Improving the Soil of Raised Beds
Raised beds are a common gardening method. This method is popular because it gives the gardeners more control of their crops.
Raised bed enables gardeners to prolong the warm season for certain plants. They also enable people to grow different plants that require distinctive treatments simultaneously.
However, it is quite tough to maintain the health of the soil in a raised beds system. Many questions are being proposed:
How to improve the soil in raised beds? What are the materials used for the soil? How much vermiculite to add to raised beds if you use vermiculite?
Although this planting system has many benefits, it also risks soil health. The soil might be too compact that roots may find it difficult to grow optimally. Additionally, the lack of nutrients can also be an issue. Thus, improving soil health is pivotal.
Soil Amendment: Perlite or Vermiculite
You will often see two materials used for soil improvement or amendment: perlite and vermiculite. The two soil mixing materials have different characteristics.
Perlite improves the drainage system in the soil. Meanwhile, vermiculite helps the soil retain water, which is very useful during dry seasons.
You have to take several considerations before deciding which material to use. Perlite is usually added to the soil when you need the plant to dry. It also helps loosen clay soil so it will not be clumped. This will help you when moving the seedling to other posts.
Meanwhile, you will need to add vermiculite to develop seedlings with great strength. That will ensure the success of the crop in the harvest season.
Plants that require plenty of moisture to grow will also benefit from adding vermiculite to the soil.
How Much Vermiculite to Add to Raised Beds
The amount of vermiculite addition to soil may vary depending on some factors. However, the general ratio of vermiculite and soil is either 1:2 or 1:1. Normally.
You will add this soil amendment material during spring. This ratio is used after the germination period.
But how much vermiculite to add to raised beds during the germination period? The amount is slightly different. In this period, you only need to add the vermiculite about a quarter of an inch thick.
This will ensure that moisture level is maintained when the seed is germinating. That way, the seed can grow optimally.
The Uses of Vermiculite in Your Garden
The uses of vermiculite have been mentioned in the previous part, but many other uses make this soil amendment material well-rounded in gardening. Here are some benefits of vermiculite:
- It can raise the pH level of your soil, which is beneficial if the soil in your area is too acidic.
- It can help the worms in your bin to thrive by providing grit to improve digestion.
- It protects bulbs and roots during the winter season by maintaining growth downward.
- Add organic matter like compost when soil moisture is high (but not wet).
- Plant the seedling in the soil.
- Add vermiculite on top of the seedling according to the amount mentioned above.
Taking Care of Soil Health After Amendment
The journey of maintaining soil health is never-ending. Although you have taken measures to improve soil health during planting, the soil still faces risks threatening its condition later. Here are some tips that you can follow to prevent that:
- Add organic mulch to the soil (usually done before the plant enters dormancy).
- Test the soil consistency and texture with your hand from time to time.
- Avoid soil compaction by not using heavy equipment or walking over the garden beds.
- Till the soil regularly.
- Limit the use of pesticides.
- Perform soil tests regularly to check the content of your soil.
Where to Purchase Your Vermiculite?
You should purchase your vermiculite at a reputable supplier near your location. That way, you will be able to ensure the quality of your product.
Some gardeners had unfortunate incidents in the past when they purchased vermiculite contaminated by asbestos. Asbestos-contaminated vermiculite can cause health problems to the gardener in the long run.
Some people choose to purchase ready-to-use vermiculite. It has been mixed with other amendment materials. However, seasoned gardeners prefer to create their mixes.
A customized mix tends to suit the soil better than the premix one. It can reduce the cost significantly too.