The Q&A Archives: New Garden Soil Composition

Question: We have just built a house and want to start two raised beds for vegetables and flowers. We know we will have to "import" soil. What type is best? What should we do about drainage in the base of the beds?

Answer: Usually it is best to use soil from your own yard along with ample quantities of organic matter such as compost, rotted leaves, aged stable manure and bedding and so on, and, if your soil is full of clay, perhaps a small amount of coarse builders sand. By the time you have loosened the soil in the spot where the bed will be and added in the amendments, your beds will already be raised somewhat, so the amount of soil you might need to add is mimimal. This type of soil preparation combined with the effects of the raised planting area helps the soil to drain well, so you shouldn't need to take any extra steps for drainage -- moisture works its way down through the bed and into the soil below it. In planning what types of amendments to add, you should also run some basic soil tests to find out what the existing soil is lacking (or not). Your county extension (345-3283) should be able to hjelp you with the tests and interpreting the results.

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