Raised Beds

lawmar(4)January 23, 2014

I built two raised bed gardens last summer. I bought soil in the bag, it was called top soil. I dumped that in my gardens thinking that would be sufficient. I water regularly, but nothing seems to grow very good in them. What can I do to improve the soil in them? Any suggestions?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

call your county extension office.. and ask how you can have a soil test done ...

and then when you can actually get to the soil in Z4 ... in late march or so ... get the test done ...

i would have to imagine.. that there is a soil forum .... or raised bed forum... not that we dont want you here.. but if you search for info.. may as well seek it in as many places as possible ...


    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 3:07PM
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The terms "topsoil" and "garden soil" are meaningless. "Topsoil" is defined as the top 4 to 6 inches of soil that usually contains some organic matter. There is not even that definition for "garden soil".
How deep are these raised beds?
What is the pH of that soil?

Your state agricultural school may do soil testing for pH and major nutrients which will help along with these simple soil tests,
1) Soil test for organic matter. From that soil sample put enough of the rest to make a 4 inch level in a clear 1 quart jar, with a tight fitting lid. Fill that jar with water and replace the lid, tightly. Shake the jar vigorously and then let it stand for 24 hours. Your soil will settle out according to soil particle size and weight. For example, a good loam will have about 1-3/4 inch (about 45%) of sand on the bottom. about 1 inch (about 25%) of silt next, about 1 inch (25%) of clay above that, and about 1/4 inch (about 5%) of organic matter on the top.

2) Drainage. Dig a hole 1 foot square and 1 foot deep and fill that with water. After that water drains away refill the hole with more water and time how long it takes that to drain away. Anything less than 2 hours and your soil drainsâ too quickly and needs more organic matter to slow that drainage down. Anything over 6 hours and the soil drains too slowly and needs lots of organic matter to speed it up.

3) Tilth. Take a handful of your slightly damp soil and squeeze it tightly. When the pressure is released the soil should hold together in that clump, but when poked with a finger that clump should fall apart.

4) Smell. What does your soil smell like? A pleasant, rich earthy odor? Putrid, offensive, repugnant odor? The more organic matter in your soil the more active the soil bacteria will be and the nicer your soil will smell.

5) Life. How many earthworms per shovel full were there? 5 or more indicates a pretty healthy soil. Fewer than 5, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, indicates a soil that is not healthy.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 6:28AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i was also wondering .... if you are raising your bed due to bad clay below ... and perhaps you have a drainage issue ...

lack of anything growing .. the first thing that comes to mind.. after soil.. is water ... either you are drowning them.. either by applying too much.. or thru bad drainage...

or you didnt water them ...

if you perfected water.. then i would fall back to a soil issue ...

kim's suggestion of the Ag college is the same as contacting your extension office.. as they are in cahoots with the state college ... in most states.. its the college with STATE after it.. as in MICHIGAN STATE ... ETC


    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 9:51AM
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In Michigan it is Michigan State and in Ohio it is Ohio State, but in Indiana it is Purdue and in Illinois it is the University of Illinois. In New York the school that runs the Cooperative Extension Service is Cornell.
It varies from state to state so the best way to find out is to look at the USDA web site.

Here is a link that might be useful: USDA Cooperative Extension

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 6:46PM
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