Soil Calculator | How Much Soil Do You Need?

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Robert Pavlis

Automatically calculate the amount of soil you need in both imperial and metric units. This soil calculator shows the amount for both bulk and bag purchase and can be used for any type of material including topsoil, compost, mulch, and gravel. Automatically calculates the soil needed – give it a try to see how easy it is.

Enter Your Dimensions:

Length:

Width:

Depth:

The Bulk Soil You Need:

Cubic Feet
Cubic Yards
Cubic Meters
Liters

The Bagged Soil You Need:

0.75 cu. ft. bags (21L)
1 cu. ft. bags (28L)
1.5 cu. ft. bags (42L)
2 cu. ft. bags (57L)
1 cu. yard bags (800L)
1 cu. meter bags
25 liter bags (25 quarts)
35 liter bags (37 quarts)
50 liter bags
500 liter bags
750 liter bags (1 yard)

Instructions for Calculating Soil Quantity

You will need three measurements; the length and width of the area you want to fill, as well as the depth. Enter these values at the top of the page. Change the units to match your measurements. The soil calculator automatically calculates all of the other values.

raised bed with lines showing length, width and height dimensions
You need three dimensions to calculate the amount of soil you need: height, width and length, source: Rural Sprout

Measuring Raised Beds

Measure the length, width and depth (height) as for any other area. Since soil settles over time, add an inch or two to the depth value to allow for settling. If you have several beds, you have two options for the calculations.

Plant Science for Gardeners by Robert Pavlis

Measure One Bed and Multiply

Measure one bed and calculate the soil needed for it. Then multiply the quantity needed by the number of beds you have.

Measure All Beds at Once

Measure the length and depth for one bed and enter those values. Measure the width of one bed and multiply that number by the number of beds you have. Enter this number for the width. The calculations will then give you the total amount needed for all the beds.

Example: Say you have four beds that are all 8 feet long, 1 foot deep and 3 feet wide. Enter the length as 8 ft., the depth as 1 ft. and the width as 12 (4 X 3) ft.

Measuring Irregular Areas

If the area is irregular due to curves, imagine a rectangular shape on top of the area such that the area of the actual bed is about the same size as the rectangle. Then measure the imaginary rectangle and use its measurements.

If the area has straight sides but consists of different sized rectangles, measure each rectangle and use the calculator above to get the amount of soil for each area. Then add them together to get the total amount of soil needed.

For example: For the area shown below, measure Area 1 and use the calculator to get the amount of soil needed. Repeat with Area 2 and then add both quantities together to get the total amount of soil you need.

Building Natural Ponds book, by Robert Pavlis

What is a “Yard”?

The word “yard” is used as a short form for “cubic yard”. It is also the place where kids and dogs play 🙂

Soil vs Compost vs Mulch

The soil calculator works equally well for any type of material including topsoil, triple mix, compost, mulch, and gravel.

Mixing Soil Types

If you are building a new bed you might want to buy several different ingredients and mix them together. A good mix for a new bed is a combination of top soil and compost. If you are buying more than one type of material, measure the whole area and calculate the total amount of material needed. Then split the amount as a %.

Example: Assume the soil calculator indicates you need a total amount of 8 yards of material, and you want 25% compost and 75% top soil.

You then need 25% of 8 yards compost, or 2 yards (0.25 x 8) and 75% of 8 yards compost, or 6 yards (0.75 x 8).

To better understand bagged garden soil have a look at What is Bagged Garden Soil?

Soil Recipe for Raised Bed Gardens

There are many different recipes for raised beds some of which are based on real soil and others that are based on soilless soil mixtures. This video provides details for selecting the best soil for raised beds.

YouTube video

More Information About Garden Soil

Here are some more articles about soil.

What is Bagged Garden Soil?

Perlite vs Vermiculite – Which Soil Additive is Better?

Selecting the Best Potting Soil and Potting Mix

10 Easy Soil Testing Methods For Measuring Soil Health

These are videos about soil and mulch.

Mulch for Ornamental Beds

Mulch for Vegetable Beds

Selecting the Best Soil

Measuring the Amount of Sand, Silt and Clay

FAQ

Q. How do I calculate how much soil I need?

Measure the length and width of the area you want to cover and determine how deep you want the soil to be. Then enter these values in the soil calculator above and it will automatically give you the amount of soil you need.

Q. How do you calculate topsoil quantity?

Calculating the amount of top soil is done the same way as for soil. See the above question. In fact this method works for all kinds of soil, gravel and mulch.

Q. What does 1 cubic yard of dirt look like?

Visualize a stack of 27 bags of soil (1 cu. ft. each).
Q. How many 25L bags of soil in a cubic meter?
40.

Q. How many bags of soil are in a yard?

That depends on the size of the bags. You can get an accurate number by using the above soil calculator. Enter a “3” for the length, width and height in feet. That is one cubic yard. The calculator automatically calculates the number bags in one yard, for a variety of different bag sizes.

For example, there are 36 bags of 0.75 cubic foot size and and 27 bags in the 1 cubic foot size.

Q. How many bags of soil do I need for a 4×8 raised bed?
That depends on the depth of the bed as well as the size of the bags. If the bed is 1 foot deep it would take 32 bags (1 cubic foot size).
Q. How many wheelbarrows in a yard of dirt?
A commercial wheelbarrow is 6 cu. ft. in size, so 4.5 loads will move a yard of dirt. Most garden size wheelbarrows are 4 cu. ft., so a yard would fill them 7 times.

Q. Do you buy soil by the ton or yard?

That depends on the  quantity you are buying and the seller. It is common to measure truck loads in tons. Smaller loads are usually measured in cubic yards, commonly just called “yards”. The seller will be able to convert one unit of measure to the other.

Q. How do you estimate the soil in tons?

A ton is a unit of weight and to determine the amount of soil required you need to know the density of the material. This will vary by type of material as well as moisture content. Dry soil has a lower density than wet soil. Stones and sand have a higher density than soil.

One cubic yard of dry loose soil weights about 1 – 1.3 US tons (1 US ton = 0.9 metric ton), while one cubic yard of wet or compacted soil weighs between 1.5 and 1.7 US tons.

You can calculate the weight of any material using this formula:

weight (tons) = volume (cubic yards) X density (tons/cubic yard).

A ton of top soil covers an area of 50 square feet to a depth of 6 inches.

Q. Is there a difference between soil and top soil?

There are many different types of soil which are described in Topsoil, Compost, Triple Mix – What’s the Difference?

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Robert Pavlis

I have been gardening my whole life and have a science background. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

2 thoughts on “Soil Calculator | How Much Soil Do You Need?”

  1. Thank you so much!
    I have 4 raised beds and sure enough, I need to redo 3 of them .
    Off the topic a bit…..we had a huge poplar tree removed last Spring and boy, oh boy! The new growth is springing all over our property including in/around the raised beds. By the way, I watched your video on that , “painted” new growth 4 times but it didn’t work 🙁

    Reply
    • Roundup will work but it might take some time to kill a big root system. You can try Garlon – some people claim it works better. I have never used it.

      Reply

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