Is topsoil good for filling holes in yard?

Topsoil is often used to fill holes and low spots in lawns and yards. It provides a fertile, loamy growing medium for grass to establish itself and blend into the surrounding lawn. However, topsoil is not necessarily the best choice for filling holes in every situation. There are several factors to consider when deciding whether topsoil is the right material for filling lawn holes.

What is Topsoil?

Topsoil is the uppermost layer of soil, usually the top 2-8 inches. It contains a high percentage of organic matter from decomposed leaves, grass, roots and other plant remnants. This gives topsoil a loose, crumbly texture with plenty of pore space for air and water circulation. It is an ideal medium for root growth.

Topsoil can be naturally occurring or manufactured. Naturally occurring topsoil is usually harvested from fields or construction sites. Manufactured topsoil is made by blending sand, compost and other organic materials to achieve the light, fertile consistency of natural topsoil.

Benefits of Using Topsoil for Hole Filling

There are several advantages to using topsoil to fill holes and low areas in the lawn:

Promotes Quick Grass Growth

The natural fertility and loose texture of topsoil encourages rapid rooting and lush grass growth. Grass will establish itself quickly in the enriched soil, filling in bare spots and blending with the surrounding lawn.

Absorbs Water

The organic matter in topsoil creates a sponge-like quality that absorbs and retains moisture. This helps grass plants thrive, especially during hot, dry weather.

Provides Nutrients

Decomposed organic matter releases plant nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that are essential for healthy turfgrass. This gives grass the fertility it needs for vigorous growth and a green, vibrant color.

Lightweight and Easy to Work With

Topsoil is lightweight and easy to spread, grade and shape compared to heavier soils. It can quickly be installed and leveled to match the existing lawn with basic tools.

Relatively Inexpensive

Purchasing bulk loads of topsoil is fairly affordable, especially compared to sod. It provides a simple, low-cost way to fix lawn holes.

Disadvantages of Topsoil for Filling Lawn Holes

Despite its benefits, topsoil also has some potential drawbacks to consider:

Prone to Settling

The loose, porous nature of topsoil means it settles easily. Holes filled with topsoil may end up sinking below the surrounding lawn level over time. This can leave dips or low spots.

May Contain Weeds or Debris

Natural topsoil harvested from farm fields may contain weed seeds, sticks and other debris. These can introduce problems to your lawn if not properly screened and filtered before use.

Lacks Stability

Topsoil does not compact well. It may wash out of holes with heavy rain or irrigation and require frequent replenishment. Using topsoil on slopes or drainage areas is not recommended.

May Not Match Existing Soil

Imported topsoil may be a different color or consistency compared to your native soil. This can create an obvious patchwork effect. Blending and amendment is required.

Temporary Solution

While topsoil provides a suitable bed for establishing grass, it does not permanently fill or repair the cause of sunken holes and depressions. The issue is likely to recur without addressing the underlying problem.

When to Use Topsoil for Lawn Holes

Topsoil is generally a smart choice for filling small holes, bare patches and erosion spots in an otherwise healthy lawn on flat ground. It works best when:

– The holes are less than about 4 inches deep.
– The surrounding soil is reasonably firm, stable and well-draining.
– The holes were caused by temporary issues like dog spots, improper mowing or foot traffic.
– Grass is present on the edges to grow into the filled hole.
– Proper soil preparation is done before application.

Deeper holes, chronic depressions or areas on slopes may require filling with more than just topsoil to correct the issue long-term.

Prepare Holes for Topsoil Filling

Proper hole and soil preparation is crucial for successfully filling lawn depressions with topsoil:

Remove Debris and Vegetation

Clear out any stones, sticks, leaves or dead grass from the hole. Remove weeds and other vegetation down to bare soil.

Loosen and Till Soil

Use a tiller or shovel to break up and loosen the soil at the bottom and edges of the hole to a depth of 2-4 inches. This allows the topsoil to integrate with surrounding soil.

Grade and Level

Use a rake to smooth and shape the bottom and edges of the hole into a gradual, evenly sloped depression.

Moisten Soil

Water the hole lightly before filling to improve compacting and bonding of the topsoil.

Apply Soil Amendments

Mixing the native soil with organic compost or fertilizer creates a transition layer and enriches the soil.

Filling Holes with Topsoil

Follow these steps for best results filling lawn depressions with topsoil:

Purchase High Quality Topsoil

Inspect topsoil before purchase and avoid batches with excessive debris, stones or weeds. Ideally, choose screened topsoil blended for lawns.

Spread Topsoil

Shovel or dump topsoil into the hole, spreading it from the bottom up in layers 2-3 inches deep.

Compact Gentle

Use a lightweight lawn roller or gently tamp the topsoil layers with a shovel handle to lightly compact each layer as you fill.

Level with Surrounding Lawn

As the last layer, feather and smooth the topsoil to match the height of surrounding grass, creating a gradual transition.

Water Thoroughly

Irrigate the topsoil well after filling to encourage settling and consolidation with surrounding soil.

Overfill Slightly

Since topsoil settles, fill the hole a half-inch higher than the surrounding lawn to allow for compression.

Re-seed Bare Areas

Plant grass seed over the filled hole and water frequently to establish new turf. Avoid foot traffic until grass is mature.

Alternatives to Topsoil for Filling Lawn Holes

In some cases, alternatives to topsoil may work better for filling lawn depressions:


Compost improves soil structure, moisture retention and nutrient content. Mixing compost into native soil is often a better choice than topsoil alone.


For larger holes or highly visible areas, laying sod provides an instant grass cover that blends seamlessly with the existing lawn.


Loam is a blended soil with more sand that resists compaction. It may hold its shape and height better long-term than pure topsoil.

Subsurface Filling

Gravel, sand or other fill material can be used to fill deeper holes below the topsoil layer, providing stability and drainage.

Aeration and Overseeding

For minor depressions under 1 inch deep, aeration and overseeding may encourage grass to fill in without adding soil.

Key Takeaways on Topsoil for Lawn Hole Filling

– Topsoil provides a fertile growing medium that encourages rapid grass growth to fill holes. However, it has some drawbacks like settling, weed seeds and lack of stability long-term.

– Topsoil works best for small, shallow holes where surrounding soil is firm. It may require blending with compost or loam for deeper holes.

– Proper soil preparation like tilling, leveling and moistening is key prior to topsoil application. Grass seed should be sown afterwards.

– For some situations, alternatives like sod, subsurface gravel or compost can provide better, more permanent hole filling than topsoil alone.

– Consider the size of the hole, location, drainage and the cause when deciding if topsoil is the right choice for filling lawn depressions.


Topsoil can provide an affordable, natural material for patching bare spots and shallow lawn holes less than 2-3 inches deep. However, its potential to settle may result in depressions reappearing. For larger holes, slopes or highly visible areas, it is better to use compost, sod or other fill materials under the topsoil to create a more stable base. With careful hole preparation and proper topsoil filling methods, you can successfully fill minor dips and get grass growing quickly again for a smooth, level lawn.

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