Hi, I live in Minnetrista not too far from the Arboretum. A few years ago I...

Asked April 2, 2015, 2:51 PM EDT

Hi, I live in Minnetrista not too far from the Arboretum. A few years ago I took a former playground area in my yard and made four raised-garden beds for growing vegetables. I used a composite 6 x 6 to frame the gardens. Then I dug out maybe 10" and went to St. Boni Mulch Store to get black dirt for the fill. I filled up to the top and planted. The first year I had ok luck, mostly tomatoes and some cuc's worked. Then I realized the soil was too compacted so I started to amend it with peat moss. This helped. Last year a lot of peat moss. I still was getting sluggish growing garden, even with fertilizing. This year I'd like to dig all of the dirt out and start again. I am leaning towards getting many bags of potting soil, rather then black dirt. What are your thoughts on this? I'd like to grow everything from carrots, cucumbers, cantaloupe, dill, tomatoes, etc. The other problem are deer, squirrels and other critters. I've used the rotten egg spray. Somewhat works. Do I need to fence or use chicken wire? Thank you for your response. I appreciate your service! Michael

Hennepin County Minnesota wildlife damage management raised bed gardening soil and fertility issues

1 Response

Thank you for the question. Compacted soil can greatly reduce garden yields but I'm not sure why your raised beds would be so compacted in a short time. The one bed I can see doesn't look too wide so I assume you're not walking in it which would lead to compaction. I'm also not sure what you purchased to fill your beds but for best results you do need a mixture of soil, composted manure, and compost to make good raised bed gardening soil. We recommend you submit a soil sample to the University of Minnesota Soil Testing laboratory. Here is the link to their website which will tell you all about it: http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/ For a small fee you will get a report that tells you exactly how to amend your existing soil. This seems much easier than digging it all out and starting over with the added expense of many bags of potting soil. One other comment is to make sure your gardens are getting full day sunshine as well.

I sympathize with your wildlife problem. Wildlife is nice, but not in our gardens! Fencing is really the only tried and true option to really keep deer and rabbits out. The draw back to sprays and sprinkles of all types is that they have to be reapplied after each rain and like you said, they only kind of work.

Please read this University of Minnesota publication on wildlife control http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/wildlife/

Thank you for contacting Extension