How to Build Organic Soil for Raised Beds


A raised bed garden is built when a mound of soil is raised up above the surrounding ground in a loose pile, or surrounded by a gardening box. Raised bed gardens stay warm longer, improving yield and extending the gardening season. The raised platform improves the workspace as well, allowing the gardener to work on all sides of the garden without stepping on and compacting the soil. Building a good soil for the raised bed is important, as is attention to organic matter.

Step 1

Purchase a pH testing kit. Take several samples of soil and place them into a plastic container. Add water until there is a dark liquid, then pour a portion of the liquid into the pH testing kit and add the included chemical. Compare the color of the water with the pH guide. Send samples to your local University Extension if a pH test is not available and wait for the lab results to tell you what your soil needs, recommends the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Step 2

Add organic material such as shredded leaves or grass clippings to the soil of the raised bed to improve the water retention and drainage. The University of Minnesota Extension recommends that 1/3 of the soil contain decaying organic material.

Step 3

Plant rye grass seed as a cover crop for the raised bed soil during late September, recommends the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Planting a cover crop prevents nitrogen loss from the soil during the winter and prevents topsoil erosion. Roots of the cover crop improve the structure of the soil.

Step 4

Till the soil in the fall, recommends the Oregon State University Extension, to mix in decaying roots and organic material, as well as break up clumps and relieve compaction. Tilling is best when the dirt is dry.

Step 5

Add nutrients to the soil in the form of fertilizer before planting in the spring, recommends the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Mix in a general use fertilizer such as 20-20-20 when planting.

Things You'll Need

  • pH test
  • Shredded leaves
  • Grass clippings
  • Rye grass seed


  • Virginia Cooperative Extension: Building Healthy Soil
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Organic Matter Management
  • Oregon State University: Improving Garden Soil with Organic Matter
Keywords: building organic soil, soil raised bed, organic raised bed

About this Author

Cleveland Van Cecil is a freelancer writer specializing in technology. He has been a freelance writer for three years and has published extensively on, writing articles on subjects as diverse as boat motors and hydroponic gardening. Van Cecil has a Bachelor of Arts in liberal arts from Baldwin-Wallace College.