Many gardeners use raised beds instead of planting in ground. There are several benefits to raised beds such as being able to control the quality of the soil, its easier on the back, and some feel it’s more aesthetically pleasing. For me I have hard clay soil and while we could amend it that would have taken several seasons to get it where I wanted it and I was too eager to get my garden going when we moved to this property.
Remember that a raised bed is basically a container, and should be filled with a potting mix, as you would a container.
To fill raised beds I recommend the rule of thirds. Mix a third of the following ingredients:
If your beds are tall you can fill the very bottoms with leaves, sticks, and cardboard to save money. You can reserve the top half of the beds for the compost and coconut coir as a money saving measure.
Coconut Coir is something that's popped up in more and more organic gardening conversations in recent years. It's also a popular growing medium for hydroponic gardening. But what is it, and how can it help your garden grow?
The folks at Epic Gardening have a fantastic write-up on coconut coir, from its origins to all of the great benefits of using it.
First, we need to understand what coconut coir actually is.
So when it comes to adding coco coir to your garden soil, how much should you use? For starting pots and raised beds, we'd recommend a 1/3 - 1/3 - 1/3 mix of screened topsoil, compost and coco coir. Basically, equal parts of soil, compost (either vermicompost or traditional compost) and coir. This will give your soil a great foundation for holding moisture as well as nutrients, while remaining light enough for air and roots to move freely.
One of the services we're most proud of at Good Sweet Earth is our free delivery of products to any home in Kent, Ottawa, Allegan and Muskegon Counties. You order our Living Worm Compost, Worm Tea, Raw Biochar, Dutch White Clover Seed or Bold Tomato soil amendment, and we'll drop it off at your door free of charge!
The reason we're able to do this is we piggy-back our deliveries with our lawn fertilization jobs. So in an effort to keep our prices low and reduce our environmental impact, we're introducing delivery days for every part of our service area. This way, if we're in Grandville spraying lawns, we'll do our deliveries the same day. If we're in Muskegon, we'll do our Muskegon County deliveries that day too.
If you've ordered a Worm Tea CSA share, we'll do everything we can do deliver on the day you request, as long as we get 24-hours notice before the delivery date. Per-gallon purchases of Worm Tea will be delivered according to the schedule below.
Below is our delivery schedule for May-October, 2019:
Sunday: No deliveries
Monday: Muskegon County, Ottawa County
Tuesday: Allegan County, Southern Ottawa County (south of Lake Michigan Dr)
Wednesday: Southeastern Ottawa County (East of 64th, South of Lake Michigan Dr), Southwestern Kent County (West of 131, south of 28th)
Thursday: Kent County
Friday: Northern and Eastern Kent County (North of 28th/Grand River, East of 131)
Saturday: We make deliveries anywhere in our service area, but limited delivery spaces available, deliveries will be made on a first-come-first served basis.
Check out our online store to shop!
This is a Q&A blog series on healthy organic turf. If you have a question for Good Sweet Earth's lawn guy, Steve, shoot him an email at steve@GoodSweetEarth.com, and include "Ask the Lawn Guy" in the subject line.
Most people know what sandy soil and clay soil look like. They know that sandy soil is pretty loose and doesn't hold water very well. They know that clay soil can often feel hard and compacted. Most people also also know that nothing grows especially well in soil that's either of these two things.
Somewhere in between sand particles and clay particles lies silt. Loam soil contains a balance of all three types of particles.
So the question that I got recently was this: "How much sand should I add to my clay soil to loosen it up and make it usable?" And I suppose the counterpart to this question could be "How much clay should I add to sandy soil?"
In short, the answer is: Don't bother. You'll make your soil even worse by trying to change its structure with sand or clay.
Imagine your clay particles as marbles. Proportionally speaking, silt would be about the size of a basketball compared to those marbles. Now I had a hard time coming up with a real-world object that would be representative of a sand particle next to our marble-sized clay particle. The best I could come up with is this: Picture a ball slightly larger than a three-car garage. Yep. That's a sand particle next to a clay particle.
Now imagine you had a field full of marbles. And you want to "loosen" things up. I don't care how many three-car garages you add to that field of marbles, you're never, ever going to end up with a field full of basketballs. You're just gonna have a bunch of really small balls and really large balls, and they're not going to work together for anyone's good because you're never going to have enough garage-balls to balance the little marbles.
Ideally, healthy soil is equal parts marbles, basketballs and three-car garages. But getting that balance is so much harder than it sounds. I don't recommend attempting to change the mineral structure of your soil this way.
So what is a clay-burdened or sand-burdened gardener to do? Two words: Organic matter.
Clay-heavy soil has a very difficult time getting air through its tiny, tightly-bound particles. Roots also have a hard time moving through them. Organic matter, like compost or organic fertilizers, changes everything. This is the answer you seek, not sand. Mix that organic matter into your clay soil or top-dress it. Adding organic matter will make your clay soil usable in a way that adding sand never will.
Likewise, if you're dealing with sandy soil (an especially common problem if you live by the Lake Michigan lakeshore), adding organic matter will help your soil retain water and nutrients so much better.
Types of organic matter that you can add to your soil to make it healthier include basic compost (that many gardeners make in their own backyards), Worm Compost or Alfalfa Meal. Biochar (mixed with some sort of composted material) also makes for a terrific soil amendment.
For really compacted clay soil, gypsum is a good, natural option for de-compacting it before adding organic matter. For compacted lawns with clay soil, aeration is a good option, best done in the fall, followed by a top-dressing of organic matter and/or gypsum.
The website, Your Green Pal, has a great list of things you should have on-hand as the weather begins to warm and your yard starts to grow again. Best of all, their list is free of synthetic chemicals, so if you're going the organic route in your yard, this list is a must-read.
Click here for their 2019 Spring Cleaning Buyers Guide.
We also appreciate their including Good Sweet Earth on their list of things to purchase in the spring (#5: Soil additives from Good Sweet Earth). We didn't ask to be included, but we sure appreciate the shout out on a national website!
Steve & Corey Veldheer are organic yard & garden specialists in west Michigan.