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What Is a Cubic Yard of Soil?

By David Robinson
When landscaping, soil is measured by the cubic yard.
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Soil, especially topsoil, is a valuable commodity. It is bought and sold by volume rather than by weight. The standard units of volume are the cubic yard and the cubic foot. Builders may refer to a cubic yard as a "yard of soil."


One cubic yard is the volume contained within a cube with sides 3 feet long. It is equivalent to 27 cubic feet. One scoop of an excavator bucket contains half a cubic yard, so a cubic yard is also known as "two scoops."


Moisture content, stones and the type of rock from which the soil is made influence the weight of soil. A cubic yard of topsoil weighs an average of 2,700 lbs. -- dry sand weighs the same -- but compact wet sandy soil weighs about 3,200 lbs. per cubic yard, according to data provided by the Department of Ecology in Washington state.


Vegetable gardens require a minimum depth of 10 to 12 inches of topsoil. One cubic yard of topsoil is enough to create a vegetable patch measuring 27 to 33 square feet. It is also enough soil to support a lawn measuring 81 square feet.


About the Author


David Robinson has written professionally since 2000. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Meteorological Society. He has written for the "Telegraph" and "Guardian" newspapers in the U.K., government publications, websites, magazines and school textbooks. He holds an honors Bachelor of Arts in geography and education and a teaching certificate from Durham University, England.