Dirt for raised bed

Asked April 13, 2016, 8:03 AM EDT

Hi! We are novice gardeners who have built raised beds for veggies and flowers. What should we fill them with? I have read to order "screened topsoil with leaf grow" and I have also read to order a mix of "vermiculate, peat moss and compost." We could use some advice!

Baltimore County Maryland vegetables soil for raised beds

3 Responses

Test the soil

Test the existing soil where the raised bed will be located even if you plan to add purchased topsoil. Pay for a basic soil test from a certified soil lab (more accurate and complete and usually less costly than diy testers. The pH level should be in the 6.2-6.8 range.) Test your soil for lead. Soil test page with link to list of certified soil testing labs.

Use existing soil

1. If the soil is in good shape (not compacted, drains well) add 4 inches of compost and mix it with the top 4-inches of existing soil using a tiller, spade, or garden fork. You can also help loosen soils with high clay content by pushing in your garden fork and rocking it back and forth. Move the fork 6-8 inches and repeat across the entire bed.

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Hi again!
Sorry, there is NO soil in the raised beds right now. So we are starting from scratch. The beds are quite deep (like 2-3 feet), as they are terraced into a hillside, so we really do need to add lots of dirt. What do you recommend in terms of filling them? Thanks!

Get a topsoil/compost mix. The ratio you want is approximately 70/30.

Topsoil sales are not regulated. Determine quality of purchased topsoil before it’s delivered. Watch out for soils that are white, gray, or black, smell bad or don’t look or feel like topsoil. Ask the company for soil test reports and information on the origin and quality of the topsoil. When it is delivered, check it yourself before it is dumped to be sure it is the same quality as you were promised.

First, try to locate a business that produces and sells a compost/topsoil mixture (often 70% topsoil; 30% compost). If you had to purchase topsoil with no added compost, you should plan on adding at least 2-inches of compost.


ECN