Filling your garden bed
New Garden Beds
If you fill your new garden bed with purposely produced vegetable garden soil as opposed to ordinary landscaping soil or potting mix, you’ll be giving your vegetables nutrient rich and well draining soil from the start.
The most cost effective way to fill your new vegetable garden is by buying soil in bulk from a landscaping supply company. These businesses sell soil by the cubic metre which you can collect with your ute or trailer. This saves the carbon miles and plastic from bags of soil traveling to your local nursery as many landscaping businesses make the organic vegetable mix on site. Most will deliver to your home for a fee.
However, although this is going to be a good option for sustainability as it's travelled less miles, you will still need to improve it. I would recommend following my recipe below for Diana's Dirt.
A second option is to buy individual bags of vegetable mix from your local nursery. You can recycle the plastic bags through RedCycle. However, make sure you rinse the bags clean of excess soil (over your new seedlings to use the water wisely) and hang them to dry on the washing line before putting them in your RedCycling.
HOWEVER, I have purchased these soil mixes in the past and had good crops for my first year. But what I have found is that the soil needs constant improvement with each season to add nutrients and improve water retention.
To reduce the need to improve the soil season after season, I created a variation of Mel's Mix which suited my budget. You can purchase landscape supplier's vegie mix to replace the potting mix component if you are doing a large quantity.
Diana's Dirt - my DIY soil mix for vegetables and fruits
My soil is a variation of Mel's Mix, created by Mel Bartholomew of Square Foot Gardening. I have varied the "recipe" to suit me and my budget and had great success with the nutrient levels and water retention in Australia.
3 x 25L bags of organic potting mix for vegetables, best with added blood & bone (or 1 cubic metre of veggie garden mix from a landscape supplier)
1 x 25L bag of organic compost (omit if purchasing veggie garden mix from a landscape supplier)
1 x 25L bag of sheep manure
1 x 90L coconut coir
2 x 5L bags of vermiculite
4 handfuls of blood and bone (if not added to potting mix)
4 handfuls of rock minerals
Water in with seaweed concentrate & a fortnight later a fish emulsion.
Combine and it's ready to use. Note, if the budget is tight I will opt for non-organic bags.
I do not always add blood and bone. This is firstly because I try to buy good quality potting mix to start so I do not need to bother. Secondly, my Compots provide blood and bone as the meat and bones I place in it breaks down, along with other nutrients.
If you are filling a wicking bed, then the vermiculite is not necessary as the coconut coir and compost are sufficient to work with the wicking bed to keep the soil moist.
If you are reviving a vegetable garden or turning an existing garden bed into one for vegetables, you must turn your mind to improving the soil so that your vegetables will thrive.
Depending on your soil level you could add some vegetable gardening mix to the soil you already have. Make sure you churn the soil that is already there to a depth of about 30cm before adding the fresh soil to the top. There is no need to mix the new soil in. You want the best soil at the top where the seed and seedlings new roots will be put down.
If you have time up your sleeve, for example it may be winter, you can try “in bed composting”. This can be done two ways. You can either just throw organic material on top of the soil and allow it to decompose in the elements, or you can place a composting unit on top of the soil. This is an example of a composting unit directly in the bed. You drop organic material into the top of the composting system and worms will feed on the organic material at the bottom and carry it away into the soil. When the material has been consumed you can remove the compost, and plant directly into the soil. This process takes months, and is a good option when you are skipping a season of planting.
The other options to improve the soil generally are through composting systems such as bokashis, worms, traditional composts and Compots.