A Great Garden Soil Recipe Is Better Than Dirt
You’ll need a good garden soil recipe if you going to move to raised bed vegetable gardening , or are considering container vegetable gardening . If you go to the trouble of building or buying large raised beds or containers, it makes no sense to fill them with native soil. Let me tell you why.
A “custom made” garden soil mix will reduce weeds, soil disease, insect and gopher/mole problems. You’ll have better plant nutrient and moisture retention. A good mix is much easier to work year-around and provides better drainage than dirt.
In fact, it is so loose and friable that the only thing it’s not good for is digging our burrows in, so wegnomes will continue living deep beneath your gardens in the native soil.
Any mix that meets the 3 main criteria for a garden soil, and is not toxic to plants, will be great to grow vegetables in. The garden soil recipe need only:
- Be a good anchor for the roots, so the plant doesn’t fall over or blow away;
- Be a good storehouse to maintain water and nutrient levels; and,
- Allow oxygen flow to the roots so the plants can breathe.
If the mix does all that, it will likely outperform your native soil in growing a bountiful vegetable harvest.
So, what materials make the best mix? The answer: any combination oforganic matter and inorganic material that most nearly approximates the texture of the gardeners’ holy grail, loam soil . With soil, it is all about texture, so each recipe is a mixture of different particle sizes that together offer the proper balance of drainage/air circulation and water/nutrient retention. Here are some choices:
- 50% compost – 50% Sand
- 50% peat moss or coco peat – 50% sand
- 70% aged fine bark or aged sawdust – 30% sand
- 50% perlite – 50% peat moss or aged fine bark or aged saw dust
- 50% aged fine bark or aged saw dust – 50% styrofoam pellets or pieces
Any of these garden soil recipes will work, as will many others. Find out what local organic material is available at a cheap price. Decomposed granite is locally available and is much cheaper than sand, so we often use it. A garden gnome cousin lives in a colony in rice growing country, and they use rice hulls (free for the hauling) instead of sawdust.
Fine bark is much better than saw dust because it breaks down slower, requiring replacement less often. Sawdust or fine bark from any type of tree will do, but use well aged if available. Fresh organic material will leach much nitrogen from the soil for the first year or two until it is well composted. If you must use fresh, use extra nitrogen fertilizer as well.
Avoid using shavings, they tend to flatten and sour and are miserable to work in.
When using sand get clean river sand, not ocean beach. Saltwater sand is too salty for most plants. The only vegetables that are moderately tolerant of salt are, artichokes, asparagus, red beets and zucchini.
Most plants grown in saltwater sand starve for lack of nutrients and water. The salt clogs plant tissue cells and blocks nutrient uptake. Plants drink through a process called osmosis. Salt in the soil will reverse the osmosis, actually sucking the water out of the roots. It will remove water from the plant and block further uptake, even in moist soil.
Try this experiment: immerse a peeled potato slice in water, a second in very salty water. The saltwater slice will actually lose water and begin to shrivel, through reverse osmosis.
Find an ideal garden soil recipe for your garden; your fruit and vegetable harvest will be bountiful.