After working on a big landscaping project or digging up holes for new fence posts in the yard, it never fails that one ends up with more dirt than goes back in the hole or trench opened up.
Dirt has this uncanny ability to expand after it’s been brought up, mainly because it gets compressed with years of pressure and gravity.
However, once released, dirt becomes far bigger than it was, typically resulting in a whole lot of extra volume after the job is done with nowhere to go.
Most people put it in a pile to get the extra soil out of the way, but then it still has to be cleaned up later on.
Fortunately, here are 20 options for how to do that.
How to Get Rid of Dirt (Top 20 Ways)
1. Post an Ad for Free Soil
Whether it’s a sign on your front lawn, an ad on Craigslist, or a message on social media with a photo, advertising your free dirt may very well be a great way to get rid of it quickly.
Soil and dirt are often needed for fill in other landscaping or building projects, especially if there is a lot of it available.
Land businesses are always looking for materials to work with on their projects at lower cost, and a sizable amount of free dirt can easily be picked up and used, saving operating costs on the next job.
On the other hand, local neighbors may need soil or dirt as well and are quite willing to haul yours away instead of having to go down to the local hardware store and pay for it.
Websites with neighborhood communities work exceptionally well in moving unwanted material.
Whether it’s a site like Nextdoor.com or Freecycle or Craigslist, there will likely be somebody who could use the soil.
However, just be honest about it.
If the soil is good potting soil, that’s great, but if it’s typical dirt, it’s probably mixed with a lot of clay, which is better for fill than for growing anything.
Be sure to let people know what kind of area it was dug up from as well.
No one wants to be surprised with dirt that has a “dirty” history.
2. Use the Soil for Another Building Project
You may not have the answer immediately, but dirt can be very useful for other projects.
Let’s say that you’ve dug up a lot of it while redoing a fence or reshaping a green space.
It may not be obvious right there and then, but if possible, just store the dirt to the side and give yourself time to make sure there’s not another project it can be used for.
A common use for extra dirt tends to be as bed filler for a big foundation or deck in the backyard or a new build such as a shed or barn.
Good fill can be put down in a clean, flat layer, which helps compensate for uneven ground that would otherwise cause a small build instability.
Fill can also be used to offset erosion and compaction that occurs over time.
If you have a property with slopes or levels, eventually, water is going to start moving things around.
Rodents can do the same with digging holes and similar.
Extra fill can be quite handy for restoring the overall volume of what was in place originally before the elements and critters decided to have their way.
3. Bring Extra Dirt to the Waste Processor
Some waste recycling centers or locations will take dirt along with vegetation and wood.
However, this is not true across the board.
Many recycling centers can’t do anything with soil, and oftentimes, they will say no.
The best thing to do before going through all the work of loading and hauling the extra soil is to call.
Most waste center staff will be quite honest and forthright about what they take and don’t take.
If you can’t get ahold of someone, take a look at their website if the agency has one online.
They will usually detail and spell out everything that they will take.
If dirt is on the list, there will usually be a charge per volume for what can be delivered and dropped off.
In addition to the cost of the hauling, you will also need to have a sufficient payment method or cash to cover the fees at the center.
Again, many times, recycling centers won’t take soil because it’s very hard to test the material for poisons or problems immediately.
Soil testing takes time, and they have no idea what’s coming in based on the word of the delivering party.
4. Specialized Waste Service Bag Removal
Depending on the jurisdiction, your local waste service may offer a large bag removal service.
This benefit, which has a one-time fee or is offered once or twice a year for regular customers, involves a big bag the size of a car with large, industrial handles on the sides.
Everything that can fit in the bag is fair game.
The waste service will come, pick up the bag on a certain date, and haul it away.
The bag itself is lifted by the straps and deposited in a big hauler, and the soil is no longer your problem.
If there happens to be anything else that needs to go at the same time, it can go into the bag as well if there is enough room.
These large haul bags are made of extremely strong and durable nylon, but you don’t have to worry about that part.
Instead, you just need to focus on getting the dirt from your yard and into the bag.
Weight-wise, these bags are extremely durable and can handle up to a ton or a ton and a half of weight.
5. Soil for Raised Planting Beds
If your extra soil is generally good dirt, you can use it for a raised bed instead of getting rid of the dirt.
Many folks like to have a raised bed to grow vegetables, plants, or similar.
Soil at the big hardware stores can run anywhere from $2 to $7 a bag, and you already have your own extra dirt.
Mix what you have with one bag of potting soil, and you have viable, growing material for new plants.
You can make it even more productive by mixing in a lot of compost.
You will have a super-grow planting bed in a few months.
If you have more than enough for one planting bed, then make two, using one for vegetables and one for other plants.
6. Property Berms
If you have a larger property, berms can be handy in giving you a foundation for walkway barriers, fencing, and natural separations.
For large properties that are flat, berms can add some variety and visual appeal.
Applied in a specific design, they can turn a flat expanse into a bit of a rolling hill range.
Throwaway soil is very good for berm foundations, providing the fundamental structure of the hill or bump.
Covered with a layer of topsoil, the berm will grow a lawn quickly and become part of your landscape within a year or so after weathering in.
Berms are particularly useful for creating solid anchors for trees.
They allow excess water to drain and provide a growing tree added soil to work with for its root ball and branching out as the tree grows.
7. Potting Soil
If the amount of extra dirt you’ve produced is only about a barrel’s worth or so, it could be very useful as a base for potted plants.
By mixing the dirt you have with compost and fertilizer, you can create a nice, fertile mix of soil that plants can grow in very quickly.
Tomatoes are a great plant to work with, in that they start well in pots and can be transferred to the ground later.
Use a tomato plant cage, and they grow upward quickly with the pot as a base.
Now your extra dirt has produced food in a few weeks’ time and can continue to do so for months to come.
When winter comes, tear down the plants, use them for compost, re-pot, and start again with a new batch next spring and summer.
8. Use the Soil to Fill Gaps
If your home has erosion, dips, or holes, you can use your extra dirt to pack in those gaps and provide volume again.
Not only will it help prevent further erosion, but it can also prevent the holes from getting bigger.
Filling in dips, holes, and depressions also make your property level again, which helps reduce possible tripping hazards.
The number one cause of broken bones and injuries in older people tends to be falls.
Fences also tend to develop gaps over time underneath their frames.
New soil helps close up these holes.
That can help stop rodents and small animals from getting through, and it can help keep your own pets from digging under as well.
9. Offer Free Dirt to Neighbors
Chances are your neighbors might be doing some landscaping work themselves and aren’t thrilled about the idea of buying soil by the bag when they need to.
If you make a few calls around, you might be surprised that one of your neighbors could actually use the extra dirt you have for a project they are about to start or have on the way.
Simply putting out a flyer or making a few calls could take your excess soil off your hands in a few days.
10. Creating Terraces and Layers
Terraces have been used for centuries for far more efficient growth of plants, landscaping, and irrigation.
Water flows down from one layer to the next as gravity pulls it lower, but because the terraces are already flat, the water just flows off like a roof instead of pulling the soil downward with erosion.
It’s no surprise that terraces and layers hold their soil better and the plants that grow on them are healthier.
The look of terracing also makes properties appear far more interesting as they are appealing with the horizontal layering that is produced by their shapes.
Given you have the free dirt already, there’s no need to buy it.
Just move the excess to where you want the terrace to start, pack it in with some framing, and nature will take care of the rest.
11. Add Buffers Around Tree Bases
As trees grow, they tend to lose the soil around the base.
The larger trunk funnels water down which erodes the soil away from the trunk of the tree.
This exposes the roots and makes them vulnerable to parasites and pests.
Extra topsoil can help cover up the vulnerable tree base, giving it protection and fill again around the base.
Add some mulch on top of the soil and the base mound becomes water-resistant because the mulch absorbs the excess instead of letting it wash the soil away.
12. Create Rich Compost
Dirt is a primary ingredient for compost.
It gives you a base with which to mix organic material as it breaks down.
Vegetable and fruit material deconstructs quickly in dirt which absorbs the moisture and causes the leftover material to break apart.
This creates nutrients in the soil making it perfect for growing new plants and being used as rich potting soil in a few months’ time.
13. Construct a Retaining Wall
If you’re going to put in a retaining wall, more than likely, it will need some fill on the side of the hill to be held back.
Most times, the hill is already a slope.
Your extra dirt can fill the gap, leveling out the soil side behind the retaining wall and making it even instead of having a dip before the wall itself.
Pressure is actually valuable for the wall’s integrity, keeping its parts locked together instead of allowing slippage.
14. Pay Someone to Haul the Dirt Away
One of the more traditional approaches to dealing with extra dirt is to simply pay someone to haul it away.
Removal contractors will do the job for the right price, and they usually end up moving the soil to someone else who can use it, which they’ve already arranged for.
The typical cost for dirt removal is about $35 per cubic yard of material.
This fluctuates a bit, but folks should be prepared to pay something close to that figure at a minimum.
However, many haulers add in a lot of overhead to cover their fuel, equipment, business costs, and more.
Therefore, prices as much as $150 per cubic yard have been seen, depending on location and local cost differences.
15. Talk to Local Nurseries
Nurseries are in the business of growing plants and selling them to customers.
To do that, nurseries need soil and a lot of it.
Every plant that is sold goes with a pot full of soil that doesn’t come back, so it’s an operating cost for them that has to be met.
Many nurseries will be receptive to the idea of taking on a load of free dirt, especially if it is substantial.
They usually have the crew and the vehicle to haul the material as well, so they may even be willing to pick up your excess soil and save you the work of hauling it to them as long as the soil is free to take.
However, smaller loads aren’t much use, and they probably won’t bother with a barrel full.
If you happen to have a local zoo, they are usually in need of lots of soil and tree limbs to help create and maintain habitats for their animals.
Soil usually has to be replaced over time as the cage soil they have becomes too contaminated to keep using over time, especially if the cage has more than one animal in it.
New soil becomes a common resource needed to freshen habitats and keep them healthy for the animals to live in.
Again, a large amount of soil is ideal for these needs, but zoos may need you to bring them the dirt versus picking it up.
17. Sell Your Soil
If your excess dirt is extremely good quality, there’s no point in throwing away value.
With a stock of soil bags, you could literally make your own agricultural product and sell it by the bag or in bulk to folks who really want to work with fresh, good soil.
That converts your excess dirt into ready cash which can go into a bank account as savings or something else that is actually useful for you.
18. Create Small Berms for Your Driveway
Many property owners have a driveway that is surrounded by grass on both sides.
Unfortunately, when the driveway is cleaned or it rains, all that road grit, oil, and chemical residue from the car gets washed into the lawn on both sides.
By creating small but effective berms separating the lawn from the driveway on both sides, you could build an effective barrier that stops that chemical flow from reaching your lawn and poisoning it.
Instead, the berms create an effective block, and your lawn grows unaffected by the runoff that gets filtered through the berm layer.
This is particularly useful if your home is in an area with sensitive wildlife.
19. Offer Your Dirt to a Local Grow Collective
Living in a suburban or more urban area, your extra soil can be put to good use if there is a local growing collective.
These community farms typically pop up in downtown areas, and they become a collective effort with little sub-plots for folks to grow plants and vegetables.
However, the soil in the plot has usually been part of the city landscape, usually buried under a building foundation that was later removed, and it has poor growing quality due to a lack of nutrients.
Your free soil could be the trick the community growing project needs to restart their own soil to grow with far better results.
20. Call Local Landscape Material Stores
Landscaping material stores are in the business of selling everything from crushed rock to bark to soil.
Given that your soil is free, if there is a lot of it, they may be very interested in picking up the lot and adding it to their inventory.
The worst that can happen is they say, “Thanks, but no, thanks.”
A call to ask only takes a minute or so to find out.
In any situation where your soil is going to another party, make sure to give them a full account of how the soil was previously used or if there was any exposure to chemicals.
Contaminated soil can be a problem, and environmental laws may require you to remediate the soil first before transferring it to another party.
This is common where the soil was in an area used for industrial storage, or if chemicals were used regularly in the location.
It’s more common than people think, especially if the soil comes from the removal of a storage shed that contained lots of lawn and household chemicals for years.
Also, don’t consider just dumping your dirt somewhere off the side of a road.
Even if remote, someone will likely see what’s going on, and you could end up breaking a law, including pollution laws, resulting in painful penalties.
Given all the above, there shouldn’t be a need to resort to such drastic options.
Usually, most people are able to remove their dirt effectively well before getting to the 20th option on the list above.
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