Soil For Raised Beds: How To Make The Best Raised Bed Soil

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Raised bed gardening is an excellent way to garden in a small space. The quality of soil mixes for raised beds gives gardeners one reason they produce bumper crops.

Plus, you control the type of soil product used for the raised garden beds and create the soil you want.

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You control the type of soil used for the raised garden beds. Existing soil can always be improved

Raised bed gardens to allow for easy care. If you have trouble stooping, bending, and kneeling, create a raised garden bed at the most comfortable height.

Let’s be clear…

No specific combination of ingredients will make the perfect raised garden soil. What you put into the soil depends a lot on what you plan to plant and your local climate.

Existing soil can always be improved by adding more organic material.

Various plants need different pH levels. For example, blueberries need more acidic soil.

Additionally, gear the soil texture toward your local weather conditions. For example, if you live in an arid, dry climate, you want a soil mix that retains moisture with good capillary action.

If you live in a rainy, damp area, you want to create the best soil with good drainage.

Soil Mixture For Raised Beds Begins With A Good Basic Soil Mix

One way to start “building” out fertile soil… begins by making a 50-50 mix of high-quality compost and screened topsoil.

When the compost and screened topsoil are thoroughly blended together, you have an excellent basic soil blend to amend to suit your specific climate and plant needs.

Use a three-part mix soil recipe for a more quick draining blend of compost. For this coarse mixture, combine equal parts of the following:

As with the 50-50 mix, thoroughly combine the horticultural vermiculite, compost, and peat moss for best results. This helps improve aeration and proper drainage.

Raised garden bed with three types of soil: red clay, dark compost, and brown organic matter.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @thebeginnersgarden

Coconut coir fiber makes an excellent alternative to peat. Moreover, you can also use composted bark, grass clipping, and chopped leaves. 

Additionally, source compost from at least five different places. This gets a wide variety of plant nutrients into the organic garden.

What Soil To Put In Raised Beds – Why Not Just Buy Compost?

If you rely on bagged garden soil or bagged compost from the garden center, you’re likely to get a scarcity of organic nutrients and soil organisms. There is no reason to buy compost in bulk. It is easy to make compost at home.

A well-seasoned compost provides a wealth of organic gardening nutrients.

The compost is rich with organic matter, made from the yard, garden, grass clippings, and kitchen scraps. Worm castings are also a great addition.

If you keep chickens, equines, rabbits, or goats, you have an excellent source of rich and nourishing compost.

If you do not own any livestock, look for a local organic farm or gardener supply for natural sources of compost.

Raised Garden Bed Soil Does Not Have To Be Deep

When this kind of high-quality raised bed soil mix is created, it doesn’t need to be spread thick. This nourishing fertile mixture will support various plants even if it is only 6″ inches deep.

Be sure to line the bottom of the raised bed with thick layers of cardboard (sheet mulching), newspaper, or landscaping fabric. 

The lining helps prevent plant roots from contacting native soil and weeds from growing into the rich soil.

When Should You Amend Soil Used In Your Raised Bed Garden?

Early in the spring, replenish the raised bed soil mix. Remember, friable garden soil is airy, soft, and light.

Raised garden beds with soil, a wheelbarrow, and scattered straw in a backyard at dusk.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @thebeginnersgarden

You should be able to poke your finger into your soil up to your top knuckle with ease. If you find the soil surface is hard and unyielding, take steps to till it, amend it, and lighten it.

Experts recommend tilling native soil first before starting to add soil for raised beds.

Related: What is the Difference Between Potting Soil vs. Garden Soil?

How To Amend Raised Beds For Better Soil Health

The 50-50 mix and the three-part mix provide essential building blocks for the ideal soil in the garden. Once you have this in place, you can tweak and amend the soil to suit particular plant choices.

One useful addition to well-balanced garden soils is a slow-release organic fertilizer.

Working this into the soil one or two times a year helps boost the soil quality and nutritional value of the soil. Work it in during early spring and/or late in the fall.

After application, apply a generous layer of mulch or compost. The mulch helps hold the nutrients and moisture retention in the soil.

A few other good specialty amendment choices include:

  • Shredded bark, wood chips, and/or sawdust. They break down slowly and help improve the structure of your soil.
  • Used tea bags and grounds and composted coffee grinds provide the NPK components. They make excellent additions to the compost heap.
  • Seaweed provides a good balance of nitrogen, potassium, and calcium. The seaweed is rich in potassium.
  • Alfalfa meal is an excellent source of nitrogen. It also provides some micronutrients, potassium, and phosphorus.
  • Sulfur helps increase your soil’s acidity. It makes it easier for your plants to absorb calcium from the soil.
  • Dolomite lime helps increase the alkalinity of the soil. It also adds a good dose of magnesium and calcium.
  • Aged manure or chicken manure (at least six months) provides a wealth of minerals and nitrogen.
  • Wood ash in garden soils decreases the soil’s acidity. Ash adds various nutrients, including potassium.
  • Use perlite instead of vermiculite because perlite holds moisture better.
  • Green sand releases micronutrients and potassium in a slow-release fashion.
  • Rock phosphate slowly releases micronutrients and phosphorus.
  • Bone meal provides some nitrogen and a good dose of phosphorus.
  • Gypsum is an excellent addition to make well-drained soil.
  • Soybean meal releases nitrogen slowly and steadily.
  • Epsom salts provide a nice dose of sulfur and magnesium.
  • Blood meal provides a healthy dose of nitrogen.
  • Worm castings

Create Soil For Your Raised Garden Bed To Suit Your Purpose

The texture of a raised bed soil mixture should be in line with your goals. For example, if you sow seeds directly into the raised bed, you want soil with a finer texture.

Luckily, you don’t have to change out all the soil in the bed to do this.

A raised wooden garden bed blooming with colorful flowers and plants, next to a metal container with soil and a scoop.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @petalpeeker

Begin with the essential 50-50 or three-part mix, then top it off with finer-textured soil. Good soil for seed starting should be spongy, moist, and rich.

Create this seed starting medium by combining fine-sifted, blended compost and peat moss.

Mulch Is Very Important!

With shallow soil, garden mulch plays an important role. Mulch helps hold in moisture and protects the garden bed soil from the sun’s damaging rays. It also helps prevent invasion by weeds.

Once seedlings have started, thin them out to allow the hardiest to take hold. Mulching around them holds nutrients and moisture into the soil to help them thrive.

Surprisingly, many modern gardeners think the best thing is a couple of inches of pure compost. 

The compost performs all the protective and moisture-holding functions of bark mulch. But it also adds nourishment to the soil.

Related: Eggshells and Banana Peels as Fertilizer?

Raised garden beds with lush greenery in a backyard, surrounded by a wooden fence and mulch-covered ground.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @ground.culture.gardens

The Right Soil For Raised Bed Gardening Produces Bumper Crops!

A raised bed garden is an excellent choice for small spaces. A properly maintained raised garden can produce four times the amount of crops or vegetables as a traditional garden using compost alone.

This is great for home vegetable growers with small yards. Even patio and balcony-type container gardening settings can garden.

When you create light, airy, highly nutritious soil for your raised-bed garden project, you can expect to enjoy abundant success.

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