Figuring out the type of garden soil that you will need is one of the first steps in starting a vegetable garden. Starting a garden of any sort can be a little overwhelming and complicated. There are so many tiny details to consider when it comes to creating a garden and growing a crop, and vegetable gardens are no different. In fact, you may find it is even more challenging than a typical flower garden. But the benefits – a ton of delicious vegetables to snack on or put in recipes – outweigh the complications; you just have to know how to handle your veggies, and it starts with the garden soil. As I’m getting ready to plant my veggie garden I’m considering the soil more and more because it is the lifeblood of the garden. The success or failure of the plants in the garden will largely depend on the soil the plants are rooted in.
So, what is the best kind of garden soil for my vegetable garden? Most vegetables do best in soil that contains air and can be drained with ease. The soil should have plenty of organic material as well to ensure nutrients are readily available for the veggies.
If you are anything like me and can’t wait to sink your teeth into a big crunchy carrot or toss in some juicy homegrown tomatoes into your favorite stew, you have to start with the right soil. Without it, you’ll be setting your vegetables up for a challenging situation where they are likely not to thrive. We’re going to discuss different types of soil and what is needed to grow healthy, strong, and overall delicious veggies.
Soil Textures Matter
Did you know there are actually three different types of soil textures? While the perfect soil has a combination of all three: clay, silt, and sand, each one has its own advantages when it comes to growing a vegetable garden. Let’s take a look at these different textures and see what vegetables can thrive best in these circumstances.
Sandy garden soil is certainly hit or miss when it comes to vegetables. In fact, sandy soils are not highly recommended for most vegetables unless they have longer roots, such as carrots and parsnips. This is because sandy soil is loose and does not hold onto moisture or nutrients well, which means most vegetables (especially those with short roots) will dry out quickly and shrivel up.
Clay and Silt Soils
Contrary to the sandy soil, coat and silt soils are far denser and hold onto moisture. They are also known to be much better when it comes to fertilizing. Vegetables with longer roots may find that clay and silt soils pose a challenge for them to maneuver and find nutrients, while smaller rooted vegetables will enjoy the ease of access to moisture as well as nutrients. If you’re going to use clay and silt soils, it’s best to do a raised bed garden so the soil has somewhere to drain.
Essential Soil Mix-Ins
For your soil to be full of nutrients essential for vegetables to grow big and strong, you will need to put some extra ingredients into your soil. Vegetables thrive when they’re around plenty of organic matter, and we’re going to tell you exactly what mix-ins your veggies will adore.
If you head over to your local gardening center you will have no problem finding plenty of pre-made compost ready to use. This is ideal if you’re short on time or simply don’t want to make your own compost. However, if you want a more all-natural and cheap compost option or maybe just want the satisfaction of doing it yourself, making compost is a cinch.
To make your own compost, all you need is a large bin, green material, brown material, plenty of moisture, and about 2 months’ time. For the green material, things such as fruit cores, eggshells, grass clippings, weeds, and leaves work very well. If you happen to have barn animal waste lying around, you can toss that in too. Something you want to avoid, however, is any and all meats and greasy foods. These should never be composed.
For brown materials, things like sawdust, branches, and twins work wonders. Their carbon blends with the nitrogen of the green material to create a nutrient-dense powerhouse that vegetables love. Last but not least, you will want to add some water to the compost so it works faster. You want your compost to be damp, not overly wet, or too dry. Mix your compost once a week until it is completed, around 2 months’ time.
Manure is always a wonderful option when it comes to enriching the soil for a vegetable garden, but unless you live on a farm where barn animal waste is readily available, you may not think of this option. But don’t give up! Plenty of garden centers and specialty stores actually have manure for sale, so you too can indulge in the great benefits manure has to offer your vegetables.
Regular manure doesn’t sound interesting to you? No worries, it’s not for everyone. But that doesn’t mean you have to completely ditch the manure idea just yet. There is such a thing called green manure and it’s truly an amazing way to add vital nutrients to your vegetable garden. But how is it done?
Green manure is basically just growing certain plants and using their under-composed plant tissues to rejuvenate the garden soil. In essence, you are growing certain plants simply to use them in your soil after they’ve grown. Some of the plants you may use to improve your soil in organic nature are these: mustard, wheat, radish, maize, sunflower. Legumes are also an excellent choice. You just need to make sure the plant you’re using has plenty of leaves and grows at a rapid pace, has a succulent top and deep roots, and can grow in bad soil conditions.
The final option when it comes to improving soil for your vegetable garden is mulch. This is explained in greater detail in another one of our blogs, but we’ll give you a breakdown here as well.
Mulch isn’t actually incorporated into the soil, it’s spread on top. But as the organic matter decomposes, it drops loads of nutrients into the soil. Some of the best options for mulch include leaves, grass clippings, hay, and straw.
A little bit goes a LONG way when it comes to peat moss. In fact, just a bit of peat moss layered into your garden soil can last for years due to its lengthy time of decomposition. However, this moss has an acid pH, so you will need to only plant vegetables that love acid and won’t mind the high levels peat moss has to offer. Some of the vegetables that will thrive with peat moss include carrots, cauliflowers, peppers, squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers. If you’re looking to grow other vegetables, you may need to opt for a more alkaline compost like the ones mentioned above, otherwise, the acid-sensitive crops may not yield very high numbers.
Can I use top soil in my raised garden?
Topsoil isn’t usually suggested for gardens because of their lack of nutrients and weed seeds that are almost guaranteed to be found, which will result in an excess of weed growth when used. However, this does not make it unusable. If you plan on using topsoil for your garden, ensure it will give your vegetables what they need by adding plenty of compost or other organic materials to make it suitable for life.
What kind of garden soil do you use in containers for vegetables?
If you don’t have a lot of room to garden or you don’t want to deal with a garden and all the responsibilities that follow, you may opt to grow your vegetables in containers; and that’s perfectly fine! But the rules are a little different. Growing vegetables in a container will likely thrive when you use a potting mix that either has soil or is completely soilless. You can find these at your local gardening center. Make sure you find a potting mix that includes vermiculite and perlite. These are essential for aerating the soil as well as locking in moisture that is essential for your vegetables to thrive. Lastly, ensure your mix has plenty of organic matter so your veggies have the nutrients they crave.