Preparing your soil

There are several different blends of soil that will work in your raised box gardens. Consider what materials you have available at your cottage. We used 1/3 top soil, 1/3 manure and 1/3 peat moss. Another popular mix is 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 manure. If you have larger beds and or multiple beds, you may want to adjust your mixture to 1/4 vermiculite, 1/4 peat most and the remaining 1/2 compost or a mix of top soil and compost. Organic compost can be substituted for manure if you have this available to you.

Several factors influence the availability of plant nutrients in soil, including the soil’s pH, or its degree of acidity or alkalinity. Soils that have balanced acidity and alkalinity are considered neutral. Knowing your soils pH is essential to creating the optimal conditions for your crops. Plants require at least 16 chemical elements to grow and complete their life cycles. They derive three of these elements—carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen—from air and water. The other 13 are mineral nutrients found in soil. If the nutrients are present in a water-soluble form, plants can absorb them through their roots. The 13 soil bound mineral nutrients include both macronutrients—minerals that plants need in large quantities (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur), and micronutrients—minerals that are just as necessary for healthy growth, but in smaller quantities (boron, copper, iron, chlorine, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc).

Plants can adapt to all kinds of soil conditions and pH ranges, but the most productive soils for garden plants and vegetables are close to neutral or slightly acidic. Home test kits and simple pH meters are widely available at local garden stores and are inexpensive ways to monitor pH levels in your box gardens. Monitoring the pH levels of your soil can help you to determine if you need to adjust the pH in your box gardens by adding elements such as lime to raise pH, or sulfur to lower the pH.

Our next blog: Planning & Planting your box garden

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