Black Gold


This page provides a brief synopsis of the types of soil we sell. For more information please click on the links provided.

Topsoil: Each cubic yard weighs approximately 1.25 tons (weight will vary depending on moisture content). This soil is not a byproduct of gravel mining nor has it been hauled in from construction sites. It is river soil that has been mined from Black Gold’s pit in Big Flats  Our soil is routinely tested at Cornell University’s Nutrient Analysis Lab for composition and texture. Testing reveals that the pH levels range from a low of 6.0 to a high of 6.8, and the soil is classified as “loam” on the USDA’s (soil) textural triangle. (Click here for more information).

Screened: This topsoil has been screened to 1” to remove any large rocks, sticks, sod,, etc., which are larger than 1” in diameter. Screened topsoil is always recommended if you will be working the soil by hand. (Click here for more information).

Unscreened: This is the very same soil we use to make our screened topsoil, however it could contain large rocks, sticks, sod, etc., which can make the material difficult to work with. For this reason, we do not recommend working this soil by hand.  We encourage you to view the soil prior to purchase as the amount of rocks, sticks, organic matter, etc . can vary depending on what area of the mine site we are pulling it from. (Click here for more information).     

Garden Blend Soil: Black Gold’s Garden Blend Soil is a mixture of screened topsoil, organic compost, and sand. The sand provides aeration and balances out the compost’s high water retention capability. When the sand and compost are blended with our topsoil, the result is a growing medium well suited to a wide range of plants and vegetables. NOTE: To maximize the production of your vegetables and flowers you may need to adjust the pH levels and nutritive quality of the soil to meet the specific needs of each type plant you are growing. Consult with your local nursery or Cooperative Extension.

Fill: Substandard soil which will contain sticks, stones, sod and may contain small amounts of  inorganic debris.

Bulk vs. Bagged:
Buying topsoil in bulk is very different from buying it in bags from a home improvement store. When you buy topsoil in bags you have virtually no stones, roots, etc., in it – but you also pay a whole lot more for it. As an example, even if you were only paying a dollar a bag for a 20 pound bag, that comes out to $100 per ton versus an average of around $10 per ton for bulk topsoil in the Twin Tiers area.

Screened or Unscreened:
Bulk topsoil can be screened or unscreened, and varies greatly in it’s composition and quality from one vendor to the next.  “Screened” topsoil, as the name implies,  means that the soil passes through a  screen with set sized holes. The screen filters out stones, roots, sod and other foreign material that are larger than the holes in the screen. Soil that passes through a screen will be much easier to work with than soil that has not been screened because there is less foreign material in it and because the screen breaks up any large clumps.

Generally, the smaller the holes in the screen, the less foreign matter the finished product will contain. Screen size, in and of itself, doesn’t tell the whole story though. Every mine site is different – a screen size that works well at one site (or even a particular area of a mine site) may not be adequate at another. At Black Gold, for example, we generally pass our topsoil through a 1” screen. However, if we move to an area of the mine site than has a high content of very small stone, we may drop the screen size down to ¾” to attain a product that is up to our standards.

If you are doing a large scale project and are using a rock hound to work the soil, unscreened topsoil may be an option for you. But bear in mind that even though the cost of unscreened soil is less, you will have to invest time to get the soil to spread evenly (removing rocks and other debris) and you are actually paying for less soil (screened topsoil is kind of like buying a boneless steak – you’re paying only for the meat, whereas unscreened topsoil is like buying meat on the bone where the weight of the bone is figured into the price).

Price per Ton vs. Price per Cubic Yard:
When you’re figuring out how much topsoil you need for your project you will need to calculate how many cubic yards are needed. When you think of it that way, how much the soil weighs is kind of a moot point. However, many area vendors sell their topsoil by weight rather than volume. So, if you’re shopping around there are some important questions to ask if you want to compare apples to apples.

The first question is “What is your average weight per cubic yard, and how did you determine that?” Soil weight can vary greatly depending on the composition of the soil, and its moisture content. If there’s a lot of sand or moisture in the soil, it will weigh a lot more than dry, loamy soil. For example, our topsoil which, is measured and sold by the cubic yard can vary in weight by as much as 300 pounds per cubic yard depending solely on its moisture content. The volume, however, does not change. An inch on a brick is the same as an inch on a feather, but the brick sure weighs more!

The next question is “Have you had your soil tested to see how much sand is in it?” There are two reasons for asking this question. The first is that  the  more sand there is, the more the soil will weigh. The second reason is sand doesn’t retain water well so the more sand there is, the more you’ll have to water your plants. While some sand is good,  too much can be a negative.  To find out more, click here.

Black Gold •