Best Soil For Raised Beds

The single most critical component of a successful garden is healthy soil. Because you may fill your raised bed with a soil blend that is superior to the native soil in your yard, raised beds give you an immediate advantage over a traditional garden. Your plants’ roots will be able to grow freely in loose soil that is rich in nutrients and organic matter, ensuring that they have access to the water and nutrients they require for healthy growth.

How much soil do you need?

You’ll probably need more soil than you think to fill a raised bed. A dirt delivery can be the most cost-effective option. However, if it isn’t logistically feasible, you’ll have to buy it in bags. You could also be able to transport topsoil from another area in your yard. There are some excellent soil calculators available online that can assist you in determining the amount required.

If you accidentally cut out the sod beneath your raised bed, turn the pieces grass-side-down to fill the bottom of your raised beds. There is a lot of soil on the grass, and it will break down over time. This also means that less dirt will be needed to fill the raised bed.

The Ideal Soil For A Raised Garden Bed

A good quality triple mix is ideal. Topsoil, compost, and peat moss, or black loam are the most common components of a good triple mix.

If you’ll be filling more than one raised bed, buying dirt in bulk — by the cubic foot or cubic yard — is a good idea. For the most part, we recommend the following proportions:

  • 60% topsoil
  • 30% compost
  • 10% Potting soil (a soilless growing mix that contains peat moss, perlite, and/or vermiculite)

Keep in mind that because soil volume varies from source to source, proportions are only estimates.

But whatever you choose to use, make sure it’s amended with compost. All of that rich organic matter is essential for retaining moisture and providing nutrients to your plants. No matter the mix of nutrients you choose, compost is a crucial component of the best soil for a raised garden bed.

If you don’t have access to good topsoil, a 50-50 mixture of soilless growing medium (also known as “potting soil”) and compost will suffice. If you wish to use peat moss in your bed, don’t use more than 20% of the whole mix. Peat moss is naturally acidic, making it unsuitable for vegetable cultivation.

Preparing The Soil In Your Raised Bed

The soil is the foundation upon which your plants are secured and fed. The soil, in and of itself, does not feed the plants in the traditional sense. Instead, the soil is the habitat that encourages a healthy ecosystem under the surface, one that can help or hinder plants and their roots use air, water, and nutrients to their full potential.

We, as gardeners, can engineer raised bed soil to maintain optimum hydration and create an environment that supports a diverse range of life, known as the soil food web.

A healthy soil food web is bustling with billions of minute species and larger ones, such as earthworms, all cooperating in the development and distribution of nutrients to create a healthy soil for the plants. Now, don’t expect to have ideal soil right away in the first year. Building quality soil takes time and effort over several planting seasons. 

Keeping the Soil Healthy

The first season will yield good results if you build that basic raised bed garden habitat with high-quality ingredients. Those crops you cultivate, on the other hand, will be constantly removing nutrients from those beds.

It’s vital to make deposits that stay up with (or better still, surpass) the withdrawals. How do you go about doing that? Use organic nutrients to amend your soil once or twice a year instead of synthetic fertilizer. Better soil in season two, wonderful soil in season three, amazingly rich soil in season four, and so on will be the result of amending your garden beds.

We recommend getting a soil test before you enrich your soil for the first time and every couple of seasons. You may get this information from your local county extension office, and the tests are quite inexpensive ($20-$30 on average). A soil test will determine your soil’s pH levels and inadequacies, which will assist you to choose the right amendments.

When the soil pH is neutral, the nutrients you feed to the soil are best absorbed by your plants. As a result, it’s critical to understand when and how your soil pH is incorrect, as well as how to correct it.

Bringing New Life To Old Garden Beds

Perhaps you’re working with depleted raised beds that don’t have as much microbial activity as they once did. Many people inquired about removing the current soil and starting from scratch. The answer is no, that is not necessary.

Replacing your present bed dirt is time-consuming, costly, and inconvenient. It’s advisable to renew the soil by amendment unless it’s been poisoned in some way. You might be amazed at how quickly garden beds can be revitalized, even if they have been neglected for years.

If this is the case, we would not advise tilling the land. Instead, pierce the garden soil firmly with a pitchfork or broadfork and wobble the fork around to create a little space around the tines. Then, using compost, fill in the gaps. Of course, we remember we recommend starting with a soil test to have a clearer idea of what you’ll need to deposit into those stale beds to make them ready for your plants.

Watering Your Soil

Mother Nature would offer an inch of rain every week in an ideal world to make our veggies and flowers totally happy. But because that is unlikely, it is up to us to ensure that our plants receive the water they require to grow.

The ability of different types of soil to hold water varies. Because each microscopic particle of clay has a lot of surface area for the water to cling onto, a clay-based soil stores water. On the other hand, because of its larger particles, sandy soil allows water to move through quickly. A healthy loamy soil will hold some moisture while draining well.

Compost improves the soil’s ability to provide just the correct amount of water to your plants. Clay soils benefit from compost because it aerates them and improves drainage. Plants take oxygen through their roots, and if the soil remains wet for weeks at a time, they may drown. This can be avoided with the use of raised beds and compost.

Using your hands is the greatest way to keep track of soil moisture. When you press your finger into the dirt, it should feel somewhat damp, like a wrung-out sponge. Don’t simply feel the surface; at least once a week, get your fingertips down to the root zone around 3″ deep or so.

Also, keep in mind that plants may wilt in the heat of the day in hot weather. But this isn’t necessarily a sign of a lack of moisture. It’s often just a mechanism for the plant to save moisture by reducing moisture loss via its leaves. Examining the dirt reveals the truth.

Moisture loss is minimized by planting densely in a raised bed garden. Another efficient approach to conserve moisture and provide organic matter to the soil is to mulch around plants with 2-3″ of shredded leaves or straw.

Still, there are various possibilities if you determine that your garden needs water. A watering wand will quickly send a large amount of water exactly where you want it. And if you’re too busy throughout the week to water your plants, you can purchase a water timer to turn on a sprinkler or soaker hose automatically. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems with emitters are a particularly efficient way to water since they slowly leak water right at the soil level.