The Perfect Soil Recipe


The Perfect Soil Recipe

One of the most common questions I get from new gardeners or those who have recently moved to the area is, “What type of dirt should I put in my garden beds?” Whether you’re gardening in raised beds or have a dedicated patch of ground in the corner of your yard, your soil will have a huge influence on the success of your growing efforts.


Dirt vs Soil

Understanding the distinction between dirt and soil will help you focus on maintaining a healthy vegetable patch year after year. Dirt is what the kids track into the house on the bottom of their shoes. It’s what you sweep and wipe off of the floor and outdoor patio furniture. Dirt is a nuisance.

Soil is a living organism that is made up of minerals, water, organic matter, microscopic organisms, and gases. Plants need access to each of these elements for both growth and fruit production.

Much of the soil that is naturally found in the desert (my local hangout) is devoid of the minerals, organic matter and microorganisms needed to support a healthy garden. Worse yet, many yards have at least some caliche, an impenetrable calcium-carbonate layer that is often found near the surface and acts like a rock, blocking roots and decreasing water retention.

Other climates have their own soil challenges, such as heavy clay or loose, shifting sand. Whatever your soil composition, adding organic matter will help improve soil structure and increase crop yields.

My Proven Blend

To give your seedlings the best chance for success each year, you will want to fill your raised beds or in-ground plot with a mix of soil and organic matter that will provide all the necessary nutrients for plant health. My proven blend is a volume recipe that can be easily used to calculate how much of each component you need for your particular space.

  • 50% Star Nursery’s garden blend (blend of ½ compost and ½ sand)
  • 25% Compost
  • 25% Peat moss (compressed bricks-buy at a home improvement store or nursery)

Combine all three elements into your beds and mix thoroughly. The Star Nursery garden blend alone is too sandy and does not hold enough water to support your plants through those hot summer months. The addition of compost and peat moss increases the nutrient content and water-holding capability of your soil.

Soil Maintenance

The above blend will give you several years of great results, but will likely need to be amended as time goes on and soil and nutrients are lost due to wind erosion and harvesting. Be sure to add more compost and peat moss as your main amendments. Mixing your own compost is a great way to utilize garden and kitchen waste and feed your soil sustainably. Gear up for February planting in your zone 8 garden (click here to find your planting zone) by prepping your soil this month!


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