Update from the Garden – Raised Bed Stage 2: Soil


It has been a tough week. One thing that has really helped keep me sane has been getting my garden ready for the warm weather and getting the new bed ready for planting.

Last weekend we filled the bed with soil and over the last couple of days I have planted out some seedlings, some of which I raised from seed, others I picked up at the local nursery.

Raised bed ‘recipe’

I decided to go with Stephanie Alexander’s ‘recipe’ for a raised bed, as featured in the Kitchen Garden Companion. I toyed with the idea of buying a pre-made soil mix from a bulk supplier but that would have involved hiring a trailer and buying a functional wheelbarrow which seemed like more effort than necessary (note to self: buy a wheelbarrow, don’t plant anything in it). Instead we hit up the local nursery and picked up the following:

1 bale Lucerne Hay

1 bale Pea Straw

6 bags Cow Manure

4 bags Compost

1 bag Sugar Cane Mulch

I also used some of my own compost which I had been ‘cooking’ for the last 6 months. It worked out to about 2 bags worth.

Total cost? About $60

I then constructed the soil in layers which over time will need to be added to ie. between seasons. I’ve described it below if you’d like to have a go at making your own mix.  NB: Based on measurements for a 1×1 metre bed that is about 30-40cm high.


Before you begin, open up the pea straw and put it in a large container (I used an empty half wine-barrel, a wheelbarrow would also do) and then fill it with water. Leave it for at least 30 minutes (2 hours if possible) so that it soaks up plenty of moisture. This will help keep your soil moist but also prevent you breathing in any unhelpful pieces of straw while you work.

Now to fill your container!

Tools needed:

A watering can

A bottle of seaweed solution

A rake

A shovel

An old newspaper

Gardening gloves

Elbow grease

NOTE: Make sure you distribute each layer evenly before adding the next to ensure you have a nice even surface to plant in.

Layer 1 (ground level): Newspaper. I created a ‘floor’ with old newspapers about 1 centimetre thick and watered it in well. This is to prevent any weeds from making their way up into your vegie patch. Try to avoid using pages with lots of coloured pictures and text.

Layer 2: Lucerne Hay. I completely covered the newspapers with the hay and then watered it in with a weak seaweed solution (ie. 2 capfuls of Seasol to a 9 ltr watering can)

Layer 3: 3 bags of cow manure. BEWARE: This stuff stinks! 🙂

Layer 4: Pea-straw. You won’t need the whole bale for this, I used about half and the rest I used as mulch around the garden.

Layer 5: 3 bags of cow manure. So stinky but your plants will love it.

Layer 6: Compost. Really lay this stuff on thick.

Layer 7: Sugar Cane Mulch (optional). I decided to use this for added water retention and because it’s magic stuff. When planting out be sure to leave a 2cm gap between the plant and mulch.

Now water it in well and leave it for a few days to settle. I watered in some soil wetter which I got from the nursery to really give this patch a boost, it’s probably not compulsory but worth it if you’ve got a little money left over as it will help ensure your watering is as efficient as possible.

And there you have it. A raised bed filled with a wonderfully rich and organic soil that your vegies will love and thrive in – just add plants and sunlight.

Previously: Building a Raised Bed

Next: Planting out.


  • @spooky_girl says:

    Hey Erin,
    Glad the gardening is acting as a soothing agent for you! This is such great advice re:soil. Once I buy those raised galv beds I wondered what to do next (even though I have numerous gardening books including Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion as you mentioned – this has just saved me from reading all of them!! :))

    I have to get a moooove on! Sorry, bad cow poo joke!


  • Shen D says:

    This is super helpful Erin!

    I too have a whole batch of books stolen from my Mum’s bookshelf which I have been meaning to read in order to glean instructions about making a raised bed. For some reason, when rifling through the books the novice gardnerer in me gets a bit overwhelmed. A one page print out is much more my style!

    Shen x

  • Shen D says:

    Gardnerer, oh dear! I can’t even spell it properly!

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