Top soil is placed on top of the ground to provide a nutrient-rich layer of dirt for plants. The amount you need depends on what you are going to be growing. According to Steck's Nursery and Landscaping, you need three to five inches of top soil for sod, four to six inches for new grass, eight to 12 inches for vegetable gardens and 12 to 18 inches for raised planting. Top soil quantity can be expressed in cubic yards or tons.
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Determine the dimensions of the area you want to cover. For example, you might measure an area six feet wide by nine feet long.
Determine the depth of topsoil you need based what you will be planting.
Convert the measurements from Steps one and two to yards. To convert from inches to yards, divide by 36. To convert from feet to yards, divide by three. For example, if your dimensions are six feet by nine feet by nine inches deep, you would convert those dimensions to two yards by three yards by 0.25 yards.
Calculate the number of cubic yards you need by multiplying the length times the width times the depth. For example, to cover dimensions of two yards by three yards by 0.25 yards, you would need 1.5 cubic yards of top soil.
Convert from cubic yards to tons by multiplying by one, because a cubic yard is equivalent to one ton. For example, 1.5 cubic yards of top soil is equal to 1.5 tons.
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