Gardening is a great way to relieve stress in a productive way. After all, you are the creative mastermind behind your garden. A popular method for gardening is using a raised garden bed.
A raised garden bed is when a plot of soil is placed into a bed above the surrounding soil. This bed is often blocked off with planks of wood and has its own special soil mixture. Not every soil is created equal, and the best soil for raised garden beds can be hard to find.
Table of Contents
The Best Soil For Raised Bed Vegetable Gardens
Creating the perfect soil for your raised garden can be difficult. Many factors go into it, and it’s hard for new gardeners to master it on the first try. That’s why there are several soil options available that do it for you.
Raised Bed Garden Soil Reviewed
1. Compressed Organic Potting-Soil for Garden & Plants
First on the list is the Organic Plant Magic compressed soil. This soil comes in a two-pound bag, and also expands to seven times its size when you add water. It seems like a good deal for the cost.
The Organic Plant Magic soil has a good blend of healthy components that your plants need for growth. Beneficial bacteria, worm castings, and ground coconut coir make this soil rich.
A great feature that this soil has is that it maintains its water content very well. Not only does it expand when in contact with water, but it also holds it three times longer than soil without it. It’s perfect for soils in warm weather or areas that don’t get enough rain.
This compressed soil is organic and better for your plants than chemical-based soils. It’s also pet-friendly and safe for use around humans as well.
All things considered, the Organic Plant Magic compressed soil is an excellent option. It’s affordable, thoughtfully designed, and safe to handle.
2. Miracle-Gro Expand ‘n Gro Concentrated Planting Mix
Following that is the Expand n’ Gro soil by Miracle-Gro. Miracle-Gro is a pioneer in the soil and gardening world, so their products are often very effective. This product follows that path as well.
As the name suggests, Expand n’ Gro gets bigger when it’s introduced to water. While you initially have one bag of soil, when you add water to it, it grows to the amount of three bags. This saves you money from having to buy more bags.
The Expand n’ Gro soil also adds the necessary air into your potting mix. Adding air back to the soil allows the roots to get the oxygen they need. With the expansion, this soil creates 90% more air than the original soil.
The Expand n’ Gro soil can be used for ground soil, raised garden beds, and potting containers. This soil also has an extended-release property. It can feed your plants for up to six months after you initially add it in.
3. Espoma Company (VFGS1) Organic Vegetable and Flower Soil
Next is the Espoma organic garden soil. This soil is suitable for use with flowers and vegetables. Espoma also sells these soils in different packages, so you can buy more at once if you want to.
Espoma garden soil is meant to be used for in-ground planting. While you can still use it with containers and raised garden beds, it works better as an in-ground soil.
This product has a great list of ingredients. It’s fortified with Espoma’s proprietary Myco-tone. Myco-tone has excellent components including, several strains of beneficial ecto and endo mycorrhizae. These help give plants the nutrients they need and also strengthen the soil itself.
Other key ingredients include earthworm castings, sphagnum peat moss, and peat humus. Espoma’s thorough ingredients have everything your plants need to thrive and then some.
On top of its great ingredients, Espoma is organic, so it’s easier for plants to grow in. It also leaves no harmful effects like chemically enhanced soils. All in all, Espoma’s soil is great for in-ground planters.
4. Black Gold Organic Potting Soil
If you want to focus on container-grown fruits and vegetables, this next product is for you. The Black Gold potting soil and fertilizer is designed specifically for potted plants. However, you can use it for pretty much any type of gardening.
The Black Gold soil comes in a hefty bag of 16 quarts, but there are more options for package quantities. Plus, this is one of the more affordable options on this list for the amount sold.
This soil is another great option when you look at its ingredients. It has several excellent factors that make it perfect for potting.
The Black Gold company really took the time to create a rich and loamy mixture. Perlite and pumice are added to make for air space and pore growth. Other factors are added to cater to the western regions, which this soil works best for.
Finally, this product has already been reviewed by the Organic Materials Review Institute. That means you can rest assured you’re getting organic and eco-friendly soil.
5. Burpee Natural Organic Premium Potting Mix
There’s a lot to love about this growing mix from Burpee. It’s great for raised garden beds and enriched with fertilizer to grow delicious vegetables, herbs, and bright, vibrant flowers. Plus, it’s labeled for organic use.
This soil feeds plants instantly and has a slow-release plant food that keeps nourishing your plants for up to three months. Because it contains coconut coir to help maintain appropriate moisture levels, you can water less often.
The eight-quart bag is a nice size. Depending on how you’re using it, one bag should fill about four to five 10-inch pots. If you’re planning to mix it with anything else, it will go even further.
This one is also a good choice if you’re looking for something that’s good for seedlings or indoor houseplants. While it’s a great choice for raised gardens and any outdoor container plants, you can use it indoors, too.
6. FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil Organic Mix
This potting soil doesn’t require any prep so you can get right to work when you open the bag. Ocean Forest potting soil is not only good for raised garden beds, but it’s also a good choice for young seedlings and cuttings. Use it for houseplants, indoor containers, annuals, and perennials.
If you’re looking for lightweight soil with good aeration, this is the one for you. It has a pH that’s optimized for fertilizer uptake which means that you’re giving your plants the perfect environment to root and grow strong. One 38-quart bag covers about 1. cubic feet.
Ocean Forest potting soil includes worm casings to promote the growth of leafy foliage and strong roots and protect your plants from disease. It’s also loaded with micronutrients, 100 percent natural, and safe for organic gardening.
7. Kempf Compressed Coco Fiber Growing
One of the things we like most about this block of coco fiber growing medium is that it’s 100 percent all-natural and environmentally friendly. The aeration and water retention promote strong healthy growth plus it repels insects and other pests and resists mildew.
Although you do have to do a little prep work with this one, it’s pretty simple. The product comes in a 10-pound slab. Some people prefer to cut it into smaller pieces but it’s very dense so you’ll need a hacksaw to get through it. Alternatively, you can use a hammer and chisel.
Then, soak the pieces in water overnight and, in the morning, you’ll have about 17 gallons of potting mix. In addition to being ideal for raised garden beds, this product is a nice replacement for peat moss if you’re starting seedlings and can be used to cover fresh grass seed.
8. Michigan Peat 1460 Baccto Lite Premium Potting Soil
Another great choice is this lite potting soil from Michigan Peat. It features a unique blend of materials including sphagnum, perlite, and peat. There are also starter fertilizers and slow-release fertilizers so it feeds your plants well over time.
This product is ready to use and doesn’t need mixing or any prep. It’s ideal for raised garden beds as well as outdoor and indoor container plants, bulbs, potted plants, and when starting seedlings and cuttings.
You can get a single eight-quart bag but it also comes in two, three, four, and five packs if you have a lot of garden beds to cover and prefer to buy in bulk. This soil is very light so you might end up using a little more than you’d expect so it’s a good idea to plan to order some extra.
9. Dr. Earth 803 All Purpose Compost
This organic soil from Dr. Earth has a lot of wonderful things going for it. For starters, it’s 100 percent natural and organic with nourishing ingredients like alfalfa meal, kelp meal, and earthworm castings, just to name a few.
You can use this product for a variety of different projects, including raised gardens or when planting shrubs, trees, vegetables, or flowers. It even works for over-seeding lawns. It works well on its own but can also be mixed with other soils or used as mulch.
You get one 38.5-quart bag which covers about 1.5 cubic feet. Note that this is bagged and dried compost so it’s not unusual to find some rocks or twigs that haven’t completely broken down. If you’ve been meaning to compost but haven’t gotten around to it, this is a great alternative that gives you the same benefits.
10. New Coast of Maine – Organic Raised Bed Mix
The final contender for being the best raised garden soil is the Coast of Maine product. These manufacturers know what they’re doing, as they stress the importance of good soil.
This product is designed specifically for raised garden beds. It has the right texture, composure, and mineral base for the job. It’s a very well put together soil in general.
Coast of Maine is very thorough in explaining the components of their soil. It starts off with organic topsoil and has other additions, like green sand. The list continues with expanded shale, peat, biochar, and worm castings.
The organic ingredients and affordable price make this Coast of Maine product exemplary. It’s the perfect starter soil, as it has several key ingredients and is affordable.
What is the Best Soil for Raised Garden Beds?
Every gardener wants to create the best soil for their plants. Without it, there’s not a big chance of a fruitful season for your flowers or trees. This is especially true for raised garden beds.
Raised garden beds are completely separated from the soil in the ground. So, it’s up to the gardener to create the perfect soil. How they do this depends on a few things.
The soil for raised garden beds depends on what you want to grow. If the plant you’re looking for thrives in acidic soil, you need to add components to make the soil ideal. Similarly, if your plant loves a more basic pH level, you need more balancing agents in your soil.
Additionally, you need to take the weather into consideration. If it’s very dry where you live, you might need to add soil that retains moisture well. If your area receives a good amount of rain, make sure you have a good drainage system.
So, the soil for your raised garden bed depends on what you want to grow and the area you live in. You make your soil from scratch, so make sure to create a combination with these things in mind.
How Much Soil for Raised Garden Beds?
With raised garden beds, the soil is the main factor for success. You want to have a perfect balance of it. Too much soil runs over and gets wasted, while not enough soil harms plant growth.
The amount of soil you need depends on two things: the height of your raised garden bed and the plants’ root depth. Taking a look at the height of your raised garden, a common choice is around 11”.
With a height of 11”, your raised garden bed has plenty of room to drain properly. That starts you off needing around a foot of gardening soil. This amount increases depending on how many square feet you have in your garden bed.
On a similar note, you can make your garden a bit taller to ease back pain or a bit shorter for your own preference. If you choose to do this, you’re going to have to adjust your soil amount accordingly.
Moving on to the factor of root depth, roots are the main reason behind the soil you need for your raised garden bed. Your plant needs to have enough room underneath to spread out and collect its food. How deep of a root depth you have depends on what you’re growing.
Some vegetables, like lettuce, have very short roots. They don’t need to go very far down the soil to get the strength and nutrients they need. In this case, you don’t need to have a lot of soil in your raised garden to accommodate them.
On the other hand, plants like tomatoes need lots of room to spread out their roots. So, you’re going to need more soil for them to grow properly. The bottom line is, the amount of soil your garden needs depends on how you design your garden and what you grow in it.
How to Prepare Soil for Raised Bed Vegetable Garden?
Once you’ve figured out what you want to plant in your raised garden, it’s time to get the land ready. Any good gardener knows that it’s very rare for a part of the land to be ready for planting at any given moment.
The first step in planting is almost always fixing up the land and making it ideal for plant growth.
Prepare the soil: With raised garden beds, you have a bed of land that’s separated from other parts of the soil horizontally. But vertically, the soil is still on top of the native soil. That means that your plants are able to access the soil underneath the raised bed.
For this reason, gardeners who want raised beds need to prepare the soil underneath. It’s better to do this step before you set up the perimeters for your bed boundaries.
Start by digging the soil about two feet deep in. Turning over the soil helps you understand what you’re working with. You can see if the land underneath is dry or if you have roots from other plants already in place.
You can then adjust your soil accordingly by adding fertilizer or removing any roots or rocks in the way. This process of digging beforehand gives your plants the best chance to grow healthy.
Perfect the soil: After you’ve dug through and removed any obstructions, it’s time to perfect that soil. If you noticed that the soil was very heavy and difficult to move, you can add peat moss to lighten it. Similarly, if the pH level for that soil is off, take this time to adjust it.
Once your soil is good for planting, go ahead, and build your bed on top. Fill up the inside with your starter soil, and allow a few inches of free space on top.
When you have about a week left until you add the plants, top it off with fertilizer and compost. You want to add these a few days before you plant, so they don’t wash away or go too deep into the soil. After these steps, you’re ready to get started with your raised garden bed!
5 Tips For Improving Your Raised Bed Garden Soil
Starting any new gardening task takes time, especially for new gardeners. Perfecting the craft of gardening takes a lot of hard work and dedication.
But these tips should ease some of your worries and provide you a little guidance along the way.
1. Know What You’re Working With
The best way to create the best soil is to understand what you have in front of you. Learn as much as you can about the soil you currently have.
Check out the pH levels, test the soil for density, and figure out if there are intruding roots in it. Learning about your soil tells you how you can help growth and improvement.
Once you know what it’s missing, follow through with it consistently. You can’t change soil with one helping of fertilizer, so consistency is the key to getting results.
2. Organic Fertilizer is the Way to Go
Speaking of fertilizer, many people think that any old fertilizer is fine. While it’s true that you can use any fertilizer, the best fertilizer is the organic type.
Chemical fertilizers do provide results, as you can see a change in your soil within weeks. But they do nothing to help the soil around your plants, and in a raised garden, the soil is key.
Organic fertilizers not only help the plants, but they help the soil around them as well. If you’re trying to build up your raised garden soil, organic fertilizer takes care of both.
3. Figure Out Your Soil’s Past
This tip is especially important for new gardeners. Oftentimes, you buy a bag of soil thinking that it’s going to help your garden bloom instantly, but to no avail. Then, you learn that you actually got soil that needs to be fortified, aka dirt.
Anyone can sell dirt, and dirt is not what your raised garden needs to grow. Ask your seller where the soil came from before buying it. When you know where it’s been, you can understand what it needs to grow better.
With this information, you can add nutrients to that dirt to turn it into a soil your plants thrive in. But without it, it’s just plain dirt.
4. Compost is Cool
One thing that every gardener should get into is composting. Composting is the way to turn any dirt into hospitable soil for your plants.
When it comes to composting, people either think it’s rocket science or a glorified trash can. It’s actually neither. Composting is about collecting biodegradable leftovers and turning them into live fertilizers.
People think that composted material smells bad or is difficult to manage, but not if you do it correctly. If that’s an issue, you can buy bins made specifically for compost to help enclose the smell. Composted material is treasure for your plants, the soil, and the ecosystem around it all.
5. Everyone Needs a Refresher
Everyone needs a little pick-me-up every now and then, including your soil! During the first years of using a raised garden bed, you might notice that it’s doing very well. That’s because your soil has a lot of new nutrients and other goodies to give at the time.
But once you grow the plants for that year, your soil is pretty much running on empty. You need to revitalize it with the help of some extra soil inputs. These could be fertilizer spikes, compost, or leaf mold.
Work these into the soil by turning over the old soil and gradually adding one of these components. Finish it off with a good helping of fertilizer, and you’re well on your way to a great new planting year.
As with anything good in life, you need patience when you get into gardening. When you understand what your soil needs, you can add or take away things to create the best raised bed soil. Understanding your garden takes time, but once you master it, you can create a wonderland.