Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Simple Soil Recipe for Raised Beds

 While I'm quite sure this information isn't new to most of you, I did want to provide a visual example of my results with this very simple soil recipe.  For our first raised bed, we tried to follow the Square Foot Gardening method as closely as our wallet would allow.  So we put together a few types of compost, peat moss, and moisture retainer (vermiculite and perlite) in about a 1:1:1 ratio.  For our 4x8x1' raised bed, that meant about $130.  For this second raised bed (of exactly the same size) we tried a more simple recipe: one part peat moss to one part compost (bagged).  We topped it with 3" of hardwood mulch.  This cost us about $80, and I think I overpaid for the peat moss.  Above is the newly planted bed, and below is the same bed less than 2 weeks and a few marigolds later.  
Obviously, we're quite happy with the results and savings.  When possible, other soil amendments like compost, worm castings, etc. can be added, but we intend to only top dress from here on out so the soil beneath is as undisturbed as possible, and microbes and worms can flourish.

What do you add to your soil?


  1. having done the square foot method over the past 4 years I have found not having a bottom in the garden is key...with the traditional mel mix and not allowing the roots to penetrate real deep, I found we had to water way too much as the soil just didn't do as well to retain the moisture the plants needed. when I took the bottom off and just started adding good nutrient compost year after year our crops did a lot better. we have really benefited from the square ft method but I think once you get started it gets a lot cheaper as the vermiculite doesn't break down and we just add more compost year after year. compost is key. it adds the nutrients and minerals your plants and your bodies need and doesn't require adding synthetic fertilizers. much success with the gardens. it is so important we all know how to grow our own food and the benefits and results can't even compare to store bought produce. cheers. dan smith- raleigh

  2. Hey, Dan! Indeed, leaving the bottom of the raised bed open to the earth below is very important (both for root access and for drainage). I've found that adding mulch instead of compost actually feeds the plants equally well, as the mulch (a combination of shredded limbs, leaves and bark) makes a "tea" that seeps into the ground to feed the roots with each watering or rain, but the mulch also keeps moisture locked inside and microbes and worms undisturbed (as you're only adding to the surface, never turning or digging except to plant). We'll still add our homemade compost on top this fall, but we'll cover it again with a fresh layer of mulch. I agree about the benefits and importance of home-grown produce - heck, produce doesn't even contain enzymes needed to digest them until they're ripe! So the nitrogen-fixed, prematurely harvested produce in the store doesn't contain any. Yuck. Thanks so much for the comment and advice, Dan! Best wishes!!