soil should include a mixture of different particle sizes, including sand, clay, silt, and loam. More than 40 percent of clay can create compact soil with drainage problems. More than 70 percent sand can make the water feeding your plant run too fast through the soil.
  • Soil pH: Look for topsoil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.5.
  • Screening: Quality soil should run through a screening process that eliminates rocks, litter, and clumps of clay.
  • Weed-free: No one wants weeds sprouting from their freshly laid soil! Quality soil should be at least 98 percent weed-free.

Bulk Soil Delivery and Pickup Options

When calculating soil costs, keep in mind that you can have it delivered for an additional fee or pick it up using a pickup truck or trailer.Most companies charge a fixed fee or an amount based on distance and the size of the job. If you decide to pick up the soil yourself, you'll save on the delivery fee, but you'll need to have an adequately sized vehicle not only to transport the soil, but to have it shoveled or funneled into a bed. Plus, consider the cleanup!

It may be easier to have the soil delivered, but you need a plan for the soil when it arrives. A truck full of soil will be weighty. Your lawn could end up with deep tracks, the grass could be ruined, and you could even face a stuck truck if the ground is wet. If you have a driveway or an area of your lawn that isn't landscaped, lay down a tarp there, distribute the soil, and then use a wheelbarrow to transport it exactly where it needs to go.

Also, if you plan on leaving the soil for days or weeks, cover it until you're ready to use it so that it maintains its loose, crumbly texture and doesn't develop into an anaerobic compost pile.

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  • Will 1 cubic yard of topsoil fit in a pickup truck?

    In theory, yes, it will fit, but depends on the weight your truck is rated to haul. Consider that the average weight of 1 cubic yard for of topsoil is 2,100 pounds, compost is 1,250 pounds, and mulch is 1,000 pounds.

  • How many wheelbarrows are in a yard of dirt?

    Approximately 9 wheelbarrows are in a yard of dirt.

  • Which is cheaper, topsoil or potting soil?

    Topsoil is cheaper because it hasn’t been amended with additional nutrients, so you'll need to factor in the cost of additional amendments with compost or peat moss. However, topsoil is preferable for many gardeners because they can choose the ratio of soil to compost that their specific plants require.

The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.


  2. Gardening in Clay Soils. Utah State University Forestry Extension.

  3. Gardening in Sandy Soils. Utah State University Extension.

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