Soil samples and raised beds

Asked March 20, 2020, 11:07 AM EDT

Hello 1. Is there a best time of the year to do a soil sample? 2. I have 2 existing raised beds for veggies. They are about 6 years old, they produced fine enough veggies, mostly (keeping in mind I'm still a novice at this) My question: should I test the soil in them? If yes, use the same method as with the turf sample gathering? 3. I have a new raised bed, just installed few days ago. I currently have plastic trash bags covering the turf to kill it and weeds. Then I will fill with newspapers initially the mix of compost and topsoil. Question: Should I test soil before filling? Question: What is a good ratio of compost/top soil for raised beds for veggies? Do you think the newspaper use is a good idea? Question: will the new raised bed be ready for this spring growing season? Or is it best to just work on testing, killing turf, and other soil prep for now and maybe plant in the late summer/early fall? I hope you dont mind my multiple questions! I am very thankful for your help, for my garden , especially these scary COVID days. Thanks so so much! Stay well.

Montgomery County Maryland

3 Responses

1. Best time is whenever. Lime will take months to move down into the soil even a little bit, so if you cannot work it in, don't expect it to be changing pH right away. You can lime any time, however, as long as the ground isn't frozen. Droughts not ideal either.

2. Yes, test the raised bed soil.
(Search 'soil testing' on our website for how to test soil.)

3. Don't test before filling. Test what it is filled with.

4. Here is our page on raised beds, which has a link to filling mix for the beds:

We're not sure what you meant about filling the bed with newspapers.

5. The news beds will be ready as long as you don't have uncomposted amendments in them. Compost should be fully composted in order to be ready for use.

There is much more to explore in our Vegetable section. Profiles on each crop. Solutions to pest problems. Check it out!


Thanks Ellen!
To clarify about the newspapers:
I meant place layered newspapers over the existing soil, on top of the (hopefully) daed grass and weeds. Then add the mixed compost/top soil on top of the layered newspapers. Is there any purpose doing that?

Can I use the new raised bad as soon as filled ? Or does the new soil need to settle for a while?

Best regards from a very grateful inquirer!

Hello. Yes, you can place layered newspapers over the existing soil. Here is a page on our website that shows the different options for converting a lawn area to a garden,

You can add a 4" layer of compost over top of the newspaper layer and plant right into the compost.