After all, plants rely on topsoil, the uppermost layer of the earth's surface, for water and necessary nutrients.It takes time to build up high-quality soil that includes generous amounts of decomposed plants, called organic matter.You can put a 2-3 inch thick layer directly on top of existing soil before planting and just let nature do the rest of the work, or you can till it in.If you're creating a new garden space, and want to till in soil amendments to get everything off to a good start, that's fine.For one thing, turning soil can stimulate weed seeds to sprout, so you'll just be creating more work for yourself to get rid of them.If you need to walk into a bed to care for plants, you can minimize compacting the soil by creating a permanent stepping stone path you can use for maintenance or temporarily laying down a sheet of plywood while you work.This is especially true for the soil where you grow annual flowers and vegetables, which suck up a lot of nutrients to fuel their rapid growth.Luckily, it's easy and inexpensive to restore nutrition by adding high-quality compost and/or granular or liquid fertilizer products as needed.Then you'll be all set for spring and can just add a layer of mulch after cleaning up and planting your beds for the new growing season.Stick with potting mix ($7, The Home Depot) for containers, and use topsoil in garden beds.Topsoil is widely available through a variety of sources, including garden centers, nurseries, and home improvement stores.Usually, commercially available topsoil has been screened; this means any extra materials such as small rocks, roots, and debris have been removed. .
The Best Soil for a Raised Garden Bed: Healthy Soil Equals Healthy
This is especially advantageous for those whose property has hard-packed or clay soil, issues with tree roots, or concerns about pollutants.And since good soil is the foundation of a healthy garden, you want to make sure you’re setting your veggies up for success.The soil in a raised bed will remain loose and friable, rather than being hard-packed over time by footsteps.When I built my raised beds, I called around and ordered what I thought would be a good-quality triple mix.In Ontario where I live, triple mix is generally top soil, compost, and peat moss or black loam.All that rich organic matter is an important component that will hold moisture and provide nutrients to your plants.Topping up your beds with compost will add nutrients back into the soil to prepare it for whatever you plant next.To maintain the health of even the best soil for a raised garden bed, adding organic matter every year is essential.I find the soil levels in my raised beds are usually lower from the weight of the snow.If you have smaller containers to fill, check out Jessica’s recipes in her DIY potting soil article. .
Raised Bed Gardening
In case you missed it: I had invited my email group to send me any questions they hoped I would answer on the topic of raised bed gardening.I received a huge response, many from folks who plan to start raised bed gardening for the first time this season.If you would like to join the conversation and contribute to future topics, click the red “Get Free Updates” button at the top of this page.It was rich with information learned through my many years of raised bed garden experience (also detailed last week) and a lot of research.Concrete blocks, for instance, are pretty unforgiving in structural soundness on uneven surfaces.The moist soil and plant material being held will put pressure on your bed side walls.Depending on bed length and the material you are using, it may be wise to add some wall support.(It helps to cut the bottom end of the 2”x4” stake into a point to make it easier to drive it into the ground).Since wood has the potential to bow or warp, note the direction of the grain at the end of each board.If you don’t use mortar to adhere your concrete blocks together, I recommend using rebar, which can be driven down through the hollow cores or using some other method of staking to better hold up to the bed pressure.The healthy raised bed soil will infiltrate and improve the health of that subsurface over time, and regardless of how high you are building, it doesn’t hurt to offer your plant’s roots the opportunity to reach down even deeper.For those of you building on hardscape or over contaminated soil, don’t feel like you are missing out on not being able to break up the surface.Additional Structure Considerations: If you are dealing with gophers or other subterranean root-chompers, these burrowing pests are best prevented during the raised bed construction phase.Consider adding a layer of chicken wire or other metal mesh to the bottom of your raised beds.Stainless steel hardware cloth reportedly lasts even longer than galvanized.Burrowing rodents are crafty creatures, so extend your mesh barrier up, alongside the sidewalls of your bed structure.Yes, this can be a lot of work, but you’ll only get one shot at this preventative measure, without having to deconstruct your raised beds down the road.Regardless of the size you are building, the depth you are creating, or the material you are using; I don’t recommend weed cloth.You might think it’s a neat and tidy improvement to place that clean, black weed cloth at the base of your garden bed.Weed mat – regardless of material – provides no benefit and will hamper drainage as the pores eventually clog.The only time I would consider an exception to this rule and risk drainage loss is when fighting Bermuda grass.Instead, the soil is the environment that promotes a healthy ecosystem below the surface – that can facilitate (or hinder) the ability for air, water and nutrients to be utilized by plants and their roots at an optimal level.A healthy soil food web is busy with billions of microscopic organisms as well as larger creatures, like earthworms, all working together.A soil food web is complex, so building that healthy ecosystem doesn’t mean a trip to the home improvement store, buying lots of bags of garden soil to fill up all your raised bed space.Over the years, I’ve developed a mixture of elements that has brought me abundant gardening success.As mentioned earlier in this series, your soil is not the area in which I recommend cutting corners cost-wise.The U.S Composting Council encourages all gardeners and growers to “strive for five.” This refers to the goal of making the organic matter in your soil 5% of the total (by weight).The rough estimate to make that 5% happen is to include organic material of about 30% by volume to the total.It should tend towards the darker side of brown vs. gray or clay in color, and it should smell earthy – not rancid.If in doubt, look for a mark of certification from some nationally-recognized organization which indicates the soil contains certified compost.With certified compost as an ingredient, you can feel confident that the topsoil will be good quality too.30% High-Quality Homemade or Certified Compost: Use what you can make, but source the difference from a reputable supplier.Compost is fantastic (I’ve even lept into glorious piles of compost – don’t miss the end of that linked episode), but it doesn’t provide all the complex elements (like minerals) necessary for healthy, balanced soil.Mineralized Soil Blend: Here’s another case where finding a good landscape supply company is important.Worm castings are significantly higher in all the primary nutrients your plants need to thrive.Mushrooms are grown in mixtures of natural materials like hay, gypsum, corn cobs, cottonseed hulls, etc.It contains about 3% nitrogen and potassium, a bit of phosphorus and other bonus elements, like magnesium and calcium.Although pine bark is slightly acidic, I’ve never found that to have much effect on the overall pH of my garden soil.It will break down over time, and its coarse texture provides space for the movement of water and oxygen through your garden beds.Ground bark brings a diversity of particle size that can really amp up your plant health.Composted Cow or Poultry Manure: Well-composted animal manure has been a mainstay of organic soil fertility for thousands of years because of the nutrients, organic matter and variability of particulate matter that it adds to complement overall soil make–up.Many people have poisoned their soil with killer compost (including me), by inadvertently adding herbicide–tainted ingredients usually found in horse manure.It passes through the horse’s digestive system and goes through the composting process without losing any of its killing power.The traces of herbicide (no matter how minute they may be) will kill or severely disrupt the normal growing habits of many garden edibles as effectively after being composted as the day they were manufactured.Perform this simple test before you ever let the manure come into contact with your plants, soil or compost pile.I didn’t perform a bioassay test on the horse manure from my GardenFarm, and I suffered the consequences for four years.Over time, they will break down, and the surface of your garden bed will sink, requiring you to add more soil later.Fill Dirt: This, too, might be tempting as a cost savings, but it will hinder all your other efforts to build that healthy growing environment.I’ve only recently begun adding it to my garden, so it’s too soon to give you any personal observations.It’s a pure carbon source that doesn’t break down, but it does help make existing soil nutrients available to plants.If your fire ash is all wood-based, it can be a good addition (in a small quantity) to your compost pile.Don’t use charcoal fire ash, as that can include some ingredients that aren’t good for your organic garden.As with containers, raised beds can leach nutrients more quickly; so as a final step, it’s a good idea to add some slow-release, non-synthetic, nitrogen-based fertilizer – like Milorganite – to the mix.It’s like the dash of cocoa powder on a great latte – adding a little extra kick.Building that initial raised bed garden environment with quality ingredients will provide you good results the first season.You can contact your local county extension office for that, and the tests are pretty inexpensive ($20-30).In early September – before I plant my winter, cool-weather crops – I topdress with an inch or two of compost.If I were to “disturb the party” by tilling in my compost, I would be doing a disservice to the existing soil food web.On the off-chance something undesirable has made its way into those mediums, compost works as a buffer to help neutralize any potential negative effect.Perhaps, you are working with existing raised beds that have been depleted and don’t have all of that microbial action going on.Instead – using a pitchfork or a broadfork, stab the garden soil deeply and wobble the fork around to create a little space around the tines.Here again, I highly recommend you start with a soil test, so you have a better understanding of what you need to “deposit” into those stale beds to get them ready to be available for “withdrawals.”.If there isn’t any debris to remove, but your bed is filled with organic soil and materials; don’t worry about amending this season.What’s more, mulch improves the soil by breaking down slowly over time and adding the resulting nutrients.We all like our garden to be beautiful to look at – even if we don’t all broadcast our successes and failures on national television.A one– or two-inch layer of wheat straw, arborist wood chips, shredded bark, grass clippings, composted leaves, etc.- anything natural is okay here.So, having a good watering system in place will make it much easier to reap abundance in the garden.Myself, I go a step further and take full advantage of some quick, easy and inexpensive tools to automate the irrigation of my beds.Depending on your set up and spacing; emitter tubing, soaker hoses or a drip system will provide the perfect moisture level.Soaker hoses are porous, allowing the water to seep out slowly along the entire length into the surrounding soil.Most soaker hoses are made that way, but I have concerns with chemicals from that recycled rubber leaching into my soil.A bonus tip: Place your soaker hose under mulch for extra water efficiency.If you’ve ever used soaker hose and had it spray up onto your plant foliage, you’ll be happy to hear that non-porous emitter tubes don’t have that problem (although if you add a layer of mulch, errant water spray won’t occur from soaker hose either).Most commonly, drip kits include a lightweight, flexible tube with an emitter at its end so that you can direct water to a certain plant or small area.The wand attachment provides a gentler spray than most other sprayers, and the extension pole makes it easier for me to get that water delivery right down at the base of the plant.Since I don’t have to stoop over to target the base, I’m able to multitask and spend watering time looking over new growth and inspecting the plants for signs of pests or disease.If that’s the case, just be sure you are watering in the early morning to decrease evaporation and allow your plant foliage the remainder of the day to dry off.There are still some questions that need answering in Part 3 of this series, so I encourage you to check back next week for all that information.Joining is easy and fast – just scroll to the top of this page, click the red “Get Free Updates” box, and enter your email address.May I suggest you listen in while you start diagramming out your raised beds and plant locations? .
Topsoil vs. Garden Soil – What's the Difference?
Understanding these two types of soil and when to use them can make the difference between achieving your landscape goals and wasting your time and effort.In the landscape materials industry, however, topsoil refers to earth that has gone through a screening process to remove debris and create a consistent texture.Topsoil, on the other hand, contains natural organic matter from leaves, grasses, weeds and tree bark that can help sustain plant life.Amendments may include compost or other organic matter, and some soils – like perennial potting mixes – have added ingredients to encourage growth of specific types of plants.Add organic material to an existing lawn as a means of reducing thatch and increasing pest and weed resistance.To learn more, or to schedule delivery of topsoil or garden soil, contact our West Jordan office today. .
Should I Buy Topsoil or Potting Soil for My Flower & Vegetable
While topsoil is available in large amounts and is relatively inexpensive, potting soil is formulated for general or specific plants' needs.When adding topsoil, slope it away from the house or outbuildings to ensure that stormwater drains away from your crawl space or basement.If the topsoil is acidic, put on gloves, goggles and a dust mask and mix in lime according to a soil test.If the topsoil is filled with clay or sand, add additional compost, coir or 1/4-inch bark to increase the ability of the mix to drain or retain water. .
Filling, or Refreshing, Your Raised Bed Garden – City Grange
But the underlying message (you're going to probably get tired of hearing about in this post) is that good soil matters for a healthy, productive garden.[This handy SOIL CALCULATOR can help if your bed is a different size or you want to know about filling containers.].(Or you can just get our magical custom blend Thriller Bed Filler and call it good.).Bulk orders are usually brought in a dump truck and put in your driveway as they cannot block city sidewalks, streets or alleys.Plus, especially now during Shelter in Place, it is sometimes hard to find a landscaping company that will deliver a "small" order (less than 10 cubic yards).So most people resort to bagged soil which is a little more expensive but convenient to carry to the back yard...You can buy worm castings (City Grange carries them) and they are good for houseplants and containers.Nutrients & Other Things: Good, fresh soil likely contains all the trace minerals your garden needs.A garden refreshed often with compost and organic fertilizers will generally stay productive.Well, it's too much to go into depth here but a simple answer is fungi that work with the plants roots to help them uptake soil nutrients more effectively. .
Difference Between Garden Soil and Top Soil
It is generally not recommended that you entirely replace the soil in your lawn or garden, but additional soil is sometimes necessary if you intend to extend your garden or create raised beds. .
Topsoil vs. Gardening Soil – Which One Is Right For Me?
Make sure all your hard work out in the toiling heat pays off and use the right type of soil for your project.Topsoils with a loamy texture are great for gardening because they are easy to till and promote airflow.Whereas topsoil is better suited for a wide range of projects, gardening soil usually fits more of a niche need, sometimes even plant-specific needs.The right soil for your garden or landscaping needs completely depends on the specific project you are taking on.You would be hard pressed to find a landscaping expert that would recommend that you completely replace all the existing soil in your yard or garden. .
Topsoil vs. potting soil
Potting soil is a mixture of peat moss and other organic materials such as composted sawdust.Topsoil means the very top layer of the Earth’s crust, rich in nutrients because plants have lived and died in it, sometimes for thousands of years.Most potting soils are based on peat moss, with other ingredients added to make them ideal for certain uses.Some potting soils include vermiculite or perlite; flakes of fluffy featherweight rock that’s been puffed up so it holds lots of air.Good potting soils are sterile, meaning they have absolutely no weed seeds or diseases in them.For raised beds, topsoil is much cheaper, as it’s sold in bulk, but it should be mixed with compost, peat moss or vermiculite to make it fluffy and improve drainage.Potting soils are for planters, hanging baskets, window boxes and other containers where drainage is important and weight would be a problem.Because plants breathe through their roots, they’ll thrive in potting soil as long as they are watered regularly. .
How To Fill A Raised Bed With Healthy Soil (& Save Money!)
Bacteria, algae, lichens, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes are too tiny to see but spotting earthworms and insects crawling through the earth are good indications that the soil is healthy and fertile.They produce gummy substances that improve soil structure by binding clay, sand, and silt particles together.Like nature’s glue, it keeps soil from completely crumbling when handled, washing away when it rains, or dispersing like sand in the wind.The area of soil surrounding the roots of plants – known as the rhizosphere – is a truly awe-inspiring place that is worthy of our attention and care.The complex – and mostly invisible – interactions between these underground organisms is a part of the greater soil food web that makes all of life possible.When you pay proper homage to your growing medium by ensuring it harbors plenty of living organisms, you’ll be amply rewarded in the vegetable patch!One big advantage of gardening in raised beds is complete control over the quality and characteristics of your soil.True topsoil is a very valuable material since it is enriched with all sorts of living, dead, and decaying organic matter.Because compost will be added to the mix, you don’t need to rely wholly on topsoil to provide nutrients and soil microbes for the plants.Blended topsoils will have a much richer texture and a good earthy aroma, thanks to the addition of organic matter.This really can’t be helped because the high heat needed to destroy all the seeds would kill off any beneficial organisms in the soil too.When you have only one or two raised garden beds to fill, purchasing topsoil by the bag is more convenient (and a lot less messy) than buying in bulk.At less than $2 per 40-pound bag, basic topsoil is the cheapest option but will need to be heavily amended with compost and other materials to make it fit for growing.Like premium topsoil, garden soil contains peat moss and woody matter, but in greater amounts.At around $8 for 1.5 cubic foot bag, it costs about the same as garden soil but has a higher peat moss ratio.Most potting mixes are made up of mostly peat moss with varying amounts of woody materials, vermiculite, perlite, and fertilizers.Native soil that is predominantly sand or clay can be mixed with a small amount of compost to improve texture.Compost is an absolutely essential part of the equation for healthy soil since it’s what seeds the garden with nutrients and microbial life.Well-rotted compost is highly fertile and will provide an array of micro and macro nutrients plants need to thrive.It also fixes poor soil in numerous ways by conditioning it, buffering pH levels, and boosting moisture retention.For larger projects – like filling up a slew of raised beds – you will need to process quite a lot of organic materials to provide enough compost volume.You’ll need to have an abundance of green and brown materials on hand to keep it well fed and working.Because compost plays such a vital role in building healthy soil, you will want to make sure what you use is real, fertile, and safe for the garden.When mixed with topsoil, vermicompost improves soil structure, aeration, and water holding capacity.Starting up a wormery makes for a fun and fascinating side project that will keep you in worm castings year-round.It’s a good composting alternative for smaller gardens and apartment dwellers since the worm bin can be situated indoors.If you can’t find some locally, check for trustworthy brands online – like this 10-pound bag of earthworm castings by VermisTerra.To really customize your raised bed mix, add in extra organic matter at a rate of 5% each to increase drainage, aeration, and / or moisture retention.Like coarse sand, perlite provides stellar drainage and aeration but it is lighter and holds more air.A more sustainable alternative to peat moss, coconut coir helps keep the soil moist.The byproduct of heating organic wastes in an airless environment, including biochar to your raised bed mix will improve soil structure and moisture retention with a little nutrient boost.Once the raised beds have been built and all the ingredients for soil are at the ready, it’s time to start filling up your grow box.Aside from using native topsoil and homemade compost, there’s another clever way to fill up your raised bed for cheap.Pre-mix your topsoil, compost, and other soil ingredients together – keeping them properly portioned – by adding them, one at a time, to the raised bed.Caring for the rhizosphere of your garden beds is a smart investment that will save you loads of trouble in the long run.Rotating annual crops, boosting fertility with plant teas, adding more compost, and growing green manures in winter are some of the natural ways to improve the health of your soil. .