How to Fill a Tall Raised Garden Bed and Make it Thrive

Raised garden beds are a great way to grow vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers. The elevated design makes gardening easy on your back, allows for superior drainage, and gives you complete control over the soil composition. Tall raised beds are especially handy for growing deep rooted plants like tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, and more.

Filling a tall raised bed properly is important to get the most out of your garden You want to create an environment where plants can flourish with a combination of nutrients, organic matter, airflow, and drainage Follow these simple steps to fill and care for your tall raised bed garden.

Step 1: Prepare the Garden Bed Frame

Before you put anything in your tall raised bed, fix or improve the structure as needed. Your frame should be strong and made of wood that won’t rot, like redwood or cedar. The bed won’t fall apart over time if you use wood that is made to be touched by the ground.

Inspect for any loose boards, protruding nails or screws, splintered edges, or other potential hazards Make fixes as needed so the frame is safe and secure Level the soil surface underneath the raised bed frame. You may need to remove grass or add soil to create a flat base.

Optionally line the inside of the frame with landscape fabric or weed barrier. This blocks weeds from sprouting up into your garden bed. Just be sure the material you use allows for proper drainage.

Step 2: Add a Layer of Gravel for Drainage

Proper drainage is key for healthy plant growth and preventing diseases. For a tall raised bed 1 to 2 feet deep, start by filling the bottom 4-6 inches with gravel, pebbles, broken bricks, or other coarse material. This creates a reservoir to collect excess water and allows it to drain out of the bed.

Pea gravel or crushed stone with pieces 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter works well Avoid rounded river rocks which do not pack tightly.Angular gravel makes a solid drainage layer. Leave a few inches of space between the top of your gravel and the soil layers.

Step 3: Include Nutrient-Rich Native Soil

You might be tempted to fill your entire tall raised bed with bagged potting mix. However, native soil from your yard provides important nutrients and organic matter to feed plants. It also helps retain some moisture between waterings.

Add 4-6 inches of ordinary garden soil on top of the gravel layer. Avoid any soil that is heavily compacted or full of weeds, rocks, roots, or debris. Good-quality native soil has a crumbly texture and rich earthy smell.

Before using native soil, send a sample to your local university extension office for testing. This will reveal if the soil lacks any key nutrients plants need. You can amend accordingly by mixing in compost or fertilizers.

Step 4: Use High-Quality Potting Mix for the Top Layers

Potting soil makes up the majority of the filled raised bed. Look for mixes formulated specifically for vegetables and gardens, not houseplants. The best potting mixes contain a blend of compost, sphagnum peat moss or coconut coir, perlite or vermiculite, and sometimes fertilizer.

Compost provides nutrients from broken down plants and manures. Peat or coir holds moisture and creates air pockets. Perlite/vermiculite improve drainage. Many bagged mixes also have a starter charge of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK) to feed plants.

Fill your raised bed with potting mix up to about 2-3 inches from the top of the frame. For very tall beds 5 feet or higher, add the potting mix in layers of 1-2 feet at a time. This prevents soil settling and compaction.

Step 5: Water Thoroughly and Add Mulch

Once your tall raised bed is filled, water thoroughly until the soil is moist through the entire depth of the bed. This helps the different layers settle together. Let it drain fully.

Top off with 2-3 inches of organic mulch like shredded bark, leaves, straw, or wood chips. Mulching conserves moisture, suppresses weeds, and keeps soil cooler in summer. Replenish the mulch annually as it decomposes.

Step 6: Start Planting!

Now the fun part begins – it’s time to plant your tall raised bed garden! Refer to seed packets or plant tags for the recommended spacing and depth to plant each variety.

Group plants with similar growth needs together – for example, shady greens on one end and tomatoes that need full sun on the other. Arrange tall crops like corn or trellised beans along the center and perimeter.

Continue mulching around plants as you set them in the garden bed. Water new plantings daily until their roots become established. Then maintain your raised bed soil by:

  • Watering 1-2 inches per week as needed during the growing season. Check soil moisture before watering.

  • Adding a 2-4 inch layer of mulch annually to retain moisture and nutrition.

  • Mixing in 1-2 inches of compost each spring to replenish nutrients.

  • Pulling weeds when they emerge to prevent competition.

With a properly filled raised bed and attentive care, your plants will thrive all season long! Monitor your garden and make adjustments as needed to keep plants healthy and productive in your tailored raised bed soil environment.

How to Fill a Raised Bed and Save 60%+ on Soil Costs

How do you fill a raised garden bed?

Fill the raised garden bed right to the top, as the soil will settle over time. This will give your plants the most amount of soil possible to grow in and will be massively beneficial, whether you are planning a kitchen garden, vegetable garden or cut flower garden. Topsoil and compost are mixed together to make a rich soil

How do you make a raised bed?

On top of the drainage layer, and forming the bulk of the raised bed, comes the ingredients that will make-up the soil in the bed. Here it is wise to use a combination of compost and topsoil. You can mix in some well-rotted manure or leaf mold into the mix to further boost the level of nutrients in the soil.

Can garden soil fill a raised bed?

Garden soil may seem an obvious choice for filling raised beds, but garden soil usually doesn’t work well. Soil from your garden can be dense, and it becomes even more compact in a raised bed. Over time, this dense soil can impair water flow and stunt root growth.

How much topsoil do I need for a raised bed?

The perfect mixture to fill your raised beds is 70-75% topsoil plus 25-30% compost. You can mix this together and fill the raised bed completely. Topsoil consists of the top few inches of soil.

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