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.
Raised bed gardens to allow for easy care. If you have trouble stooping, bending, and kneeling, create a raised garden bed at a height most comfortable for you.
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.
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 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.
For a more quick draining blend of compost, use a three-part mix soil recipe. For this coarse mixture, combine equal parts of:
- Horticultural Coarse Vermiculite
- Blended Compost
- Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss
As with the 50-50 mix, thoroughly combine the horticultural vermiculite, compost, and peat moss for best results.
Coconut coir fiber makes an excellent alternative for peat.
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. 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.
If you keep chickens, equines, rabbits, or goats, you have an excellent source for rich and nourishing compost.
If you do not own any livestock, look for a local organic farm or gardeners 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 linining helps prevent plant roots from contacting native soil and prevent weeds from growing up into the rich soil.
When Should You Amend Soil Used In Your Raised Bed Garden?
Early in the spring, till the raised bed soil mix and replenish it. Remember, friable garden soil is airy, soft, and light.
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.
How To Amend Raised Beds For Better Soil Health
The 50-50 mix and the three-part mix provide essential building blocks for good 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 helps 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 it 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 (a 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 a well-drained soil.
- Soybean meal releases nitrogen slow and steady.
- Epsom salts provide a nice dose of sulfur and magnesium.
- Blood meal provides a healthy dose of nitrogen.
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 a soil with a finer texture.
Luckily you don’t have to change out all the soil in the bed to do this.
Begin with the essential 50-50 or three-part mix, then top it off with a 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 a shallow soil, garden mulch plays an important role. Mulch helps hold in moisture and protects the garden bed soil from the damaging rays of the sun. 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 much 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.
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 a light, airy, highly nutritious soil for your raised-bed garden project, you can expect to enjoy abundant success.