The Kind of Soil for a Raised Garden Bed Explained

Raised Garden Bed

The ideal soil for a raised garden bed should be a well-balanced mixture that provides proper drainage, moisture retention, and nutrient delivery. This mixture typically consists of three main components: topsoil, compost, and soil amendments. A good ratio to aim for is about 60% topsoil, 30% compost, and 10% soil amendments such as perlite or vermiculite.

The texture should be a sandy-loam mixture, which offers a balance between water retention and drainage. This composition ensures that the soil is nutrient-rich, well-draining, and capable of supporting healthy plant growth.

In addition to the soil composition, it’s crucial to consider the pH level of the soil, which should ideally be between 6.5 and 7 for most plants. You can test the pH using a kit from a garden center and adjust it if necessary, using lime (to increase pH) or sulfur (to decrease pH).

Enriching the soil with organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure will provide essential nutrients for your plants. Remember that the soil in raised beds tends to settle over time, so you may need to top it up periodically with additional compost or topsoil to maintain optimal growing conditions.

Key Takeaways

  • Ideal soil mix: 60% topsoil, 30% compost, 10% soil amendments (e.g., perlite, vermiculite)
  • Aim for a sandy-loam texture for balanced drainage and moisture retention
  • Maintain soil pH between 6.5 and 7 for most plants
  • Enrich soil with organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure
  • Test soil pH and adjust if necessary using lime (to increase) or sulfur (to decrease)
  • Top up soil periodically as it settles over time
  • Ensure proper layering for drainage, moisture retention, and nutrient delivery
  • Consider composting to continuously improve soil quality


Your raised garden bed soil needs to have a layering system that promotes proper drainage, moisture retention, and nutrient delivery. The soil should comprise three essential components: the topsoil, compost, and soil amendments. Topsoil provides a foundation for plants to grow roots, while compost provides necessary nutrients for plant growth.

Last summer, I decided to build my first raised garden bed. Excited but unsure about the soil composition, I consulted a local garden expert who recommended a mix of 60% topsoil, 30% compost, and 10% perlite. I spent a weekend carefully blending these components, creating a rich, dark mixture that felt light and crumbly in my hands.

After filling the bed, I tested the pH and was pleased to find it at a perfect 6.8. I planted a variety of vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. As the weeks passed, I was amazed at how quickly and vigorously my plants grew. The soil retained moisture well yet drained sufficiently after heavy rains. My harvests were abundant, and the vegetables tasted noticeably better than those from my previous in-ground garden.

Related: How to Fill a Raised Garden Bed?


Soil texture refers to the combination of soil particle sizes. Sandy soils, comprised of large particles, drain quickly, while clay soils, with smaller particles, retain moisture. An ideal soil for your raised garden will be a sandy-loam mixture, containing a balance of moisture retention and water drainage.

Related: How to Rejuvenate Garden Soil?


The soil’s pH level determines the plants that grow well in your garden, where a pH level of 6.5 to 7 is suitable for most plants. If you have acidic soil, you can add lime to balance the pH. In alkaline soil, adding sulfur or peat moss can decrease the pH level.

You can use a pH test kit to perform a soil test available at your local gardening supply center, to detect the pH level of your soil. When testing, it is best to take several soil sample tests in different locations of the raised garden bed to ensure that the pH levels are equal throughout the bed.

Related: How to Prepare a Raised Garden Bed?


Plants grow better in nutrient-rich soil than in poor soil. Rich soil is important to give your plants the nutrients they require to grow well. Gardeners often amend their garden beds with compost and other organic materials such as manure or worm castings.

The organic matter breaks down over time and gradually releases nutrients into the soil, providing much-needed food for your plants. Composting your own organic matter can be an excellent way to continuously improve your soil quality.


Soil to Fill Raised Beds | University of Maryland Extension –

Soil for Raised Beds – Rutgers

Raised Bed Gardening – USU

Joel Simon

As a kid, Joel found enjoyment in caring for the many houseplants he grew up with, learning how to transplant them safely, cloning them, and more. At about the age of 10, he wanted to see if he could sprout an orange seed from a store-bought orange and ended up using it as a science experiment in a school project. Throughout the many years of gardening, he has helped many friends and family set up their food and botanical gardens. After years of caring for plants, he was talking with other gardeners and discovering old methods of farming and botanical gardening. Joel has decided to share his knowledge for others to enjoy as he has for many years.

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