- GrowNYC Education
Garden Bed Prep!
Updated: Mar 17
Lucky enough to have access to a garden bed or two, but unsure where to start? Let us help! In the garden, it always starts with the soil. Clean, healthy soil from the start supports the garden to thrive throughout the season. Plant roots want water, air, and nutrients - as gardeners, it is our job to create an environment where they can thrive.
How much soil should you buy?
You can calculate the volume of your bed in cubic feet by multiplying the width x length x depth. Our garden beds are 4 x 8 x 1.5, which gives us 48 cubic feet. You will want to get 50% of this measurement in bagged garden soil and 50% of it in finished compost to add nutrients and microorganisms to your garden bed.
Compost is organic matter that has decomposed in nutrient-dense soil conditioner – not only does compost help plants take up nutrients but it also provides soil structure so that your garden bed doesn’t become too compacted. Compacted soil doesn’t have a lot of airspace in it, which means roots have trouble spreading out and beneficial insects (like worms!) and microorganisms can’t breathe.
When adding soil to fill your garden bed, you want to mix the compost and soil as much as possible. It is helpful to add a layer of soil followed by a layer of compost, mix it together, and repeat until your bed is full all the way within a few inches of the top of the garden bed. We like to top the whole thing off with about an inch thick layer of compost right on top. Use the back of a rake to give yourself a nice smooth planting surface and dig in!
Since rain can also wash away nutrients from soil, we recommend filling your bed as close to planting time as possible. A week or two before is great, the fall before you plant in spring is less ideal, and if this happens you may want to add a little more compost before planting.
As plants grow they take up nutrients out of the soil, so we also like to add a thick layer of compost to our beds between each planting.
Our favorite early spring plantings include:
Peas – snow and snap
Keep an eye on this space for updates from the Teaching Garden on how to sow these early spring crops outdoors.