How to Amend Raised Garden Bed Soil
Growing a productive and lush happy garden gives so much joy to anyone who grows it. However, we don’t always have enough space at home to plant the crops, herbs, and ornamentals that we like.
Another issue you might face is that you don’t have the best ground to grow in, or maybe bending over in the garden to tend it is too hard on your back.
The good news is you can always grow an excellent garden in raised beds, which can solve all of those issues. We’re going to talk about How to Amend Raised Garden Bed Soil before planting so you can have a fruitful garden!
I have clay soil, and no amount of massive amending is going to work for me. So, I use pots, containers, and raised beds only in my gardens, and they work great!
A small-space gardening technique allows you to grow a productive garden in a confined space. It also lets you control various factors, such as the health of your freestanding garden beds and the presence of weeds more easily than an in-ground garden.
Good quality soil makes all the difference when you’re growing a raised bed garden. If you want to grow healthy crops and lush ornamentals, then you have to make sure that your bed is healthy.
With raised bed gardens and vegetable beds, you can do this easily by amending the native soil at certain times throughout the year.
Today, we’ll be going through tips on how to properly amend your raised bed so your plants and root crops can grow in rich soil and a healthy environment every time. Let’s get started!
What Is Good Garden Soil?
Types of soil
A sandy kind of soil works well in a vegetable garden because of its drainage, making it a good idea.
Heavy Clay Soil: This is what I have and to use it you’d need to amend it with something that helps with drainage like peat moss or coconut coir, but you could only use it as one part to other amendments to make it a good garden soil.
Silt soil is pretty common for gardening. Many plants thrive in this soil.
You often hear experienced gardeners saying you should feed the bed and not the plant. This is because a great way to grow healthy plants and root vegetables is to have them growing in soil that’s full of vitality.
You know it’s important to know how to amend raised bed garden soil, but how do you know if your garden is healthy? Fortunately, there are telltale signs that indicate if it is right for growing crops.
Good quality potting soil should be loose, and it should have the right texture. It should contain the right nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Finally, it should have a neutral pH to encourage plant growth.
It is important to know your soil ph because it can have a great effect on which nutrients are available to your plants. Acidic soil has a ph level of less than 7 Alkali, or Alkaline soil are clay soils with high pH. When the ph is too high or too low, your plants may get too much of some nutrients and not enough of others
The good news is that if you’re growing a raised bed garden in your garden space, you can control the quality of soil your plants grow in. This can be done by amending it.
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What Are Amendments?
Amendments are substances you add to your beautiful garden to increase its nutrient content or improve the soil structure. Some examples of amendments include vermiculite, worm castings, compost, coir, green sand, grass clippings, wood ash, cornmeal, alfalfa meal, lava sand, straw, and kelp meal.
Using these amendments can correct the soil and make it more appropriate for growing plants. For example, if your raised bed is drying out too fast, you can add materials that help retain high-quality soil moisture retention, like your own compost.
Amending Your Raised Bed in the Fall
Early fall is an important time to be sure you know how to amend raised garden bed soil. Your raised bed garden will lay dormant from fall to winter so this is the best time to enrich it with amendments. This is the time where you can prepare for your next set of crops so it’ll be easier to do things by the time early spring rolls around.
Clear Up Finishing Plants
The first thing you should do in the fall is to pull out any dead or dying plants from the previous season and remove any debris you may find in your raised bed. Old plants can harbor diseases, pests, and fungi which can ravage your garden if left unchecked. If these old plants are disease-free, you can bury them in the bed, and as they decompose, they will add plenty of organic matter.
At this point, you can also remove any renegade weeds that may have found their way into your raised bed garden, so they don’t wreak havoc by the time the next season comes. You can add these into your compost pile as well.
Fall and in colder climates is a great time to add compost to the organic soil since the period of inactivity allows this amendment to work its way through the bed and do its magic. You can add un-aged kitchen scraps, which can decompose throughout the growing season, too.
You can make homemade compost by adding fall yard wastes like chopped leaves and dried out grass, or you can just use leaf mold compost clippings (green grass clippings can contain weed seeds, so you’ll want to make sure all of that has died off) to enrich the bed.
Improve the Drainage
As the good soil in your new raised bed lays dormant for months, it can be prone to compaction, which affects the drainage of the soil, giving you poor drainage. Add amendments like vermiculite or pearlite to help promote proper soil drainage.
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Cover the Soil with Mulch or a Sheet of Plastic
It’s also great practice to cover your raised bed with mulch such as wood chips, pine needles, dry leaves, or a layer of cardboard in the fall and throughout winter. The cover helps retain warmth and also encourages the soil amendments you’ve added to break down more efficiently. It also prevents weeds from growing.
Plant Cover Crops
When looking into how to amend raised garden bed soil, you can start in the fall at the end of the season to prepare for the next season. Cover crops restore the fertility of our raised bed soil, and fall is a great time to plant them. These help prevent soil erosion, break up compacted areas and increase levels of organic matter in garden beds. Cover crops also add nutrients like nitrogen. Furthermore, cover crops help prevent soil compacting due to heavy winter rains.
You can grow legumes like clovers, alfalfa, and peas as cover crops. Alternatively, you can also grow grasses like oats, rye, and buckwheat.
Don’t Till Your Garden
Resist the urge to turn the soil over in the fall. Let the organisms in the soil work their magic and aerate the soil for your throughout winter. Wait until spring comes around to till the soil in your raised bed garden.
Amending Your Raised Bed Soil in the Spring
By the time spring rolls around, your efforts at the beginning of fall and the effect of the soil amendments throughout winter will make your job easier.
However, there are still some preparations you need to take care of before you can start planting your next set of crops.
When you begin your gardening season, add lots of organic material like a layer of compost from your compost bin or aged animal manure to the fertile soil surface.
This is also the time to till the soil in your raised bed so it can be aerated. Cover crops may also be turned over at this point so they can start delivering their nutrients into the soil.
If you need to amend the soil of a raised bed in the spring and didn’t do any prep in the fall, here’s how to amend raised bed garden soil:
You can add equal amounts of perlite, compost from your worm bin, and peat moss and mix it in as deeply with the existing soil mix as possible, either with a shovel or a tiller. Once that is done, you can top it all off with green sand – which has potash in it and will condition the healthy soil, help to keep it loose and well drained – mix a couple of handfuls in the top few inches of organic matter to have good drainage. Water it all well, wait a week or two and then it will be ready for planting.
Raised beds are an excellent choice for new gardeners with limited yard space. I hope the tips above will help you improve the quality of the soil you have so you can grow a lush and vital garden by the time the next gardening season comes around. Happy gardening!
Do you have any more questions about how to amend raised garden bed soil? If so, comment below and I will do my best to help.
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Marilynn Teoli says
Hi Last year I had tomato wilt in my raised bed and no zucchini grew – just leaves turned yellow then brown and died. This moved the tomato plants and they’re better but the zucchini plants are same as last year, and fruits turn yellow on the end and wizen up and die. Help! Thank you.
That’s so annoying when you try so hard and it doesn’t work.
Can you tell me more about how they die? Do they wilt? Is it gradual or does it seem to happen suddenly?
Could they be drowning from over watering or are they not getting enough sun?
Many things could be the reason – if you can tell me more and where you live and maybe post a picture I could maybe help.