Choosing The Best Soil For Your Raised Beds – Top 5 Products Reviewed
A raised garden bed is simply a plot of soil that is placed above the surrounding or existing soil and it is often enclosed by wooden planks. These wooden box enclosures not only keep the plants in place but it also acts as a barrier protecting it from getting stepped on. Soil used in raised garden beds is often made from a special mix. Thus, every raised garden bed is designed uniquely to suit the gardener’s needs. Since each plot is not created equal, finding the best soil for raised beds can be a bit tricky. Here are the top options you can use for your garden project.
Top 5 Best Soil For Raised Beds
Organic Plant Magic
- A LITTLE DOES A LOT… your little BIG bag of compressed organic potting soil that expands to 7 times the size when mixed with water; easy to carry & saves vital shed space
- NOURISH & SEE THEM FLOURISH… this concentrated super soil feeds your plants for months & makes them grow up to 3 x bigger!
- RAPID HYDRATION…works super-fast at getting water & air to thirsty roots; holds 50% more water than regular soil, making it perfect for raised veg gardens & flower beds
- A NON-TOXIC TONIC… 100% natural ground coconut coir, worm castings & beneficial bacteria to give your garden soil and plants a super-boost
- ORGANIC & BIODEGRADABLE… garden, pet & children friendly potting soil supplement that will help your veg and salads taste better and be far healthier for you than chemical-based feeds
Sold in two pound bags, this soil even expands seven times when water is added to it. Every bag of this potting soil, therefore, goes a long way. Considerably a good deal, Organic Plant Magic is an amazing mix of nutrient field components that every plant needs for its growth and development. No other super soil is as concentrated. It feeds plants month after month, allowing it to grow 3x bigger and stronger.
Mix with regular garden soil or use as a stand alone, the solution contains trace mineral and bacteria that is favorable to vegetables, plants, and flowers. Watch as they grow bigger, healthier, and happier.
Get rapid hydration and a nontoxic compound that contains ground coconut coir, beneficial bacteria and castings from worms make the soil rich and healthy. Compared to other soils, this is the best soil for raised beds, since it has the ability to maintain and hold water content really well, holding in the moisture three times longer than other alternatives in the market.
The perfect choice for areas that are generally warm and do not get enough rain year round this biodegradable potting soil results in vegetables that are healthier and taste better. Since it is chemical free, this compressed soil is all organic, making it better for plants and is safe for humans and pets. All things put into consideration, the Organic Plant Magic compressed soil is truly ideal thanks to its thoughtful design, excellent price point, and the nature by which it can be safely handled.
Expand ’n Gro
- Great substitute for garden soil or potting mix
- Can be used in-ground or in containers (see label for instructions)
- Grows up to 3X bigger plants than native soil and feeds up to 6 months
- Holds up to 50% more water than basic potting soil
- Expands up to 3X when water is added and creates up to 90% more air space in native soil
Made by one of the pioneers in the gardening and soil world, Miracle Gro brings gardeners Expand n’ Gro. As the name suggests, this product successfully expands when introduced to water. Gardeners who purchase a bag of this soil will be surprised to find that each bag can easily grow into three bags just with the addition of water.
Each bag of Expand n’ Gro soil is designed to introduce the necessary air into every potting mix. By adding air back into the soil, the roots are able to get as much oxygen it needs to grow. This money saving mix can create more than 90% more air into the existing soil. A perfect addition to existing ground soil, potting containers, and raised vegetable or flower beds in the garden. Enjoy soil with a release property that is extended. This means, gardeners can enjoy potting soil that is able to feed plants for put to six months after it has been added in initially.
Unlike the traditional soil used in gardens, Expand ’n Gro offers uses with special expansion characteristics. In order to successfully use the concentrated formula in every container, do not forget to add water to the soil until the expansion is fully visible. For best results, read the planting instructions provided by the manufacturer to ensure that the project is executed correctly. Bear in mind that the mix does work with a variety of plants as long as you follow the specifications meant for your location.
- Can be used for many projects in the garden: amendment for planting trees, shrubs, bare root planting, flowers, vegetables, and over-seeding lawns
- Rich in green-fed earthworm castings, valley grown alfalfa meal, cold water kelp meal, and a plethora of organic nutrients
- This product is made in United States
- All purpose compost
- Use to mulch, break up clay and improve texture
Another organic entry on the list of the best soil for raised beds, Dr. Earth has many wonderful benefits to back it up. To begin with, it is 100% organic and natural. It contains nontoxic components such as alfalfa meal, earthworm castings, and kelp meal to name a few examples. All these elements contribute immensely in providing plants with much needed nourishment.
This all organic product can be used in a myriad of projects, including but not limited to shrub, tree, flower, vegetable plots as well as in raised garden beds. There are homeowners and gardeners who even use the product for overseeding lawns. Dr. Earth can easily be used as mulch, it can also be mixed with other soils, and can also be used on its own.
Each 38.5 quart bag can be used to cover roughly 1.5 cubic feet of land. Since this is a bag of dried compost, users should find it no surprise to come across some twigs and rocks that have not been broken down completely. Those who have been thinking of trying composting can utilize this product since it is a great alliterative that offers the same benefits as the traditional composting methods.
A hand crafted blend that is free of synthetic content, it can be utilized for a range of garden projects. Dr. Earth works great for tree planting, flowers, shrubs, bare room planting, overseeding lawns, and vegetables. An all-purpose compost that can be used to improve texture, break up clay, each bag is even perfect as mulch.
FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil Organic Mix
- Ocean Forest Potting Soil is ready to use right out of the bag and provides the ideal environment for young seedlings to become thriving plants.
- Fox Farm Garden Soil is Lightweight and well-aerated, it is specially formulated to grow seedlings and cuttings and perfect all-natural mix for container grown plants!
- Ocean forest is soil ph. adjusted at 6.3 to 6.8 to allow for optimum fertilizer uptake making the naturally rich ingredients an ideal environment for seedlings toe strong, vigorous plants.
- Ocean Forest organic soil is perfect for indoor and outdoor plants growing. Ideal for containerized plantings. Contains many micro-nutrients .
- Bundled with Pearsons Protective Gloves. Protect your hands when you planting or manage your garden.
This zero prep potting soil lets any experienced and novice gardener jump right into work the minute they open up the bag. Not only is Ocean Forest potting soil the best soil for raised beds, it is also a great alternative for cuttings and young seedlings that need all the vitamins and nutrients they can get.
Use it for perennials, indoor pots, annuals, and houseplants, FoxFarm offers the most lightweight soil in the market. Those in search of the best soil for plants will be happy to find that this brand provides ample aeration. Its optimized pH levels ensure for the best fertilizer uptake which can in turn give plants the best environment to develop roots that are strong.
Each 38 quart sack of potting soil can easily cover 1 cubic foot and it contains worm castings that have been known to help promote the growth of a strong root system, healthy leaf foliage, while offering plants with protection from diseases. More importantly, the soil is loaded with 100% all natural micronutrients that are completely safe for that all organic gardening environment.
Considered as one of the best potting soil in the market, FoxFarm can be used for annuals, perennials, houseplants, bedding plants, indoor and outdoor containers, for herbs, vegetables, and for raised beds.
Espoma Company (VFGS1) Organic Garden Soil
- All Natural & Organic
- Premium Quality Blend
- Enhanced with Myco-tone, our proprietary blend of 11 strains of endo and ecto mycorrhizae.
- Perfect for in-ground plantings
- It contains sphagnum peat moss, peat humus, and earthworm castings to help loosen heavy soil.
Highly suitable for planting and growing vegetables and flowers, Espoma organic garden soil is generally meant for in-ground planting. It can still, however, be used with raised garden beds and potting containers, but many have seen better results when used directly for in ground purposes. Nonetheless, the product lists the following fortified ingredients including some proprietary elements like Espoma’s Myco-tone. Known to include a multitude of excellent components, Tyco-Tone has several beneficial strains of endo and ecto mycorrhizae that gives nutrients and strength the plants need.
Other key features include sphagnum peat moss, earthworm castings, and peat humus. Espoma is enriched with ingredients to give plants everything needed to thrive fruitfully and then some. Aside from its amazing ingredients, Espoma is 100% organic making it easier to grow plants in. Furthermore, it leaves no harmful effects that are commonly found in soils that are chemically enhanced. In general, Espoma Company Organic Garden Soil is an ideal choice for both indoor and outdoor gardening.
Perfectly safe for adults, children, pets, and other living creatures in your yard, Espoma is all natural and free from toxins. It is a premium grade potting mix that works best for plants located in shadier portions of the home.
What To Look For In Soil For Raised Beds
Since raised garden beds are separated entirely from the soil in the ground, it is the gardener’s job to create a suitable growing environment for the plants. There are several things that can help create the perfect soil.
To begin with, it is essential to know what you intend to grow in a particular garden bed. Each plant will flourish in certain conditions better than others. For instance, some plants will thrive better in soil that is more acidic while others require a pH level that is more basic. More importantly, it should be noted that their distinct needs require them to be planted separately and will benefit immensely from being planted with the correct soil blend.
The Simple Blend
Gardeners who are planning on filling up several large raised beds should consider simple blends. This is great for the gardener, who has access to plenty of robust loam. Make sure to screen the topsoil or purchase topsoil that is already screened, get equal parts of compost that have been screened as well, mix together thoroughly. To avoid the growth of grass contamination and weed, gardeners can opt to discard the soil’s top layer. Look for compost you can buy in bulk, make sure to only source for clean composts (kitchen, manure, mushroom, and fish). Fill up the beds with the basic mix and more compost annually, this should be done early springtime.
The Luxury Blend
Individuals with smaller container gardens or those who simply want to go all out and start their raised garden beds weed-free, can opt to go with purchased supplies that start from scratch approach. It is possible for plants to flourish with a mixture of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 composts, this non traditional garden variety perfectly resembles soil. For larger raised planter beds, gardeners can simply adjust each component into a quarter peat, a quarter vermiculite, with the remainder being composted. In place of vermiculite, coconut coir or perlite can be used – these mediums are particularly important for providing aeration and water retention especially in containers that can create moisture and compaction problems.
The Lasagna Method
Gardeners building raised beds that are extra tall or those with a good sized lawn would benefit from having beds that are waist high. The trick is to fill the raised bed with quality soil. Of course, most superior grade soil can be pricey so the next best thing to do is to layer your bed with grass clippings and leaves. Both are great organic bulk materials which are perfect for layering the lower regions of the tall beds, this allows them to slowly compost creating rich soil over time. To prevent matting, gardeners should make the grass clippings in thin layers. Add a compostable barrier once the beds are 6-12 inches close to the top. To prevent the soil from quickly sifting down, use untreated cardboard, and then add your choice of soil mix to fill the remainder of the bed.
Weather is another factor to consider when selecting the best garden soil mix. Areas that are generally dry year round will require the use of soil that is able to retain moisture well. On the other hand, areas that experience a good amount of rainfall will benefit from raised garden beds that have a good drainage system. Thus, the soil to be used for raised garden beds will depend on where you live and what you wish to grow. Because you are “building” your soil from scratch, so it is important to have the right blend to get your plants to thrive and flourish.
What to Plant
Now that you have the basics figured out and you have your raised bed set up, it’s time to pick the plants that you want to grow. For the most part, many raised beds are filled with vegetables, though there are some that do contain flowering plants and shrubs. For this purpose, we will be listing down vegetables that any newbie can grow in their raised beds.
Bush beans — this foolproof veg easily goes from seed to harvest in one to two months tops. Best planted after the chilly frosty months since these beans are huge fans of warm weather and warm soil.
Cherry tomatoes — tomatoes are permanent fixture in any garden with a vegetable patch. Large varieties tend to take longer to grow so an ideal option is to go for cherry tomatoes. These juicy fruits start producing two months from the seedling transplant. To get the best soil for tomatoes, first time gardeners can stick to the potting soil used by the garden center where the seedlings are originally from.
Peas — the best time to sow pea seeds is in the early spring time. Four to six weeks before the last expected frost is the ideal time to start loosening and enriching the soil in preparation for the peas. Whether it be sugar snap, snow peas, or shell peas, growing them is easy as long as you sow the seeds about two inches apart from each other in double rows that are spaced six inches away. When growing a variety that requires staking, consider adding a hang netting or trellis.
Cucumbers — just like tomatoes, cucumbers are pretty much a staple especially for those who just love the refreshing crunch, a freshly picked, one can offer on a hot summer day. Another veggie that favors the warmer season, all it takes is to seed them directly into the raised garden bed. Seedlings are also easily found in nurseries if you want to speed up the process a little. Water consistently, and ply them with lots of compost and you will get the best cucumber harvest.
Garlic — not a plant that you can just plant and forget, garlic does require some bit of patience to grow. Diseases and pets are also drawn to it, but with the best fungicide and the best organic fertilizer your garlic should grow just fine. To keep the moisture in, don’t forget to mulch the beds with straw, doing so also helps reduce the growth of weeds drastically.
Leaf lettuce — another fast and easy veggie to grow in your garden, leaf lettuce can already be harvested when the baby greens are about two to four inches in length. To harvest, simply clip the leaves working from the outside, leaving the center, which will continue to grow. Simply harvest once leaves have sprouted to the ideal size.
What is the advantage of raised garden beds?
There are numerous advantages to raised garden beds especially when it comes to growing vegetables. In an urban landscape where spaces are relatively small, beds allow gardeners to produce larger harvests.
Raised beds are also great for growing plants because the soil has not been walked on or compressed. The soil then remains light, well aerated and permits better root growth.
It has also been observed that raised beds have improved drainage systems. This improves drainage as well as the tinder sidings that are exposed to the sun also results in beds that warm up quicker in the springtime, allowing for crops to start earlier than usual.
What is the depth of a raised garden bed?
The depth or height of your raised garden bed will actually depend on your personal preference as well as your planting needs. For the most part, many gardeners opt for raised beds ranging between 6 inches and 24 inches. As a general rule of thumb, it is crucial to note that you will have to fill the depth you choose with soil. Therefore, it can be laborious and not to mention expensive to fill up very deep beds. Raised beds that sit directly onto of soil can be shallower since the roots are able to grow deeper into the soil.
Does the bottom of the bed need to be lined?
There are two major reasons why gardeners line their beds. The first is to discourage the growth of weeds. Next is to act as a barrier against ground animals that may pop up from under the raised beds to eat your crop. When it comes to weeds, it should be said that most of the weeds that need to be dealt with will grow top level as a result of birds dropping it down. In case, you are still concerned of aggressive weeds sprouting from deep below, you can line the bed with cardboard. It’s a great barrier that keeps out weeds while encouraging earthworm presence and is added nutrients to the soil once it breaks down.
How much maintenance is needed?
A finished raised bed requires very minimal maintenance. Most of the heavy lifting is done in prepping and putting together the bed. At the most, gardeners will spend most of the maintenance pulling out weeds every now and then. A good amount of mulch ensures a fertile and improved soil structure while smothering the weeds in the process.
Like many things in life, patience is a much needed virtue when it comes to gardening. It is essential to have a clear understanding of what the soil needs, as the gardener you can easily add to it or take away things in order to create the best soil for raised beds. Making the effort to learn the right soil blends, the crops to plant, correct timing needed to sow the beds, and even learning some preventive measures to keep the beds disease and pest free is part of the journey of every gardener.
Though it may take some trial and error to fully understand how your garden works, once you successfully master it you will reap the rewards of a bountiful harvest or a flourishing floral wonderland. And unlike planting directly onto the ground, raised garden beds produce results that will prove satisfactory to even the most amateur gardener.