Mixing Soil. Like a Boss.

I wrote about my soil mixture that I use for my raised beds here a few years ago. It’s a mix of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 manure or compost.

It’s essentially “Mel’s Mix” from the Square Foot Gardener Mel Bartholomew. Here in Edmonton you can find the large 3.8 cubic foot block of peat moss just about anywhere (Walmart, Canadian Tire, any Garden Centre). I buy my 118 litre bag of vermiculite at Apache Seeds and the manure wherever I can find good selection. Altogether it costs about $52 to make up a large batch of soil which I use to supplement my existing beds or make new ones.

Some of my raised beds don’t really need more volume, they just need the addition of compost or manure. Every fall I dig in leaves and grass cuttings which help to lighten the soil, then in the spring I like to add some composted material as well. This keeps the garden healthy and helps with moisture retention over the warm summer months.

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I use a tarp to mix my soil

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Peat moss, vermiculite and manure

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Topping up my raised bed

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Soil Mix for Raised Beds

I like to use a mix of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 manure or compost. When I mix up a big batch of soil for the raised beds, I use a large block of peat (107 litres or 3.8 cubic feet), a large bag of #2 expanded vermiculite (118 litres or 4 cubic feet) and four bags of manure (4×10 kg or 22 lbs). The manure or compost should be a mix of different types: steer, sheep, mushroom, worm castings, or whatever you can get your hands on. The more variety the better.

I use a large tarp spread across my lawn and a rake to mix with. Start with the peat moss, spreading it out and getting rid of all the clumps. If you value your ability to breathe then be sure to keep the peat moss moist while working with it. Next, add the vermiculite again making sure to keep the dust to a minimum. Mix them together and add the manure. The pile is getting fairly large at this point and to get a thorough blend you will need to lift the tarp from side to side to mix the ingredients.

Once the soil has been well mixed it’s ready to use.