Raised Bed Garden Soil Preparation

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This article will help you prepare your soil for an organic garden.
by Brett · All Zones · Organic Gardening · 0 Comments · August 24, 2010 · 11,772 views

Raised Bed Garden Soil Preparation

What is a 'raised bed' garden?
The 'raised' part means that the garden soil level is higher than the surrounding soil, and 'bed' implies size small enough to work without actually stepping on the bed. A bed should be no wider than 4' but can be as long as desired. The bed does not have to be enclosed or framed, however framing offers other opportunities. Raised bed gardens are perfect where space is limited. See links below for how to build a framed raised bed garden.

As with conventional gardening, organic matter in soil (such as mushroom compost, composted cow manure or homemade compost) is important in raised bed gardening for two reasons.

  • As organic matter breaks down, it releases nutrients that crops can utilize.
  • Organic mattter improves the water- and nutrient-holding capacity of the soil.

How much organic matter to add to native soil?
The amount of organic matter to add varies with the chosen material, the type of native soil that will be used as a base, and weather conditions. For most gardens adding and mixing in 1/2 to 1 cubic yard of organic matter per 1,000 square feet of garden bed is recommended.

As an example, an acre of dry soil 6 inches deep weighs about 2 million pounds, which means that 1,000 square feet of soil to the same depth weighs approximately 46,000 pounds. If we wished to raise the organic matter of this soil 1 percent, we would have to add 460 pounds of organic matter. The amount of material required may actually be quite a bit more because most organic sources have a high water content, as much as 50 percent or more. In addition, many have high ash (nonorganic residues) content, as high as 25 percent or more. Organic matter with 50 percent water content and 25 percent ash would require 1,840 pounds applied to 1,000 square feet to raise the organic fraction of the soil 1 percent. This may be impractical both in terms of obtaining the necessary organic matter and the fact that organic matter must be added each year to sustain the increase. Low rates (200 pounds per 1,000 square feet) of organic matter can have a noticeable improvement in soil tilth. Additions of 500 to 1,000 pounds of organic matter per 1,000 square feet per year can have a beneficial effect on soil tilth and plant growth.

TIP: At a minimum, add organic matter to the garden soil in an 18" in diameter area, planting the plant in the center of the amended area.


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