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What is the Best Soil for a Raised Vegetable Garden?

Updated: Mar 17

I get many questions about what the best soil is for a vegetable garden, especially about what the best soil is for vegetable gardens in raised beds. When it comes to garden soil, having a good quality soil to grow your vegetables in makes a world of difference.

The best soil for vegetable garden in raised bed for a Calgary vegetable garden in Zone 3 Canada.

Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening

One benefit of raised bed gardening is the ability to control the soil. If you struggle with poor soil quality, rocky soil or clay soil, raised bed gardening will give you a chance to improve your soil.

Other benefits of raised beds are that they don't get walked on, so your soil does not end up getting as compacted as in-ground gardens, and working in a raised bed is much less back breaking. You will be thankful for your raised bed when it comes time to weed your garden.

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The Best Soil for Raised Bed Gardens

I have found the best vegetable garden soil to be a mix of 1/3 topsoil, 1/3 compost and 1/3 peat moss (or coconut fiber). This mix gives you a well draining soil that also has the ability to retain moisture and is full of nutrients needed for your plants to grow.

The best soil for vegetable garden in raised bed:

1/3 Top Soil
1/3 Compost
1/3 Peat Moss or Coconut Fiber

Large bales of peat moss can usually be purchased for a good price at local hardware stores or garden centers. Good quality topsoil and compost can be a little more difficult to source. If you are filling large raised beds check out Burnco (In Alberta) as well as any similar local companies in your area

Sometimes these companies will sell an already mixed garden soil. If you ask what is in it, it should be something similar to the garden soil recipe listed above.

How to Fill a Deep Raised Bed Garden?

When placing your raised bed on sod or weedy ground, layer cardboard on the bottom of the raised bed. If your raised bed is more than 10 inches deep it is not necessary or even beneficial to fill the entire thing with the garden soil mix listed above. If your raised bed is 2 feet deep or deeper, layer rotting logs (fresh ones are okay too) or sticks along the bottom with leaves, straw, or other organic material on top.

Fill your bed this way then wet it down and walk on it to compact the material. Once you have filled your raised bed so you only have 10 inches remaining start layering compost, top soil and peat moss in layers approximately 2 inches thick of each one, until your raised bed is filled with soil. Water the soil to help it settle.

Straw organic material used to fill a raised garden bed with soil for vegetable gardening in Calgary Alberta, zone 3.

Does my Raised Bed Need to Be Filled Completely Full of Soil?

It is beneficial to your plants to fill your raised bed right to the top with soil. For one, soil always sinks down quite a bit as it settles. The other reason it is important to fill your raised beds to the top is that it gives the small seedlings more sunlight. If the soil is sunk down in the bed, the edges of the bed will cast a shadow on seedlings near the edge - giving them fewer hours of sunlight.


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The best garden soil for raised bed vegetable gardens when gardening in zone 3.


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