So, what is the best soil for a raised garden bed?Filling a raised bed will likely require more soil than you think.The best soil for a raised garden bed.Whatever you end up using, you want to make sure you amend it with compost.I filled my beds with about 3/4 triple mix, and even though it had compost in it, I top-dressed the garden with about ¼ compost.Amending the soil in your raised bed.Topping up your beds with compost will add nutrients back into the soil to prepare it for whatever you plant next.This fills them back up to the top.It’s a good idea to do a soil pH test from time to time, so you can make the necessary amendments that will help your crops to flourish.Growing cover crops is also a great way to add nutrients back into the soil. .
Raised Bed Gardening
It was rich with information learned through my many years of raised bed garden experience (also detailed last week) and a lot of research.Yes – good, healthy soil needs to be constructed, but it’s easy to do.Building Your Raised Garden Beds.How level depends on the materials you are using.Regardless – when all is said and done, you need to end up with a level soil surface.Whether during a rainstorm or when you’re irrigating the bed, that level surface will prevent erosion – protecting tender plant roots, keeping nutrients where you want them, and preventing the need for extra maintenance.Drill bits are inexpensive and will make quick work of the job.If you are building on top of your native, non-contaminated soil; break up the ground surface before adding soil to the bed structure.You may also want to go a step further and start with a layer of hardware cloth underneath your raised bed structure, extending into the ground outside your bed borders.I’ll dive more into pest control in Part 3 of this series, but obviously, your best opportunity to prevent pests from getting through the bottom of your beds is while the beds are empty.Regardless of the size you are building, the depth you are creating, or the material you are using; I don’t recommend weed cloth.Healthy soil promotes the processes of nutrient development and delivery (to plants).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.You build a healthy growing medium.Building Your Garden Soil.Over the years, I’ve developed a mixture of elements that has brought me abundant gardening success.I use a mix of organic material to create a diverse blend.The health of your plants and success of your crop depends on it.Building great soil is a process over growing seasons.I do recommend that, when you are initially filling your raised beds, mix all the ingredients together.50% High-Quality Topsoil: This makes up the bulk of your bed.If you don’t know someone to offer a recommendation (or even when you DO get a recommendation), take the time to talk with the supplier.Ask questions as to what goes into making their topsoil.I make a lot of compost at home, but it’s never enough.Ask questions as to what goes into making their compost.How do they make their compost?An easy way to play your compost purchase safe is to find a supplier that offers Certified compost, as deemed by the U.S Composting Council.Top Six Organic Materials to Add to Your Topsoil and Compost:.Mineralized Soil Blend: Here’s another case where finding a good landscape supply company is important.It made a noticeable difference to the success of everything growing in my garden.Minerals are the most important ingredients that no one seems to talk much about.In fact, worm castings add five times the nitrogen, seven times the phosphorus and ten times the potassium than ordinary topsoil.But by the time that material has been composted, bagged and sold as mushroom compost; it’s light and crumbly.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.If tempted to use horse manure, be sure to check out the link for the bioassay test.Have you ever watered a dried out container, but the water just rolled off the surface?Over time, they will break down, and the surface of your garden bed will sink, requiring you to add more soil later.It’s a pure carbon source that doesn’t break down, but it does help make existing soil nutrients available to plants.Adding mycorrhizae to your soil may provide a benefit.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.Building that initial raised bed garden environment with quality ingredients will provide you good results the first season.However, those crops you grow will be making non-stop nutrient withdrawals from those beds.Amend your soil once or twice each year with organic nutrients (like those I described above) – not synthetic fertilizer.Before you amend your soil for the first time and about every couple of seasons, I recommend that you get a soil test.A soil test will determine the pH levels and deficiencies of your soil to help guide your amendment choices.The nutrients you provide the soil will be most optimally taken up by your plants when the soil is at a neutral pH.So, they will naturally and quickly work all the compost back down into the party with the rest of them.When I’m amending my soil with ingredients other than compost, such as worm castings or mineralized soil; I prefer to add the ingredient(s) to compost and, then, add the mixture to the bed surfaces.Then, fill those spaces with compost.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.That organic material will break down over the season and should provide at least enough space to amend by the next season.Should you add fertilizer when you plant?When you build your soil the right way – slowly over time – everything your plants will need will already be in the bed.If there is one thing I love almost as much as compost, it’s mulch.What’s more, mulch improves the soil by breaking down slowly over time and adding the resulting nutrients.Shredded leaves happen to be my favorite mulch and are just another key to the success of my or any garden.I recommend against rubber mulch for the same reasons I recommend against using tires as a container (check that out in Part 1 of this series if you missed it.).Mulch is to soil above ground what compost is for plants below ground.Good soil and mulch will reduce drying, but good irrigation is also important.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.These methods deliver water slowly and directly at the roots of your plants – where that water does the most good!Each of these options are inexpensive, easy to use and available at any home improvement or garden center.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).That means, water from each emitter will spread across the bed toward the water from other emitters, and any roots in between will receive moisture.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.For most raised beds setups, emitter tube or soaker hose are your better options.By adding them to your watering system, you can completely control the level and timing of water delivery.Your plants will thank you.Throughout the garden season, I periodically hand water even though my plants are being watered automatically.How much should you water your raised garden beds?Tuna Can Test: Place the empty can in the area being watered and, once there’s an inch of water in the can, you know there’s also an inch of water in your soil.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.Podcast episode 028: The Role of Minerals in Making Great Soil.Podcast episode 029: My Five Biggest Gardening Mistakes of All Time (and What I Learned From Them).Podcast episode 042: Raised Bed Gardening, Pt.Podcast episode 044: Raised Bed Gardening, Pt.Water Right Inc. .
How to Fill a Raised Garden Bed: Build the Perfect Organic Soil
Therefore, our goal here is not to simply fill our raised beds with soil, but to create an optimum living organic raised bed soil that plants love!In my experience, not one soil, be it in bulk or bagged, is going to be perfect for growing vegetables on its own straight out of the bag.With that in mind, I am simply sharing the way we prefer to craft and build our organic living soil.If you already have filled your raised garden beds with less-than-ideal soil, don’t fret!Getting Started with Raised Beds.Using a combination of quality organic soil, compost, and an aeration addition will create the “perfect” soil.By perfect, I mean soil that is rich, fertile, holds moisture, but also has good drainage and what I like to call “fluff” to it.Before you can go about choosing and purchasing soil, you’ll need first to calculate how much volume is needed to fill the raised garden bed(s) you have.Bulk Soil.Bagged Soil.We might continue to mix in a little bulk soil here and there to increase the volume, but not nearly as much as the other good stuff.Compost is organic matter that has been thoroughly broken down and decomposed into rich nutrient-dense plant food.So we do end up supplementing with organic bagged compost or bulk compost too.The bulk compost option that we purchase is made from local green waste.Yes, Bu’s starts with manure, but it aged and composted over time to become a more mild, balanced product.Therefore, avoid adding fresh animal manure to your garden.Aside from our homemade compost and Bu’s, we are able to get an “organic compost” product from our local landscape supply company in bulk for big projects.are compost too.I highly suggest you try starting a worm bin at home!Why add material for aeration?Well, as we talked about, soil is full of living things, and they need air to thrive!It may seem counter-intuitive, but absorbent materials like lava rock and pumice also increase moisture retention at the same time as providing good drainage.So if you use primarily bagged mixes, read the ingredient list.If they contain those things, you can go lighter on adding additional aeration (e.g. perhaps only 10% extra, if any).However, if you buy only bulk soil and compost products that do not contain any aeration additive, you’ll want to add more.For the aeration portion of our soil recipe, we have come to love volcanic rock.Lava rock is full of pores, that not only promote aeration and drainage, but are also the perfect habitat for beneficial microbes to grow.3/8″ lava rock – added for aeration, drainage, moisture retention, and surface area for microbial life!Another thing that will help with aeration is… my favorite, worms!Nitrogen in the casts is readily available to plants.Adding worms to raised garden beds.Red wigglers are fairly small worms, reproduce quickly, and break down food matter fast, thus creating castings faster.They’re perfect in a worm bin, and good in the garden too!A few got added to each bed too!Now that we have a better idea of the types of materials we want to add to our raised beds, it is time to fill them up!For example, add several inches of bulk soil or bagged soil, a good layer of compost, a couple inches of volcanic rock, and mix.We’ll mix this up, and then add more of the same until it’s full!To take up *some* space at the bottom of a deep empty bed, you could choose to add a few inches of small branches, leaves, mulch, pine needles, or other woody organic matter, and then add the other recommended raised bed soil and compost on top.If you filled your raised garden bed primarily with high-quality organic bagged soils and compost, you can go pretty light on the fertilizer for the first growing season.Those bags usually contain pre-amended soil with light fertilizer and some compost added.But as the next growing season comes around, you’ll want to start implementing a fertilizer routine for your raised garden beds.On the flip side, if you started primarily with bulk soil and compost from a local landscape company, you’ll most definitely want to add fertilizer from the start.With all of the compost, worm castings, aerated compost tea, and other more natural, mild amendments and practices we use, we just don’t find the former to be necessary!They’re all OMRI-certified for organic gardening.We sprinkle in these mellow meals on top of the soil, lightly scratching and working them in to the top few inches.Sprinkling in a combination of kelp, alfalfa and neem meals to the top of the soil once the raised bed is full.Another amendment we use in our raised bed soil is biochar.However, this post is about FILLING a raised bed, not maintaining one.Therefore, check out this article all about how we routinely amend and prepare our raised bed soil between planting seasons.Do you have raised beds that are already full of soil that you aren’t very happy with?Or more like, that your plants don’t seem very happy with?Before you consider replacing your raised bed soil, try amending it first using some of the materials we’ve discussed already.Try to mix in some aeration additive.Add compost and worm castings!Make sure to give it some water to get everything happy, and to get those microbes kicking!And that is how we create our “perfect” organic raised bed soil.I get it, and I don’t mean to make you feel intimidated!Above all, if you had to take away just one message from this, it would be this: Compost compost compost, and worms worms worms! .
How to Prep Soil for a Vegetable Garden
Once that is done you move to the next row, removing 1 foot of topsoil, depositing it in the trench next to it, then loosening the subsoil with a spading fork.7 / 13 David Hanlon/Shutterstock The Best Soil for a Vegetable Garden and Root Crops Double digging may seem like a lot of work (and it is!). .
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. .
Best Soil for a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
You can build the best soil for growing vegetables in a raised bed by mixing specific soil types.Compost The higher the compost quality, the more nutrients the soil has to feed plants.If you'd prefer to just buy your compost, Dr. Earth All Purpose Compost contains earthworm castings, alfalfa meal, kelp meal and other organic nutrients.Mix Two: Lasagna Gardening Soil Solution If your budget won't allow for purchasing the soils you need to fill your raised bed, opt for the lasagna gardening method.These will be layered like a lasagna until you're about six to eight inches from the top of your raised bed.Add Bagged Garden Soil You can now invest in bagged soil to fill those last few inches.Local climates can often require a different soil mix. .
Tips for Growing the Perfect Vegetable Garden
It’s all about the soil.For most vegetable plants, one inch of water per week, which includes any natural rainfall, is adequate .It also helps retain moisture, suppress weeds and acts as a protective barrier from diseases splashing up onto the plants from the soil.And besides, mulch looks great in the garden.Especially in a vegetable garden.Although there is no such certification for bulk mulch as yet the non-profit organization, The Mulch and Soil Council, certifies bagged mulches and soils to be free of any harmful ingredients.After all, of all the insects in your garden only about 3% are actually harmful pests.I believe it is best to not use chemicals in a food garden, of all places!Excessive fertilizer can also be harmful to your plants and the soil.Preparation is key with the reward being a healthier, more productive garden and fresh food that tastes better than anything you can buy in the store. .