Need Advice On Soil For Outdoor Gardening

Discussion in 'Gardening' started by shagwells, May 24, 2013.

  1. I'm building 4'x8' raised garden bed to grow tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, etc. and so far I bought a bunch of top soil for cheap, but now I'm thinking I need aeration and amendments.  
    So my first question is what type of aeration should I add in my garden soil?  Ideally I'm thinking perlite but that could be costly on a garden bed that big?  Any other alternatives that are much more cost effective?
    Second is that I heard those compost you buy at Lowes/Home Depot are junk; mostly made up of compost leaves and mulch which I heard is low quality.  So I looked up some on Craigslist, but the places that sell worm castings/compost manure from a local farm are like an hour drive away.  Any other alternatives to this that could be cost effective and as good as compost/manure?
    Thanks in advance.

  2. I have very compact clay soil, so I too built a raised bed. I used some plain black garden soil the first year and things grew well, this year I added a lot of compost, worm castings and vermiculite and although everything is growing, it's seems even heavier than last year. The compost I bought was from a local nursery, labelled organic and was wet and very heavy and I may have gotten excited while adding it in; maybe too much compost. I also think some peat moss would help things a lot. I'm going to add some as soon as things clear up in there a little bit.
    In my opinion to keep it light I would use good amounts of peat and vermiculite, and depending on how acidic the soil may become, I add some lime as well. I also throw in some rock dusts, insect Frass, guano, greensand, bone meal, blood meal and manure. Perhaps not so cost effective depending on what where you get your amendments but I think compost is the best value for the garden.
    That's just my opinion, I've read some very knowledgable posts on here from other members so I know there's better advice on here, but I hope I could help! Bless!
  3. Humus is how you increase the tilth of soil.  Humus is organic matter.  Almost any will work but some forms are better.   Composted is even better.  Working in manure or organics helps to increase aeration and also the ability of the soil to hold water - both good.  Soils are composed of clay, sand and silt.  It is nice to know what your basic soil type is before you begin. Also, it is nice to know the pH.   All soils for gardening benefit from humus.  Humus increases soil biota or microbes and they feed the plant (more or less).   For a small area like 4x8 a few bags form a store will do.  Watch, or post, on Craig's list or your local exchange looking for organics.  Grass clippings are great.  Leaves are good.  Seaweed super.  Some cities have a compost program but be careful of herbicides.  It is wise to do a test with a few radish seeds to see if they will grow before committing the whole garden to municipal compost.
    Another way to get the soil better is to have a multi year plan.  Plant in rows and over the year add compost to the space between the rows.  Then in the winter or next spring that gets turned in and you start over, works well.  All your garden prunings go in that area to turn into to soil.
    This year add some organic type fertilizers such as a little bone meal and blood meal,  alfalfa meal, some glacial rock dust and away you go.
    Also, if you are a member of this forum it is just possible that you have some soil from a little indoor grow left over.  It is usable,  however; perlite is a little bit ugly in an outdoor garden.
  4. Lowes started carrying some 'Harvest' brand compost and potting mix. Potting Mix is 1.24cu.ft, compost .75 i believe. Both $6.96 i believe as well. The compost is poultry, grass, still a little fresh where mine is. The potting Mix looks, smells, feels, and is doing great as well.

    Worth going to look at man. Also, Fred's if you have one has some nice, CHEAP, compost that my mother is having exceptional results with (cucumber, squash).

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