Why You Should Make Your Own Organic Soil?
Many people think that you can fill a raised bed with straight up dirt, or compost. Sure you could do this, but you don’t have the necessary ingredients in the soil to nourish your plants, retain moisture and to allow for proper drainage.
The recipe I am sharing today is the ONLY recipe that I have ever used and I have been very successful with my gardens!
All the essential nutrients are in the soil recipe and you most likely will never need to feed your plants or fertilize them because all the nutrients are right in the soil. Pretty cool right? In addition to this, I rarely have any problems with pest or any diseases harming the plants.
So yes, I will say up front that there are a few extra steps in creating the perfect soil, but it is worth the effort! Once you create this soil, your plants will do amazing and there will be very little maintenance to keeping this soil for years to come.
The Art of Gardening and Square Foot Gardening
So as I stated above, I have always used this recipe for garden soil in my gardens. It has never failed me so why change it right. I adapted this recipe slightly from the Mel Bartholomew book:
If you do not have this book, I highly recommend it! It is hands down one of the best gardening book that I have ever bought!
The Ultimate Bundle ~ A Great Garden Resource
In addition to this book, I also learned so much from The Art of Gardening: Building Your Soil. This book taught me a whole lot about soil and how it is the KEY to a successful garden!
I strongly believe that a quality soil recipe makes all the difference in a garden. Lets figure out how much soil you will need for your garden beds.
How Much Organic Garden Soil Do I Need To Make?
The first step is to figure out how much garden soil you need for your raised bed. You can easily calculate your soil needs with a soil calculator here:
Calculate Your Soil Needs With a Soil Calculator
Remember, compost, peat moss and vermiculite (the 3 components of this recipe) are measured in cubic feet or cubic yards, so you will be given both of those numbers with the calculations.
In my example (shown below), I am calculating a 4’x4′ (or 48″x48″) raised bed that is 6″ deep.
As you can see in the picture above, for my 4’x4′ bed that is 6″ deep, I will need 8 cubic feet of soil. The number below that (cubic yards) is usually beneficial for filling larger beds and for buying soil for bulk delivery.
So now we know how much soil we need to fill this raised bed. We will need this information for the recipe.
How To Make Organic Garden Soil For Raised Beds
There are 3 components that make up good soil. In the picture below you can see the differences of the 3 ingredients.
For this recipe you will need the following:
- 1/3 peat moss (measured by cubic ft or cubic yd) ~ Peat moss helps lighten the soil up a bit and makes the soil more water retentive. Compost can be very dense and by adding peat moss, you lighten up the density which helps the root systems of the plants to grow more evenly throughout the soil. This is instrumental in creating a healthy plant.
- 1/3 coarse vermiculite (measured by cubic ft or cubic yd) ~ Vermiculite is mica rocks that have been minded out of the ground and then have been heated to explode into very little pieces. These little rocks have a lot of nooks and crannies where the water can be absorbed. It also allows the soil to drain properly and is very important to include in this soil. If you can not find vermiculite, you can use perlite, but I prefer vermiculite…it is a much better product to work with. *(See additional note below)
- 1/3 compost (measured by cubic ft or cubic yd)~ Compost provides the essential nutrients for your plants to grow and flourish. Compost is food for your plants. We buy ours from a local source in bulk, it is so much cheaper. We got a whole pick up truck full for right around $40! Compost is expensive by the bag, so if you are filling a large bed, or even a smaller bed, it is wise to buy it from a local source.
*Note ~ Because I know it will be brought up, I am going to mention that many years ago there was a plant in Montana that was shut down because their vermiculite had traces of asbestos. Now this is very serious, yes and every now and then the story pops up again, like it is new and just happened. This was a very serious situation indeed, but as a result vermiculite is screened for asbestos and is monitored on every level and also has a asbestos free stamp on the bags. It is safe to use.
Back To Our Example Project
So lets use my example above to show you how this works. I needed 8 cubic feet of soil as shown in the soil calculator above. 8 cubic feet divided by 3 (we need 1/3 of each for the recipe) will give us 2.66 cubic feet of each.
So we will need for my example:
- 2.66 cubic ft peat moss
- 2.66 cubic ft vermiculite
- 2.66 cubic ft compost
Now follow the 3 easy steps below and you now know how to make garden soil for raised beds! Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be exact measurements, just eyeball it.
Now follow these easy 3 steps
Now that you have all the ingredients, follow these 3 easy steps and you will know how to make garden soil for raised beds!
- Put your 3 components into a tarp and mix them together really well with a rake or shovel. You might want to wear a mask because the vermiculite and peat moss can be dusty, and it is best to wear a mask. Once everything is well mixed, shovel the mixture into your raised bed.
- Next step is to water your new garden soil. Do not skip this step. This can be dusty and this will help eliminate the dust and weigh the soil down a bit.
- The final step is to allow the soil to settle for 2 weeks. The soil will settle about 1-2 inches below where you originally piled the soil in so be sure to add a little extra to compensate for settling.
What If You Bought In Bulk & Can’t Measure Your Soil?
So as I mentioned above, I buy my compost in bulk and use it throughout the season. If you bought your compost in bulk and are unable to measure it by cubic feet or cubic yards, you can measure your formula this way.
- 3 parts compost
- 1 part peat moss
- 1 part vermiculite
Remember, compost is very heavy and weighs differently in volume, so this is why the formula is different. If you are able, it is best to follow the recipe by cubic feet or cubic yards, but if you can not, then follow this method.
I just used a large green bucket and filled it up 3 times with compost, poured it into my raised bed, and then added 1 large green bucket of peat moss and 1 large green bucket of vermiculite. Then I just mixed it up right in my raised bed. Worked beautifully!
Here Is The Finished Product
Here is what my 4’x4′ square foot gardening bed looks like when it is done and ready to go! I had a few plants already growing when I shot this photo, but you can get an idea what it looks like with the soil in the bed.
Samantha @whole new start says
This was a very helpful post!! I am moving into my first house in a couple weeks and plan on doing a big garden in the backyard. Thanks for the info 🙂
Dorothy Posey says
Thank you for info will help alot to add soil to my raised garden..
Joyce Williams says
I am a first time gardener and I thank you for the information and look forward to reading more about good gardening.
Sarasvati Blanc says
How is this soil for indoor plants? I moved into a new APT and my plants are taking a beating.place is darker cool,drafty. Resulting root rot, in all tropical plants.tried putting sea shells had on hand under pots in leui of gravel for airation. Need to redo soil for all large plants. Is this recipe a loaming soil?
Halle Cottis says
It works nicely for indoor plants too. Just don’t over water and you will be fine.
Hi first time Gardner here so sorry for the silly question but I’m starting my first ever raised vegetable garden and would like to know if I add organic soil to this mixture or If just these three ingredients will make up my soil that I will be planting my vegetables in. Thank you
Syl kach says
I dont understand , do you mix the soil in with the 3 part mixture also? Or add it on top of the mixture?
Thank you for this great post.
I have a question; is this soil mixture good for ( Sambac Jasmine ). I am from UAE now it is July and the weather is +45C ( extremely hot day & night )
Actually rhese Jasmines are my late mother’s and I want take care of them .. i can see then getting yellow and dry and flowring like before, so though maybe this soil mixture will be helpful.
Thanks a lot
Do you have a more environmentally friendly alternative to peat moss you’d recommend?
I believe coconut coir is more environmentally friendly.
Rowena Benavides says
Do I have to place a mixture of my natural soil? How about if other ingredients are not available like the coarse vermiculite? Any alternative? http://bit.ly/OrganicGardenSoil
Suraj Patel says
Wow, a very good article shared by you that will help each and every person for their farm.
I ordered manure instead of compost to make this recipe. Is the manure an OK substitute in place of the compost? Thank you!
gloria A phelan says
where can I buy big bag of vermiculite I only see small bags ? why my citrus trees never produce and lives are curl and white mildew I need help with my citrus.