Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Soil Refresh for Year Two Raised Bed Square Foot Garden


I have been so busy chasing squirrels, avoiding my "smoky" leaf burning neighbors, and making Trisha Yearwood dips, that I'd forgotten I had not put up a post about the soil mix I used to refresh my raised beds this second year of my attempt at square foot gardening. Thanks to a reader who wrote to ask what I had used, I am getting this post up finally! {Thanks Tracy!}

One thing that I did not do, but wished that I had, was to pull the dead plants and cover the beds for winter. Granted, for us this winter was unusual and unusually long, but not cleaning up and covering the beds made for much more work pulling out dead plants, and pulling up plenty of break-through weeds, plus the soil was very compacted when I got ready to plant this spring.

       This is the 4 x 8 bed - what a mess it was!                 This shot is the turned soil.

My first duty was to pull up the grid markers and then pull weeds. I actually cleaned the grids since I knew I would be photographing them for the blog.  Not sure I would have bothered if I weren't blogging about it, but admit, it does make the garden look neater.  After that I used a shovel to dig into the existing soil and turn the dirt. If you used a landscape fabric under layer, you'll want to take care not to tear into it with the shovel, so don't dig in too deep. I then took a hoe and cultivator to work through and break up the soil.

Since I was refreshing the existing soil, I was able to mix the soil up in the wheelbarrow. I simply started with the primary Jungle Growth mix, and then added in the other elements, turning with each addition.You can click here to see the original soil mix I used year one.

Last year I was unable to find the vermiculite for the original soil mix, so I had hoped that the vermiculite contained in the Jungle Growth would be sufficient. Pretty soon as the summer heat and humidity took over, I discovered it wasn't. I could not find vermiculite again this year, but I did use some perlite - a little less inferior than the vermiculite that Mel recommends, but I'm hoping that it will help.

In this picture above, you'll see some plants already in. I had a few herbs that survived or came back from last year, so I worked around them when adding the new soil in one of my 4 x 4 foot beds.  Oh and don't forget!  Now is the time to string in your drip line if you plan to use one. I decided to add one in very late last year and what a pain that was to work in with all the plants full grown!

Soil Refresh for Year Two
Raised Bed Square Foot Garden

I mixed everything in a wheelbarrow this year and used the following refresher soil mix for one 4 x 4 foot bed and doubled the mix for the 4 x 8 foot bed.
  • 1 full bag of Jungle Growth Flower & Vegetable Mix (2 cu. ft. bag)
  • 1/2 bag of Black Kow manure (50 pound bag)
  • 1/2 bag peat humus/compost (40 pound)*
  • 2 big overflowing shovelfuls of peat moss
  • 1/2 of an 8 quart bag of perlite
*Of course, where you have your own home compost that has been breaking down awhile, definitely use it!!  If not, just grab the bags. Remember the original soil make-up suggested at least 5 separate sources of compost - from your own compost pile, from different types of manure, humus, mushroom compost, worm castings, soil mixes and boosters and such. You can use any of those sources or a combination of them for the compost portion of the refresh.
When you add the perlite or vermiculite, sort of dig a hole into the soil in the wheelbarrow to pour it in. It's very light weight and can take off on you with a slight breeze!

I mixed all of that up and dumped it into the bed, then turned all of the soil together to mix the old with the new and followed up with the cultivator to smooth it out.  This should bring the soil right about up to the top again.  Then replace the grid markers and plan your new plantings!

While the soil has settled somewhat, I'll probably top dress with a bit more Black Kow or compost as needed, which technically since I've had the squirrel issues, I've pretty much already been having to do anyway. {In addition to the thorny deterrent I'm using, I am trying something new for this and will report back on that!}

Check These Out Too!  -  Building the Square Foot Garden

Step 1: Build a Box
Step 2: Dirt Mix
Step 3: Add a Grid (for Square Foot Gardening only!)
Step 4: Planning the Plants

Here are my two primary gardening books - I highly recommend both but especially the "new" square foot gardening book, if you want to try this method of raised bed, square foot gardening.

Guide to Mississippi Vegetable Gardening - it's probably available for your state too! It's a perfect guide to tell you what to plant and what works best in your region, and also when to plant. I love this guide! A very helpful companion.



  1. Great blog! I just stumbled upon it today, but I like the use of a raised-bed. Have you considered amending at the beginning of the growing season with home-made compost from kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, or torn-out plants from last seasons harvest? Good compost is the best soil amendment, it is usually free, and you do not have to lug around heavy bags of soil! Just a thought.

  2. Hi Jon! Yes I do compost - just a backyard homemade pile not anything professional. When I can keep the raccoons out of it that is. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. This is very good information. I do raised beds also, but they're so informal - just mounded dirt on newspaper, and pray for the best - after 8 years, so far, so good. But, refreshing the soil is so fundamental; I've not done it before, but will do so beginning today! Thanks for sharing this. Stacey


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