Whether you’re an avid gardener or starting your first vegetable garden, you’re going to have to be sure of one thing above all else: the health of your raised garden bed soil.
People with raised planters and window boxes alike are going to need advice like this on hand, and even those who rely on greenhouses are never going to escape the whims and whiles of the soil underneath us!
So with that in mind, here’s just a couple of things to remember about keeping your soil beds healthy. It doesn’t have to be as hard as you’ve been led to believe!
Evaluating Your Raised Bed Garden Soil
First thing to do, before you put down any kind of fertilizer or any seeds you aim to cultivate, is to determine the state of the soil you’re working with. You can do this by testing your soil with a soil testing kit.
Soil needs to have plenty of nutrients in it. Some nutrients make the greenery grow, some makes sure the roots of your plants have something to suck up when you stick them in the ground, and others help with growing flowers and setting fruit.
Any deficiencies are going to be clear in the results you see above ground, and it’s much better to prepare your soil early in the season, rather than deal with deficiencies later.
Don’t let any of your money, or your elbow grease, go to waste!
What Does Soil Need?
Your soil needs to be rich in nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. Here’s some quick info that can help you understand why you need these nutrients, and how to get them into your soil beds.
Plants use nitrogen to grow their leaves. It is easily converted, and you can add it to your soil with worm castings, compost, and fish emulsion.
You might think that “more is better” when it comes to nitrogen, but keep in mind that while you might get awesome foliage from your high nitrogen soil, too much nitrogen can hinder flower growth and fruit setting.
Calcium is great for strengthening plants to ward off diseases and pests. It’s important for plant growth, preventing blossom end rot in plants like tomatoes and zucchini.
Good sources of calcium are ground egg shells and gypsum. Keep in mind that adding too much calcium will affect the pH of the soil.
Magnesium is essential to the photosynthesis process of the plant, helping it by boosting its chlorphyll development.
Potassium boosts disease resistance in plants, strengthens stems, and improves drought tolerance
Good sources of potassium are homemade banana peel fertilizer and wood ash (small amounts as it can burn plants). If you prefer not to make the banana peel fertilizer, make sure to add your family’s discarded banana peels to the compost pile, which will keep the potassium coming without the extra work!
Phosphorus is necessary to help plants to convert other nutrients into something usable to help them grow. Good sources of phosphorus are bone meal, bat guano, and hair, amongst other choices.
Remember, more isn’t always better. Excessive phosphorus reduces a plant’s ability to take up iron and zinc.
Use Mulch If Needed
Mulch is a superhero in the gardening world, and you’re going to have a lot to thank it for by the time the fall and its harvest period rolls around. At its core, mulch does its magic by preventing weed seeds from taking root and growing. Mulch also does a good job of keeping water in the soil, and stopping it from drying out in the warmest and driest months.
One caveat to using mulch, though–it can be home to critters that want to eat your tender seedlings. If you know that you have an abundant population of earwigs and sowbugs on your property, and you are planting seeds or seedlings, you may not want to use mulch right away. It would be fine for well-established plants, however.
There’s different types of mulch as well, separated into organic and inorganic categories. Depending on the landscape of your garden, or the convenience of the material, you’re going to rely on one more than the other. A couple of good options for mulch are tree straw, wood chips, leaves, and even cardboard (no ink or shiny paper).
Know the ground you’re seeding! Understand the needs of your soil, and it will go far to fill your family’s needs as well!