how to prepare raised garden beds for planting

how to prepare raised garden beds for planting

Out with the previous, in with the brand new! In our backyard, it’s that point of yr that we are saying goodbye to the fading summer time crops and welcome within the new seedlings for fall. Are you interested by our backyard “change over” routine? Or, are you breaking floor and planting in a contemporary backyard mattress for the primary time? Let’s discuss methods to amend your soil, both manner!

Learn alongside to discover ways to put together a brand new or established backyard mattress for planting. We’ll cowl strategies for eradicating previous crops, just a few phrases on no-till gardening, creating a planting schedule, how and when to amend soil, fertilizer choice, mulch, and extra. Oh, don’t neglect the compost! At all times, compost.

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In a nutshell, we minimize previous crops out, add just a few meal amendments together with a thick layer of compost to the highest of the soil, plant the brand new seedlings, and at last prime off with one other layer of compost as mulch. In fact, there are numerous colleges of thought on methods to put together beds and fertilize! We concentrate on feeding the soil, which in flip feeds the crops! The strategies and merchandise mentioned beneath are merely what works for us, however I at all times encourage you to experiment and see what else could be just right for you too.

Able to dig in? Nice! Keep tuned for the time lapse video of us turning over a mattress to amend soil final spring, on the finish of this put up.


When to plant or “flip over” a backyard mattress with new crops

Whether or not you’re beginning contemporary or planting a second spherical of crops, it’s best to have some form of planting schedule to comply with. Seeds and seedlings like explicit circumstances to sprout, quickly develop, or mature for harvest. Unfavorable circumstances can set them again, and even kill them. This may range by sort of plant, time of yr, and your local weather! You seemingly already know this… But making that decision of when is the “proper time” to drag established crops to switch them with subsequent seasons crops might be extra difficult than it sounds!

If you happen to haven’t already executed so, you possibly can subscribe to our weekly publication and obtain a free 20-page backyard planning toolkit. It contains planting calendars for each zone! Even when you missed the window for beginning seeds, don’t fret! Hopefully you continue to have time to plant some nursery seedlings as a substitute. For extra suggestions, see this text all about seed beginning, and this information on selecting the most effective seedlings on the nursery.

A planting calendar serves as a useful information, however deciding precisely when to plant or take away crops will finally come right down to some private judgement calls, and trial and error. With time and expertise, you’ll develop your individual schedule on your explicit backyard, location, and crop preferences.

What concerning the crops which can be nonetheless rising?

So as to begin your subsequent seasons backyard on the “proper time” – it could imply eradicating crops that aren’t fully completed producing but! That’s, except you’ve ample backyard area and free beds to start out the newbies in whereas the previous guys end up. Or, when you aren’t planting something instantly after. Then you possibly can merely allow them to run their course.

For instance, we at all times should kill off many pepper and tomato crops that also have ripening fruit on them – with a purpose to get our fall/winter greens and brassica seedlings planted on time. For us, that is on the finish of September to early October. We’ve got tried to attend a month later for the changeover, and the consequence was our saddest winter backyard to this point! These few further tomatoes and peppers had been NOT definitely worth the expense of a floundering winter backyard.

Within the fall, when you wait too late plant seedlings or sow seeds, the crops could fail to thrive because of the decreased daylight hours that the shortening days carry. Getting them began whereas the soil remains to be heat and the solar is shining for many of the day will give them an incredible soar begin earlier than the shorter, colder days come. That is true even for locations with temperate frost-free winters.

On the flip facet, permitting the surviving winter crops to develop lengthy into spring isn’t at all times probably the most fruitful both. Particularly when you have the chance to switch them with contemporary productive crops, or get a soar begin in your summer time backyard! As the times start to elongate as soon as once more, it typically triggers greens or brassicas which have survived over winter to start to bolt or flower.


When it’s time to take away previous crops from a backyard mattress, we want to chop them down like a tree on the soil line or simply beneath, moderately than pulling up the entire plant by its roots. Thus, the roots are left behind within the soil. That is known as “no until” or “no dig” – a gardening philosophy that we principally comply with, although not strictly. If the spent crops aren’t diseased, they’re added the compost pile – or fed to the chickens, when edible and acceptable. In any other case, they go within the inexperienced waste.

Why depart the plant roots in place?

When roots are eliminated and the soil is subsequently disturbed, the entire useful microbial, fungal, and mycorrhizal associations which have shaped are disrupted too! Soil is a dwelling factor, in spite of everything. We’ve got labored onerous to create these networks of comfortable microbes by inoculating our soil with worm castings, worms, compost tea, mycorrhizae, and useful nematodes through the years. Take into consideration a pure atmosphere, like a forest ground. Is it manually tilled? No. The soil construction is left intact whereas the critters do their good work down there.

No-till farming reportedly will increase soil organic variety, fertility, resiliency, water retention, natural matter, & nutrient biking. In distinction, tilling soil will increase erosion and disrupts useful life underground. The roots left in place to decompose in a no-till system will break down over time, offering meals and vitamins to the worms, microorganisms, and different detritus-eaters within the soil – which in flip feeds the crops.

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Take a look at Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm to get worms on your backyard! We add pink compost worms to our raised beds (and worm compost bin), together with European evening crawlers to the areas of our yard with fruit bushes and shrubs – as a result of they wish to dive somewhat deeper.

When tilling soil may also help

I discussed that we principally comply with a no-till philosophy, however we aren’t complete sticklers about it. There’s actually a time and place when issues might use a fluff. Notably when you’re simply getting began and have to amend soil in a new backyard mattress. Additionally when a longtime mattress appears overly compact and desires contemporary compost or aeration materials labored in additional deeply, such because the small ⅜” volcanic rock we add to our beds. In lieu of tilling, the addition of worms may also help to extend aeration naturally!

One other time when a no-till methodology will not be preferable is in soil with a recognized infestation of root-knot nematodes. These are microscopic pests that feed on roots, inflicting tell-tale nodules and typically stunted or unhealthy crops. Eradicating contaminated roots, tilling, and exposing the nematodes to air are methods to scale back their inhabitants. Nevertheless, they’re onerous to battle with that alone! Even once we tried to completely until a mattress to scale back their populations up to now, they had been nonetheless current the next season.

One natural methodology we use to scale back root-knot nematodes (which we now have a really minor/occasional challenge with) is making use of these useful nematodes to the soil – who act as parasites to overpower the pest nematode populations, together with minimize worms, root maggots, grubs, fungus knat larvae, and extra! Together with eradicating clearly contaminated roots (principally tomatoes and squash), that stuff is fairly efficient for us! Now we do take away our tomato plant roots, however don’t until the soil, and the indicators of root knot nematodes have been lowering!


Getting ready a brand new backyard mattress for planting

For a model new raised backyard mattress, it’s possible you’ll not have to do a lot in the way in which of including fertilizer – relying on what you crammed the raised mattress with, that’s. If you happen to occurred to comply with our options for filling a raised mattress, which incorporates including high quality soil, a variety of well-aged compost and a small quantity of delicate fertilizers from the beginning – you’re good to develop!

Nevertheless, when you crammed your backyard mattress with native soil and/or your common bagged potting soil alone, the soil and future crops will admire somewhat amending! In that case, comply with the directions beneath for fertilizing established beds beneath. The identical goes for in-ground gardens, previous and new. Except for the practices to comply with, there are just a few additional amendments we add to new beds, resembling basalt rock mud.

Easy methods to amend soil in a longtime backyard mattress for a brand new spherical of crops

As crops develop, they proceed to attract up and use vitamins from the soil. Relying on how wealthy the soil is or how hungry that plant was, the soil might be left fairly depleted after a rising season! Subsequently, we have to replenish misplaced vitamins to ensure that future crops to fortunately develop.

After clearing the previous crops away, we prime off our raised backyard beds with amendments and a pleasant thick layer of compost. By way of amendments, we want to make use of delicate, slow-release, natural fertilizers resembling kelp meal, alfalfa meal, crab meal, and neem seed meal. Or, as a substitute of a mix of many, gardeners could apply one well-balanced all-purpose fertilizer.

Easy methods to apply dry “meal” fertilizer to backyard beds

To use meal-type dry fertilizer to a backyard mattress, merely sprinkle it evenly throughout the soil floor. Then, work it into the highest few inches of soil along with your fingers. I like to recommend sporting gloves! To find out the quantity of fertilizer to make use of, comply with the directions on the bundle per sq. footage or floor space you’re amending. Nevertheless, I counsel happening the sunshine facet of the beneficial software quantities! After software, water the soil to permit the fertilizer to start to seep it. It’s going to proceed to interrupt down and launch vitamins with time.

Be aware that the entire fertilizers we use are pretty low of their nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium ratios – often known as NPK. Our aim is to provide the crops a small increase of these key vitamins to get began, however not overpower them with such robust fertilizer that it might probably shock or “burn” the younger seedlings. The added compost, present soil, and worms will feed them important micronutrients and minerals too! There’s much more to wholesome crops than simply NPK.

Our light fertilizing strategies scale back the danger of stunning younger crops, and likewise reduces the complication in tailoring the soil to explicit crops. We deal with the soil in all of our raised beds basically the identical from the beginning. Then, we are able to later give heavy-feeding crops further meals all through the rising season as wanted with aerated compost tea, dilute seaweed extract, or alfalfa meal tea. We will additionally do one other spherical of top-dressing of meal fertilizer and/or compost in just a few months if wanted.

It’s simpler so as to add extra meals than take it away! For instance, when you hit your beds with a ton of high-nitrogen fertilizer proper from the beginning, not solely do you threat burning seedlings – however you may additionally piss off another crops for the entire season. Leafy greens resembling kale and cabbage could love all that nitrogen, whereas different crops like carrots or radishes don’t like extra nitrogen – and won’t develop as nicely.

When to amend soil

It’s best to amend soil near planting time. In delicate climates with prolonged or year-round rising seasons like ours, we amend the soil in our backyard beds twice per yr – in spring and fall. Ideally, add fertilizer per week or two previous to planting. That manner, you possibly can water it in just a few instances and permit it to mellow out earlier than the crops go in. That is very true when you’re making use of extra “intense” fertilizers than we use. Nevertheless, as a consequence of our tight planting home windows, we don’t at all times comply with this recommendation…. We’re responsible of fertilizing immediately earlier than planting seedlings, however they don’t appear to thoughts!

For people with harsh freezing winters, or who’re in any other case selecting to not backyard over the winter – wait till spring to amend the soil. If you happen to apply fertilizer within the fall and depart the beds empty, rain will simply wash away a lot of the added vitamins.

Getting ready backyard beds for winter

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If you happen to plan to permit your backyard beds to lay fallow (relaxation) for the winter, begin by clearing the previous crops. Then, apply a contemporary thick layer of mulch. We’ll discuss extra about mulch choices in a second! Moreover, you would throw down some cowl crop seed and permit that to develop whereas it may well.

Cowl crops present mulch, scale back erosion, and likewise naturally amend soil by fixing nitrogen – drawing it into the soil by their roots. Good nitrogen-fixing cowl crops embrace fava beans, peas, clover, vetch, lentil, flax, and extra. Take a look at this nice cowl crop seed combine! On the finish of their rising season, enable the duvet crops to both fade in place, or minimize them down and depart the crops on prime of the soil. This apply is called “chop and drop” mulching. The nutrient-dense crops will decompose in place and feed the soil. You might additionally clear and add the duvet crop foliage to your compost pile. Both manner, depart these roots in place!

In the end, you possibly can develop cowl crops to rejuvenate in any other case resting backyard beds at any time of yr, not simply throughout winter! Whereas we don’t normally enable our beds to full-on fallow. But we do periodically rotate nitrogen-fixing crops like fava beans and inexperienced beans amongst our beds to assist amend the soil. We additionally “chop and drop” or inexperienced mulch with different biodynamic accumulators like comfrey and borage all year long. I really like feeding crops with crops.


After dusting our backyard beds with meal fertilizers and dealing these in, we prime the soil off with a pair inches of well-aged compost. We add an inch or two earlier than we plant issues, calmly blended into the very prime layer of soil. Then we add a closing inch or two of compost as mulch, after planting the seedlings.

As a lot as doable, we add do-it-yourself compost and worm castings. Sadly, we are able to’t make fairly sufficient do-it-yourself compost to satisfy all our compost wants. We at the moment have 15 raised beds and several other wine barrels to arrange for a brand new season, in spite of everything! Subsequently, we combine our compost with just a few favourite bagged compost merchandise. Malibu’s compost is one go-to, produced from licensed natural dairy cow manure and biodynamic accumulating crops. We normally lay Bu’s down first with the amendments, calmly labored into the soil, as a result of it’s finer and richer. Then, we prime off with a extra coarse Gardener and Bloome “soil constructing conditioner” as the ultimate mulch layer after planting.

With regard to compost choices, search out what you will discover regionally! Some panorama provide firms promote fairly first rate compost merchandise in bulk. If you happen to do select an animal manure-based compost, ensure that it’s completely aged! Many forms of contemporary animal manure can burn your crops. Natural is all the higher. Heed warning with mushroom compost to amend soil. Whereas wealthy in vitamins, Oregon State College says it has the potential to kill germinating seeds.

Growth! Your soil is now dressed to the nines, prepared for some new plant babes to return soar in mattress.


It’s time to get these seedlings within the floor! Or, direct-sow seeds. I plan to write down a extra in-depth article all about our planting course of. However, I additionally don’t need to depart you hanging now! So listed below are some cliff notes:

  • Guarantee seedlings that had been began indoors or in in any other case protected circumstances (like a greenhouse) are correctly hardened off earlier than transplanting open air. Learn extra about hardening off right here.
  • Be light when transplanting. Don’t pull up on the plant stem to take away it from the container. As an alternative, rigorously tip the container sideways and gently squeeze the underside to assist ease it out. Keep away from ruffling the roots except they’re winding round one another. Then, you possibly can gently loosen them earlier than planting.
  • Comply with good spacing practices. Overcrowded crops will compete for root area, daylight, vitamins, airflow, and are extra vulnerable to illness.
  • Dig a gap about the identical measurement as the foundation ball. Some tall “leggy” seedlings don’t thoughts being planted deep with a portion of their stem being buried too. This contains tomatoes, peppers, kale, and different brassicas like cabbage, collard greens, or broccoli.
  • We like so as to add mycorrhizae on the time of transplanting. Mycorrhizae will increase nutrient replace, root progress, and illness and drought resistance!
  • When direct-sowing seeds, comply with the instructions on the seed bundle with reference to depth, spacing, and beneficial pre-soaking (or not). Right here is one other perk in the way in which we amend the soil in our beds. Seeds are immediately sown within the prime layer of compost, however normally above the meal fertilizers labored in beneath… That is good as a result of some seeds are extra vulnerable to burning from direct contact with fertilizers. This fashion, they’re protected now, however can be fed as their roots develop downward later.
  • Water nicely after planting. Preserve the soil moist however not soggy thereafter.


After planting seedlings, make sure you mulch the highest of your soil! About 2 to 4 inches of mulch is good. The finer the fabric, the simpler it’s at moisture retention and thus much less is required.

Mulch helps crops and amends soil in quite a few methods. It improves moisture retention, retains worms and microbes comfortable, prevents erosion, acts as insulation to scale back temperature swings to soil and crops roots, reduces “crusting” of the highest soil and associated water runoff, breaks right down to feed the soil, slows weed progress, and retains issues trying spiffy!

As I discussed, we use compost or compost-like merchandise for mulch – added on prime of our BPA-free drinking-water grade soaker hoses. Different mulch choices embrace leaves or leaf mould, straw, cane sugar mulch, wooden chips, finer bark merchandise, pine needles, grass clippings, and extra. Use what’s available to you regionally! If you happen to do go for straw, I extremely counsel in search of out straw that doesn’t comprise seeds. In any other case, it may well sprout and create a weedy mess.


After transplanting, present your new seedlings (or sprouting seeds) some safety if wanted. There’s nothing worse than going via all that effort after which having one thing injury or kill your crops! Belief me. Been there, executed that. We’ve got a problem with wild birds choosing at our smallest tender seedlings right here. Subsequently, we add these superior little hoops with netting on prime to maintain them secure till they get bigger and extra established!

The row cowl netting we use is dual-purpose, and likewise retains cabbage moths and different flying bugs away. An identical set-up can be utilized with a thicker row cowl meant for frost safety, if that may be a concern the place you reside. This will additionally assist to discourage squirrels, rodents, cats, and different bigger pests – except they’re actually decided! Study all about utilizing hoops and row covers for pest management, shade and frost safety on this article. It additionally covers methods to arrange DIY PVC hoops and varied row cowl supplies.

And that’s how we flip over our backyard beds and amend soil between seasons.

I hope you discovered this text helpful and discovered one thing new! If you happen to’re right here studying this, I assume you have already got a backyard arrange? But when you want any recommendations on methods to design and construct raised beds, take a look at this text.

At all times be happy to succeed in out within the feedback with questions, suggestions, or simply to say hello. Tell us what’s happening in your backyard, or what forms of mulch or compost you want to make use of! Additionally be happy to share this text with your folks, or pin it beneath. Thanks for tuning in, and comfortable planting!

Us, turning over a backyard mattress no-till model between the previous winter crop and new summer time crops. This mattress was already actually full or we’d’ve added much more compost on prime!
DeannaCat signature, keep on growing

How to Amend & Fertilize Garden Bed Soil: Before Planting or Between Seasons

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