Explained: The 3 Most Common Soil Terms

People hire professional landscapers to make their yards look as beautiful as possible, but looks aren’t everything. A wonderfully designed garden, lawn, or flower bed will lose its beauty quickly if the grass and plants aren’t receiving proper nutrients. Our company puts great thought into the types of soil we use for each project, and each situation may require a custom solution. Keep reading to learn more about the most common types of soil we use for our customers and why they’re most effective for different types of projects.


What is Soil?


Soil is made up of minerals, rock, organic material, gas, and water, all of which create an ideal environment for plants to grow and thrive. There are three different types of soil: sand, clay, and silt. Sand is made up of large particles and has poor water retention. Clay is dense and made of very fine particles, which retains water well, but takes longer to dry. Silt is made up of both large and fine particles and is typically rich in nutrients and minerals.


Pulverized Topsoil


Topsoil is made up of healthy nutrients taken from the top layer of soil and contains organic matter that effectively holds moisture and creates a microbial-rich environment for proper plant growth. Pulverized topsoil is run through a large grinder to make it lightweight and easy to maneuver. This method also removes most debris, such as sticks, rocks, sand, and to ensure that the topsoil is of good quality.


Pulverized topsoil is best for walkways, patios, or filling in holes in lawns. However, it’s not a good idea to use in gardens or flower beds, because it becomes mushy and dense when it gets wet.


Garden Compost


Compost is a mixture of decomposing nutrient-rich soil that is made up of organic matter, such as oxygen, bacteria, water, and other materials like food products, lawn clippings, and dry leaves. The materials break down and the rich soil is then used to refresh depleted soil in the springtime when it’s time to plant new crops. Compost has a very high nutrient content, and the nutrients provide a slow-release, creating an ideal environment for new plants.

Compost is great for many different uses, mixing it into the soil to improve nutrient quality, and spreading it directly into an aerated lawn. Many people use it to mix into the soil in gardens because many different types of fruits, vegetables, and plants benefit from the nutrient density in compost.


Soil Conditioner


Bad soil can create a range of different problems for people trying to keep their gardens or lawns lush and green. You can be dealing with hard pan or compacted soil, soil with a high amount of clay or sand, dead or malnourished soil, or even soil with a high or low PH. Soil conditioner is added to soil to improve the soil’s structure by increasing water retention, aeration, and nutrients, and balancing the PH levels.


Unlike fertilizers, which also add nutrients to the soil, soil conditioners can actually change the structure of the soil. For example, if you’re dealing with clay or compacted soil, the nutrients from fertilizer will get stuck and not properly nourish plants. Before purchasing fertilizer, it’s best to do a soil test to find out the root of the problem, use a soil conditioner to correct the issue, and then move forward with a proper fertilization program.


If you have any questions about the different types of soil we use, we welcome you to reach out to us and ask questions!


Mulch To Protect In The Fall

The need to mulch your landscape in the fall largely depends on climate. Here in central Indiana specifically, we are no stranger to extreme swings in temperate and freeze and thaw cycles (you’ve seen the potholes!). Mulching around plants, especially precious perennials in autumn protects against these changes in temperature and precipitation, prevents erosion, and enriches your soil throughout the winter months.

When your annuals are dead, any vegetables have produced their last bounty and every last weed has been plucked after the first frost, it’s time to prepare for the winter ahead with more mulch. Consult with your local supplier to identify the product for you. As we always say—bark is best. This means you should be looking for a high bark content in your mulch choice because as it breaks down (which quality mulch is supposed to do) it is going to restore the most nutrients to your soil for the next growth cycle of your plants.

Here are a few more things to consider when it comes to mulching in the fall:

  • Mulching is hard work- do it when the weather is more tolerable and refresh with a thin, cosmetic layer in the spring
  • Plant growth this time of year is slow and perennials are well established- you won’t have to worry about suffocating or damaging new growth in the spring
  • As always, spread a thick layer—anywhere from two to four inches is perfection!

We are not oblivious to the fact that most people just don’t love to mulch as much as we do, and most certainly not enough to do it twice per year. But, your landscape is an investment- in need of maintenance and proper protection like anything else in and around your home. As always, if you need help identifying the right landscaper to do the heavy lifting for you—give us a call.

The Dirt On Topsoil Products

We know there are so many options when it comes to choosing the right soil for your project, it can be downright confusing! But, it is so important to the well-being of your lawn or landscape to choose the right soil for the job. We decided to break this down for you a little further…

  • Pulverized Topsoil (BEST FOR SEEDING AND GRADING)
    • Our inventory manager takes great care in purchasing local, quality topsoil with low clay or sand content. Once pulverized at our facility, it is fine and easy to spread. Topsoil will hold his structure once placed, which is the basis for its recommendation to fill holes or bare places in your lawn. If you plan to re-seed your lawn or start fresh, regular topsoil is best for the job!
  • Topsoil Plus (BEST FOR PLANTING)
    • We combine our pulverized topsoil and compost in this 50/50 blend! Unique to this mix, the compost will add vital nutrients for your plants and the structural integrity of topsoil will keep the shape of the application over time. Topsoil Plus and other similar topsoil/compost blends are a perfect start for new vegetable or flower beds. Please note- topsoil mixes do not have the same drainage components needed specifically for container plantings!
    • The benefits of compost are endless in your garden or landscape. When mixed in with existing topsoil (we do not recommend planting directly into compost), it will enrich your soil by encouraging the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a nutrient-filled material. Humus helps your soil retain moisture, loosens heavy clay soils to improve aeration and drainage. Composts with high organic content will be the most beneficial! Amending the soil of new planting space with existing topsoil is an ideal application for compost.
    • Please be aware of the “bathtub affect” which occurs when planting in heavy soil. If your soil is not already largely amended, be sure when transplanting to fill in with the same soil the plant is used to, even if it is heavy clay. Many resources suggest adding amendments such as compost to the backfill, but a lighter mix surrounded by heavy clay soil (the norm in Indiana) will result in trapped water and suffocated roots, eventually killing your plant.

Lending a Helping Hand

As a small, family owned business, being involved in our local community organizations has been important to us since day one. Whether you are a large non-profit group hosting a day of service, an athletic team, or a Boy Scout troop, we are proud to have been able to help groups of all sizes and purposes grow by serving their individual needs.


Each year, we give away a certain amount of product for various projects from community gardens to vouchers for auctions and fundraisers. If your community group has an upcoming service project that requires landscape supplies, reach out and tell us about your project as soon as you can!


Churches, clubs, and athletic teams have all been able to benefit from our mulch fundraisers to cut down on their participation fees, or pay for upcoming learning opportunities. With guidance, participants are able to set their own pricing on our product, and it sells itself- everybody needs mulch!

Give Back Program

Our Give Back program is a no brainer. If an organization has a need for any kind of fundraising, this program keeps on giving. We offer 10% back on any sale at Musselman’s made on the organization’s behalf throughout the entire year—all the customer has to do is mention it at the time of the order and 10% will be given back to the club.


Our partnerships lend a helping hand in the success of our community organizations to ensure that great things continue to happen here. Be sure to check out our Facebook page to see past projects we have been fortunate enough to help out with! No matter the needs of your church, club, school, or team-- we are here to help, from the ground up.

Landscape To-Dos | Early Spring Edition

You may be dreading these words, but we are excited to say it is officially time to get back to work in your backyard! The very first day of Spring has come and gone, and there might even be a 48-hour window this weekend with no rain or snow in central Indiana (key word: might!). That is a surefire sign it's time to get some refreshed mulch in those flower beds and actually start the outdoor improvement projects you've been dreaming about through the long winter.

Don't know where to start? Here are a few things to keep in mind this time of year, so you aren't stuck with all the work right before the guests arrive for your race day celebration or daughter's graduation party.

  1. Spring Clean-up: Remove the remaining leaves and debris from your gutters and planting beds, clear the unwanted brush and growth out of your yard and finish up by cutting back dead foliage before the new growth kicks in. Prioritize edging your beds as a part of this process- it will help you effectively keep your mulch in place and deter the lawn from extending its boundary.
  2. Mulch: Refresh your landscape beds with a few inches of mulch. Not only does it make your planting areas look neat, but it will help retain moisture in the soil and will keep roots cool in the upcoming summer heat. When mulch breaks down, it restores much-needed nutrients to your soil. If your old mulch is caked together and not decomposing well, remove most of it before you apply 2-3 inches of fresh product. For more information about mulch options and best practices, call our office to speak to a customer service representative!
  3. Equipment: In the early spring days, it is important to ensure your lawn mower and irrigation systems are ready to roll when you need them!

If you are as excited as we are about Spring, you are anxious to get back into the garden and beautify your outdoor living space. Continue to keep an eye on that Indiana weather- you will want to wait until after the frost dates have cleared to introduce most new plants to your beds. The steps above for early spring will set up your landscape for success this season!


Beginning as a simple mulch operation, Musselman has only grown since our roots were first planted in the 1980s. Since then, you have relied on our advice, expertise and high quality products. We are your one-stop shop for all things landscaping, and now your one ONLINE stop for valuable information! We are thrilled to interact with each of you more often through the launch of our new blog page.

We want our blog to be a resource you value, which is why we will focus on gardening tips, answering your questions, bringing you the latest trends in outdoor living, and highlighting what we have going on at Musselman Landscape Solutions- from the ground up!

So, be sure to bookmark this page, follow us on Facebook and Instagram or do what you need to do to stay up-to-date with our posts. If you have a question regarding anything under the sun and in your landscaping (chances are, someone else out there is wondering about it, too!) let us know by emailing us, and we will feature it right here!