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Saving Topsoil, Not Trucking it Away - Aging Well With Marjorie
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Saving Topsoil, Not Trucking it Away

Saving Topsoil, Not Trucking it Away

We were so excited when the excavation fellows arrived to start our new house – with strict instructions to save the topsoil.

Moving shrubs

The first thing they did for us was move five shrubs – plants that were too big for my husband and me to transplant on our own. We didn’t pay close enough attention, and a choke cherry we had cut down and didn’t want got moved along with an evergreen. I think one thing a garden does not need is a choke cherry. It lives up to its name and chokes out other things.

Piling up topsoil

We learned that there is an art to piling up soil. There is a limited amount of space around our excavation to store it. The excavation fellow carefully scooped up the top 15 inches of grass and soil and set it aside. Topsoil is precious stuff and we didn’t want it trucked away.

With loam soil like ours, the piles shouldn’t exceed three and a half feet high. Clay soils should be piled lower, and sandy soils can be piled as high as six feet. Given the restricted space in our situation, the piles easily reach five feet in places.

These tall piles, however, were developed and sloped in a manner that would reduce the risk of them sliding into the hole that had been dug. Over and over, we were impressed with the skills and knowledge of the excavator operators. For example, we had the remains of a covered deck that needed to be removed from our old house, and it was done in a superbly smooth and delicate manner with a great big excavator.

Ideal topsoil

Ideally, the topsoil that was scraped off would have contained no rocks or roots. We have some of both. The grass sods inside the piles should die off and nicely add organic matter, but we can see chunks of sod on the outside here and there.

Mostly, however, the saved topsoil is on the inside of the piles and towards the back. On the outside and towards the front, the soil last scooped out is clay subsoil with rocks. That will be used eventually to backfill the trench, and it will be topped off with some of the topsoil.

Joy of drumlins

Many of the new home building sites I see in Halifax are resting on rocks created from bedrock. They usually have a mere two inches (5 cm) of soil overlaid with sod, less than ideal even for lawns.

We recognize how fortunate we are to be living on a drumlin – the soil and rocks scraped up by sheets of ice during the last ice age. This means we can dig deep and still be in soil. With my prairie upbringing, I truly appreciate our deep soil and thick layer of topsoil here on our drumlin hill.

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