If you already have filled your raised garden beds with less-than-ideal soil, don’t fret! Because I am mean, and wanted you to exercise that brain a little. 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. We never rely on bulk soil alone, since it doesn’t always seem to be the highest quality or our preferred texture. Aside from sometimes adding bulk soil to the bottom of our deepest beds, there is no other “fillers” at the bottom. Hey Mia, you could absolutely go that route. You don’t want to accidentally “burn” the plants! However, this post is about FILLING a raised bed, not maintaining one. Like I said, this doesn’t all need to be an exact science. There are some sort of flimsy kits out there, but there are also some really excellent, durable, beautiful cedar raised bed kits available too! If you choose to get some bulk soil too, you’ll need to calculate volume in cubic yards. Worm bins are inexpensive, pretty easy to maintain, and no, they do not smell bad. 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. These ones from Gardener’s Supply get great reviews. Hey! When planting seedlings, we sprinkle mycorrhizae in their planting holes. If we are doing a big shopping spree at Home Depot to buy lumber and other supplies, we’ll pick up some of their Kellogg Organics line of bagged soils. The goal is simply to set you and your garden up for success! Now they’ve been introduced into the bed, and will continue to populate. For example, a small amount of boron will help plants grow healthy and strong, but too much boron will have negative effects for your plants. While all those nutrients are essential, we don’t feel the need to dose our plants heavily with animal byproducts. Using too much compost or attempting to grow plants in nothing but compost will cause problems for your plants when it comes to nutrition, soil stability, and the soil’s ability to retain water. Let me tell you about ours, and then you can make you own decisions and research further from there! The ideal recommended mix is for 12-15% of the bed to be organic matter - 3 cu. It is not uncommon to rip open a bag to dozens of happy worms squirming around in there. A lot of bagged soil mixes already contain some perlite, pumice, or rice hulls. Did you know that Cornell University refers to worms as “living soil amendments”? Our favorite bagged compost is Malibu Compost Biodynamic Blend, or just referred to as “Bu’s”. This is awesome! Do not feel the need to go dig out all your soil and start over. The Time! On the other hand, earthworms like European Nightcrawlers like to dive deeper in the soil to do all their good work. If you’ve filled your raised garden bed with only potting soil or compost, the following things will occur: Your soil will drain too quickly, washing away water and nutrients. Down-To-Earth brand has been our go-to for the past several years, though we use other brands at times too. Continue this process until the bed is full. Instead of those “heavy hitters”, we prefer to add more mellow, balanced, slow-release, plant-based fertilizers to our raised bed soil. Hope that helps, good luck and have fun! I really think there should be. We aren’t 100% loyal to Kellogg only, and this is not a sponsored post… I am simply sharing what works well in our garden! Again, this bulk-bagged combo is mostly used for when we are filling many large beds at once. I may make a small commission from purchases made through some of those links, at no extra cost to you. Our local bulk soil is called “planters mix” and is comprised of 2 parts top soil, 1 part compost and 1 part soil conditioner. Any purchases made through affiliate links are, “How to Design & Build a Raised Garden Bed”, Organic Pest Control, Pt 2: Identify the Top 18 Garden Pests & Beneficial Insects, How to Thin Seedlings (& Get Microgreens! A post will be added later about mulching, but in a nutshell: Do it! Organic Gardening | Real Food | Natural Health | Good Vibes. Thanks for reading. When you first water the bed, it will compact and sink down a little. Similar problems present themselves with micronutrients in the soil. I’m sure there are many more companies out there, all over the U.S. Leave a comment if you are aware of a good local product like this in your area! Our target recipe is to fill raised garden beds with a mixture of about 40% soil, 40% compost, 20% aeration – plus a few other goodies that we’ll discuss momentarily. An easy rule of thumb to remember is to spread one to three inches of compost over the top of your garden soil before you plant. Unfortunately, we usually cannot make quite enough homemade compost to meet all of our needs – especially for large projects like filling raised beds. I call them heavy-hitters because they’re usually really high in one macronutrient or another – nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium (NPK). Above all, if you had to take away just one message from this, it would be this: Compost compost compost, and worms worms worms! They’ll hold water within themselves, helping to maintain an evenly moist raised bed for a longer period of time between watering. If you have gone through the effort to build or buy yourself some awesome raised garden beds, let’s get them filled up with the right stuff! Your plants will starve. Availability of all these products will vary depending on your location.
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