For years when I was a landscaper I would be on the lookout for good topsoil. Most of the time I ordered a dump or two of topsoil from the local soil yard, I’d get soil that looked totally bereft of life and like maybe it came from a nuclear waste site. It was never what I needed or wanted and was always difficult to cultivate anything in.
So, when our new partners invited me out to look at topsoil and compost on a century old dairy site that was being demolished for corporate growth, I was intrigued. For curiosity's sake, I asked, how much topsoil is on the site? They told me 30,000 cubic yards on the first site! Hmmmm. I fired another question. Is it good topsoil? They responded, it has 11-17% organic matter in it, so much, that we can’t build on it because we can’t compact it. Okay, now I was more than intrigued, I was ready to take samples and run multiple soil analysis of this “organic” topsoil.
When I arrived on site, I was happy to see happy dairy cows walking down the fence line to a giant pasture that was connected to three of the dairy sites that were to be demolished. They were mooing and calling each other and seemed really happy as they lazily wandered down into the acres of pasture grass. I walked over to the fence line and snapped a few pictures. As cows do, several stopped to check me out. I told them, “Hi girls. Aren’t you beautiful...” I love cows if you couldn’t tell already!
I met up with our future partners and asked to see the topsoil. One of them pointed to a mountain, a literal mountain, maybe 50 feet high by 100 feet long between where the first building site was going to be and the dairy that was still in full production. It was a pretty awesome first look at the topsoil.
The grading contractors had pushed all of the top 8-10” of material from the site into a mountain. The color was brown and silty gray. You could definitely see the veins of organic matter running through this massive supply of topsoil.
I wandered over to the edge of Topsoil Hill and started taking samples with a clean shovel and 1 gal. ziplock bags. I took samples for base soil analysis, a toxicology panel and a biological assay. I told the guys that we needed to know everything that we could about this material and that the labs would show if their hunch about us sitting on a goldmine of soil was right. I hoped so, but wanted to wait for labs to come back before I got too excited.
A few weeks passed and the results finally came into my email:
Everything came back clean in terms of toxins and metals!
The soil test showed high amounts of organic matter in the 11-17% range!
The other labs showed that the material was biologically active and loaded with nutrient!
The guys had been right! We were literally sitting on a mountain of beautiful topsoil. The next step was to field test it. I scooped up a whole bunch of topsoil into 33 gal. bags with my shovel and loaded them into the Prius.
When I got back home to 4 Oaks Farm, I unloaded the topsoil and we figured which areas of the orchard and garden could use some. The first thing that we did was cover the exposed roots on several of the fruit trees. The trees roots had become exposed from erosion from watering and rain. We covered the exposed roots and sprinkled the topsoil with water from our Dramm watering wand. Next, we had a couple of spots that had eroded from the winter and early spring rains and we filled those cracks and crevices with the topsoil from the bags.
We watched and waited to see what would happen from our first experiment. Very quickly we saw that the topsoil held in place during watering and in the areas that we had filled in with the topsoil, it blended nicely with our native soil and held in place.
Next on a whim, we planted some veggie starts directly into containers filled with the topsoil just to see what would happen. For days and weeks later we were blown away that the starts had not only survived, but thrived! They looked amazing.
This gave us the idea that if we filled up the bottom 1/3 - 1/2 of a raised bed with the topsoil, then covered it with potting soil, we could save consumers quite a bit of money on their raised garden beds. There was plenty of organic matter and nutrient for the roots of veggies to anchor, feed and thrive in. We were quickly seeing that this topsoil was something very special, very unique and a product that must get out to market.
That was a year ago, and now the concept has become a reality. We formed a partnership and Number 2 Organics was born.
We are so blessed to be able to take a century of hard work, perseverance, farmer's lives, all the dairy cows that have graced this land, and the biology that will now live on forever because we get to help bring this to gardeners, growers and farmers yards all over the country.
Our Premium Organic Topsoil is unlike anything on the market. When we were registering with the CDFA for organic certification in CA and the ODA in OR, they wanted us to put aged dairy cow manure as an ingredient on the bag, because there was so much of it and so that people knew where the organic matter and nutrient came from. This is a one of a kind topsoil with multiple uses in the garden including as a seed topper and an underlay for sod.
I wish I would have had this back in the day when I was still doing my eco-landscaping. My advice to you as a landscaper, farmer and gardener is - if you need topsoil, use the top, the A number one, the king of the heap, - then get yourself a bag or ten of Number 2 Organics Premium Organic Topsoil... you’ll be glad you did.
© Randy Ritchie 2022