Ahhhh the warm weather is finally here. It’s time to get those garden bed projects up and running at full steam. Now you’re going to be spending a lot of time and effort on one of your favourite hobbies, why not do just a little bit more to reward yourself with the best results you can!!
You’ve got a beautiful garden bed setup in the perfect favourite spot with the right amount of sunshine. With garden trowel in hand you set out into your yard to begin another growing season. Before you get started, it’s important to start your raised beds with the right soil. Let’s take a look at what you may want to fill those beds with to ensure healthy, succulent produce. Getting the best soil in place will definitely help you reach your goals.
Determine first what your specific needs are. Your region’s climate will play a part in determining the make up of your soil. Dry or arid climates need something that will retain moisture, a more humid or rainy area will surely need growing qualities that promote better drainage.
Don’t forget about the pH level of the area you are planting in. Different crops require different pH levels to reach their full growing potential. Things like blueberries require a more acidic soil, while some plants such as ferns or asparagus prefer a neutral to slightly alkaline soil to grow in.
Ok so now you have decided what you are growing and the conditions you want to create, how do you get there. The environment of your garden bed should consist of a couple of basic things.
- A good quality base
- High quality amendments to properly feed your plants.
The right combination of these two ingredients will ensure your raised garden bed will be a living breathing environment that promotes maximum growth and health.
The Growing Medium (or base)
This should consist of good 50-50 mix of screened topsoil and good quality compost. Don’t use only compost for your gardening medium, this will leave your plants starving for proper nutrients. Blend the soil and compost thoroughly to create the perfect mixture you can later amend exactly to your needs.
Try a mixture of : 1/3 horticulture vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 blended compost. For a less acidic base, change out the peat moss for coconut coir for better results for plants that thrive in a more neutral pH soil.
Once you have the basic building blocks of you soil in place you can tweak or amend the soil conditions to suit your needs. Following is a small list of specialty amendments.
- Shredded bark, wood chips and/or sawdust breaks down slowly and helps improve the structure of your soil. Both tea and composting coffee grinds also provide all of the NPK components and are an excellent addition to your compost heap.
- Seaweed provides a good balance of nitrogen, potassium and calcium; however it is especially rich in potassium.
- Alfalfa meal is an excellent source of nitrogen, and it also provides some micronutrients, potassium and phosphorus.
- Sulfur helps increase the acidity of your soil and makes it easier for your plants to absorb calcium from the soil.
- Dolomite lime helps increase the alkalinity of the soil and adds a good dose of magnesium and calcium.
- Aged manure (a minimum of six months) provides a wealth of minerals and of nitrogen.
- Wood ash in garden soils decrease the acidity of the soil and add a variety of nutrients including potassium.
- You may wish to use perlite instead of vermiculite because perlite holds moisture better.
- Green sand releases micro-nutrients and potassium in a slow released fashion.
- Rock phosphate releases micro-nutrients and phosphorus in a slow manner.
- Bone meal provides some nitrogen and a good dose of phosphorus.
- Gypsum is a good addition to make a well-drained soil.
- Soybean meal releases nitrogen in a slow and steady manner.
- Epsom salts provide a nice dose provide a nice dose of sulphur and magnesium.
- Blood meal provides a healthy dose of nitrogen.
And remember mulch can play a healthy role in the development of your garden. Specially for shallower beds, it will help to retain moisture and protect against heat and pesky weeds. A great mulch can be created out of a an inch or two of pure compost. And you can beautify it by adding a sprinkling of bark mulch on top.
Soil Tip: Simply press your finger into the soil, it should penetrate up to your first knuckle. Compacted soil like that found on your lawn is not the best condition for a healthy garden. If its properly prepared and/or tilled, the easy finger test will let you know the ground is soft and sufficiently airy as it needs to be.
If you have any questions or comments about soil for your raised bed, comment below or send us a message. We’d love to hear what works for you!