How to Fill Your Raised Garden Bed

You've just built your very own raised bed. Now what? Follow one of our three easy soil mixture methods for guaranteed garden success.

Photo By: Shain Rievley

Photo By: Shain Rievley

Photo By: Shain Rievley

Photo By: Shain Rievley

Photo By: Shain Rievley

Photo By: Shain Rievley

Photo By: Shain Rievley

Photo By: Shain Rievley

Photo By: Shain Rievley

Photo By: Shain Rievley

Photo By: Shain Rievley

Photo By: Shain Rievley

Photo By: Shain Rievley

Photo By: Shain Rievley

Photo By: Shain Rievley

Photo By: Shain Rievley

Say Hello to Raised Beds

Raised bed gardening is more popular than ever, and for good reason. Not only do raised beds provide great drainage and well-aerated soil, but they also offer protection from weeds and pests, allowing you to create a low-maintenance garden almost anywhere. The visual appeal of these beautiful, bountiful beds is just a bonus.

BUILD IT: Make Cheap Raised Garden Beds

Set Yourself Up for Soil Success

To reap the many benefits raised gardening provides, it’s important to lay a good foundation. To put it simply, you have to know how to fill your bed. Here we list our top three tried-and-true soil options for raised bed success.

Method #1: Simple Soil Mixture

The first option for filling your beds is a simple soil mixture. As you may have guessed, this is the simplest route you can take. Fill your bed with a 1:1 mixture of topsoil and compost mix, then lightly combine with a rake or shovel. Check out the next couple of slides for our top picks and tips for this type of soil.

The Mighty Mushroom

Using mushroom compost in your simple soil mixture can help increase your water retention which balances well with the drainage provided from the raised bed approach. The compost also helps to prevent weed growth and is packed full of nutrients to help your plants thrive.

Clean Your Topsoil

Topsoil is about as simple and inexpensive as soil gets. It is a type of fill dirt that can often be home to rocks and other debris. Because you are mixing it with mushroom compost, key nutrients are being added to the topsoil, but it is important to remove any rocks or debris that could alter the drainage or overall quality of the mixture.

Method #2: Deluxe Soil Mixture

If you’re looking for a surefire way to guarantee plant growth, and budget is of no concern, the deluxe soil mixture may be what you’re looking for. This mixture is comprised of one part vermiculite, one part peat moss and one part compost. The benefits? Great drainage and no weeds!

Make Way for Vermiculite

Vermiculite is a game-changer for soil. Using it as an additive helps move water and air around the soil, allowing nutrients and water to reach the roots where they're needed most.

The Power of Peat Moss

Peat moss is acidic, which means acid-loving plants like marigolds, sweet potatoes, peppers and more will thrive when planted in it. Important to note: peat moss compresses easily, which can smother roots and retain too much water. Mixing with vermiculate prevents this from happening.

Compost-ess With the Most-ess

You may think you understand compost now, but here's another one of its wonderful assets. Compost has an alkaline pH, meaning it balances out the acidity of the peat moss while adding key nutrients to the mixture. You can adjust how much of each you put into your mixture to accommodate different plants.

Method #3: Lasagna Gardening

This mixture is all about the layers. By using one part grass, two parts leaves and covering them with a layer of cardboard, you are beginning your very own composting process beneath the soil.

Four Ingredients, One Result

Soil, grass clippings, dead leaves and cardboard. You may not think this is going anywhere, but when you combine these elements properly, magical things start to happen in your raised beds.

Leave Bad Gardening Behind

Begin your "lasagna gardening" technique by adding a thin layer of leaves. You'll want just enough leaves to cover the bottom of the bed, but not enough to start a pile.

Finally, a Good Use for Grass Clippings

Once the leaves are down, spread about half as much grass on the top of the leaves to fill in the gaps.

Cardboard in a Garden?

Recycled cardboard makes a perfect barrier for weeds and adds to the composting process by slowly decomposing over time.

Cover it All Up

Here’s where the actual soil comes into play. Fill the entirety of the bed with standard garden soil, leaving about one-inch between the top of the soil and the lip of the bed. You can buy garden soil in bags, but if you have access to a truck or trailer, we recommend going the local route and buying in bulk.

Guaranteed Garden Success

If you're lacking a green thumb and the idea of raised gardening scares you, we promise it isn't as hard as it seems. Raised beds help even the most plant-challenged gardeners grow bountiful crops. And with our helpful soil tips, you now know exactly how to fill your beds. Happy gardening!

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