Great Gardens = Great Soil

Great Gardens = Great Soil! 

Soil! It's no surprise that great soil equals a great garden! 

We already discussed the importance of light, but the soil is another important part of feeding your plants and giving them the necessary nutrients.

Great Gardens Equals Great Soil



Soil has more jobs than just nutrients:

  • It stabilizes plants' roots, helping them establish a strong foundation.
  • It insulates the roots from extreme heat or cold. 
  • It allows oxygen to reach the roots, helping them break down what they need for energy.
  • It holds water that the plant needs.
Onion is with roots showing


As I mentioned, the garden bed you choose will determine the kind of soil you will need. So, we will discuss two main types of garden beds and the soil required for each.

To help you decide what garden beds will work best for you. I've split them into two categories: In-Ground vs. Raised Beds.

Raised Beds vs In-Ground Beds


In-Ground garden beds: 

In-ground beds are created by planting directly in the current ground you have. If your great-grandparents and grandparents had gardens when you were little, more than likely, this is what they had—rows and rows of evenly spaced mounds spread across a wide area. You probably were recruited to grab a hoe and start weeding along long rows of peas and corn! In-ground is a quick and easy way to start a garden if you have the right equipment. You till up a wide area, then plow in rows of mounted dirt.  

  • A: Most native soil lacks the proper nutrients to produce the food you want to grow, so you must amend it. It would be best to spread the amendments evenly across the area you plan to use. You can do this before the initial till or after and then re-till to get it mixed in. 
  • B: Most native soil lacks the proper nutrients to produce the food you want to grow, so you must amend it. It would be best to spread the amendments evenly across the area you plan to use. You can do this before the initial till or after and then re-till to get it mixed in. 
  • In-Ground Garden Mix:
  • Black Cow
  • Lime
  • 13-13-13
  • Compost
  • Top Garden Soil 

 C: Aline your rows North to South, and mound up the soil in the middle. Mounding will build up your soil base and allow footpaths between the rows. 

Mounding up for an in ground garden



  • They are quick to make if you have the right equipment.
  • You can create more rows for planting.


  • Weeds can easily creep in and take over. 
  • If flooding occurs, you run the risk of losing valuable soil. 
  • Animals, such as pets, can easily track through your garden. 
  • It will not be as easy to separate areas from pests
  • It will be challenging to protect beds from frost.


Raise Garden Beds:

Raised beds are garden beds raised above the ground level in some fashion. They can be created by adding bricks, logs, and tin borders containing the soil within the bed. 

Raise beds can be six inches to four feet tall. It all depends on your garden's needs. 

Step 1: Which type of raised bed is right for you?

A. Create the design you need

Sometimes, you must build custom-raised beds to get the most out of your garden space. Here are a few things to think about:

  • Do you want to prevent bending over into a garden bed? 
  • Do you have an odd-shaped area where conventional rectangular raised beds won't fit? 
  • Do you have pets like dogs that might get into your garden?
  • Do you want your garden to look esthetically pleasing where all your raised beds match? 

 Our Experience: 

We had to address some of these questions when we made our concrete patio more functional by growing food.

The year before, we had built a waste-high raised bed out of leftover scraps for a salad garden because I was tired of the critters getting in my salad bed. It was so bountiful that year that I planned on making more the following year. You can see how much our porch/patio garden has grown on Instagram @wildwoodwonder


It was also the year we got into studying permaculture. I wanted to move my everyday food closer to us, which meant closer to our house. As I looked around my home, I realized the patio was a sunfilled space left empty and only used when the children rode their scooters and bikes in the same wide circle around the middle. 

We made more raised beds using the same raised bed style as the salad bed. We have five raised beds made of treated wood with thirty-six-inch tall legs, allowing easy access from any angle.


Raised Garden Bed on a patio

Why we like it: 

  • This height also prevents our dogs and children from accidentally entering the beds. We created one shorter but wider bed in the middle of the patio.
  • This bed could be more expansive because it has 360-degree access. Raised beds were placed around the patio perimeter and the center, leaving a path for my kiddos to use their scooters and bikes. 
  • Instead of just having one function, it now is a place for the kids to play, grow food, and enjoy sitting throughout the day. Our dogs even sit underneath the beds to sleep in the shade! 


B. Design & Use what you have

Use what you have already! In our terraced garden, I've used cinder blocks (leftovers from another project) to create a border in some beds and IBC totes (leftovers from a failed project, but I didn't want to waste them) cut in half for 25" deep raised beds on the same hillside. 

Using cinder blocks as a garden bed boarder


We used whole tree trunks/logs (trees had to be removed anyway, so we used them) to create walls in our first large garden, which worked great. 

Using logs as bed boarders


We have smaller raised beds made of leftover deck scraps. We just covered the treated wood with heavy-duty plastic. I have a friend who used old high school lockers turned sideways!

Raised Bed with lettuce


Look around your home and see if you have any unused materials that can be useful to make garden beds. You want to make sure the materials are non-toxic. 

If you are worried about it, you can line them with heavy-duty plastic. For example, we used treated lumber in our patio-raised beds. The chemicals from treated lumber could leak into the soil over time, so we lined the beds with a double layer of heavy-duty black plastic. 

C: Soil for your raised beds

Because you are starting from scratch with an empty box/container, you will have to have enough of the following to fill the box, with a minimum of a half-inch space from the top. 

You can create soil/compost material by starting a compost pile and worm castings in a worm bin. We will discuss these later in the course! 

Raise Bed or Planter Box Soil Mix: 

  • Black Cow
  • Vermiculite
  • Peat Moss
  • Worm Castings
  • Compost



  • Control over soil from start to finish
  • Control the depth of the soil depending on the depth of the container
  • Convenient for those who have a hard time bending or kneeling. 
  • Easy to control pests with netting and visual checks.
  • Easier to cover during frosty nights
  • Less Weeding
  • Easy to create an organized design.
  • Containers can be accessible/cost-effective. 



  • The materials can be costly if you choose to build your beds.  
  • Depending on your material, you may have to add additional plastic inside your bed. 
  • The soil will also be costly if you purchase them each year.



In Ground or Raised Bed? 

Now that you know all the information about our two types of garden beds, you can decide which is the best fit for you. You might even find yourself doing both! 

I've added a printable list to help you remember what you need for the different soil mixtures. Just click the image below!


Soil Mixture Guide for in-ground and raise bed gardens


Thank you for dropping by our modern cottagecore homestead!  

1 comment

  • If you use treated lumber for a raised bed and use the heavy duty plastic to line it do you need to make drain holes in the plastic?

    Rena White

Leave a comment