How to Prepare Soil for a Box Garden

So how do you prepare the soil for a box garden?

First off, before you setup a raised box garden, you will want to till or turn the ground where the box garden is going to sit. This will allow for better drainage and provide soft earth for roots to grow easily. The easiest way to do this is by soaking the ground with water and letting it sit to soften. Once the ground is soaked, it will be easy to turn or till.

Now that the ground preparation is done, you can get the ingredients for the box garden soil mixture. For my raised box gardens, I’m using 3 ingredients, compost, vermiculite and peat moss. I mix equal parts of these three and fill the box garden. This is the luxury blend but you could also use 50% ground soil and 50% compost. Mix this well and start planting.


A good compost will provide nutrients, nitrogen and beneficial microbes for healthy, disease free plants. It will also feed them and make them grow faster and greener. Compost is the “Gold Nugget” of gardening. You can make your own or buy it from a nursery or home improvement store like Lowes or Home Depot. There are different types of compost found at these stores; yard waste compost, composted manure, mushroom compost and vermicompost or worm castings.

Yard Waste Compost

Yard Waste compost is typically leaves, sticks and grass and has a light texture. It is very similar to peat moss which is excellent. In some cities, you can get this type of compost free. Cities have to maintain many trees and shrubs and usually create a compost pile. This type of compost is perfect for soils which do not have any or much organic material like clays of the Southwest. Yard waste compost is great for nitrogen but not on nutrients. You might need to add a fertilizer to this compost.

Composted Manure

Composted manure can be a combination of cow, horse, poultry and yard waste compost. Most people think its always all cow manure. But its not. Manure compost is rich in nutrients so you will not need any or much fertilizer. Composted manure has been treated to kill all bacteria from the animals. A little composted manure goes a long way.

Mushroom Compost

Mushroom compost sounds a little different than other composts but it’s not. You might think it’s made from decomposing mushrooms but it’s not. Mushroom compost is compost that was used to grow button mushrooms. It can be made of a combination of straw and horse or cow manure and possibly yard waste compost too. Mushroom compost contains several nutrients so you may need a small amount of fertilizer.

Vermicompost or worm castings

Vermicompost or worm castings are just that…worm waste. Redworms are introduced into an environment or habitat of manure, food waste, paper, yard waste and other bulky material. This compost mixture is processed or digested by the redworms. The after product is worm castings. The worm casting are then mixed with a high quality soil to give it better texture and dilute the nutrients. Vermicompost can be very strong so always read the instructions and use as directed. Some can be pretty potent stuff.

Peat Moss

Peat Moss helps the soil manage water and nutrients. It retains moisture and nutrients that might otherwise leach out before absorption. It also enhances the consistency and texture of soil.

Peat moss is a dead fibrous material that forms when moss and other plants decompose in peat bogs. Peat moss is different from typical compost. Peat moss is mostly moss and decomposes very slowly and without air. Compost can be many different organic materials and decomposes rather quickly with air. Peat Moss has an acid PH. So use it for plants that prefer acid soils versus alkaline. Compost is alkaline. Peat moss can hold several times its weight in water and will release it to a plant’s root system slowly.

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