Soil is the biological foundation in which thriving gardens are created. Healthy garden soil provides your plants with nutrients and good drainage, has moisture retention qualities and contains quality organic matter and microbes. Healthy soil is the building block for healthy plant growth. Without it, your plants will fail to thrive, leading to a disappointing growing season.
However, don't despair if your native soil is less than ideal—because you can always improve the area with organic amendments. By amending the existing soil with high-quality organic matter, you can easily turn what was less than ideal into good soil once again. Fortunately, you have a wide selection of garden soils you can add to your existing soil to make it healthier no matter what you're growing. We've outlined some of the better ones below. We've also noted some considerations when deciding on what's the best soil for your flower beds.
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What to Consider When Purchasing Garden Soil
What's Your Soil's Makeup?: If this is the first time you're planting in a particular flower bed, whether you plan to fill it with some veggies, flowers, or ornamental plants, it's a good idea to know what your native soil contains. It's always a good idea to get a soil test done so you know what the existing soil contains and lacks. The soil test will let you know the macronutrient levels, the soil's pH and if it requires adjusting, as well as if fertilizers are needed. Getting a soil test takes the mystery out of your soil's makeup and lets you know exactly what's needed to improve it in order to produce a healthy and thriving garden.
Your Native Soil's Look and Feel: Knowing the look and feel of your existing garden soil lets you know what's the best garden soil to amend it with. You'll also know whether it tends to remain too wet or too dry. Grab a handful of your soil and rub it through your hands. Sandy soil falls apart easily even when wet with a gritty feel. Silty soil has a silky feel when dry and has a smooth but slick feel when it's wet, whereas clay soil forms hard cracked clogs when dry and is sticky and slick when wet.
Amending the area with high-quality garden soil will help sandy soils contain more organic nutrients and retain moisture. The addition of organic garden soil to clay soils will break up soil compaction and help the soil drain better and not remain so wet, which can lead to problems with rot.
Ingredients in the Soil: When purchasing garden soil for your flower beds, it's always good to know its ingredients. If you are growing an organic garden, the package of soil will let you know if it is made of 100% organic materials, as the bag will carry the OMRI seal. The ingredients will also let you know if the soil contains the addition of a slow-release fertilizer, organic fertilizer like worm castings, moisture control by way of a wetting agent and its primary ingredients.
You can also purchase soils blended specifically for certain plants like roses, trees, flower gardens or veggie gardens. Knowing what the particular bag of soil contains helps you purchase the best soil to improve your existing garden soil.
Quantity Required: Bags of garden soil come in various sizes depending on the brand and range from amounts in quarts to 1 cubic foot and more. You'll need to measure the length and width of the garden area and consider how deep your layer of the added garden soil will be before you till it into the existing garden soil. You can find soil calculators online that will help you figure out the amount of soil you'll need for your specific-sized flower bed or raised bed.
Working the Soil In: Once you've settled on the appropriate garden soil suitable for your purposes, you'll need to work it into your existing garden soil—unless it's the only soil being used in a raised bed. Spread the soil evenly over the garden bed area, creating a layer about 3 to 4 inches thick. You'll then need to work it into the existing soil to a depth of about 6 inches. This will instantly improve the soil's nutritional makeup, moisture retention, as well as drainage.
The Best Overall Garden Soil
Espoma Organic Garden Soil is a good all-around soil to use to amend your native garden soil coming in 1 cubic foot bags. The product contains no synthetic plant foods or chemicals. The soil mixture is formulated to even work well for plants growing in shady flower beds. It's also specially formulated for use in in-ground gardens and not for container gardening. The all-natural garden soil is enhanced with mycorrhizae, which is beneficial to plant growth and contains earthworm castings, an organic fertilizer.
The soil contains 30 to 40 percent Canadian sphagnum peat moss, and either composted rice hulls, aged forest products or aged humus. It also contains limestone for pH adjustment, alfalfa meal, feather meal, yucca extract and kelp meal, all of which help produce healthy plants, as well as ectomycorrhizal fungi and endomycorrhizal fungi. It is a good overall growing medium for use in organic gardening, vegetable gardens or gardens with flowers and ornamental plants.
The Best Value Garden Soil
Miracle-Gro All-Purpose Garden Soil is the best value for your money. It comes in bags ranging from 0.75 cubic feet of soil to 1.5 cubic feet of soil. The soil works well for in-ground plantings of veggies, flowers, fruits or other ornamental plants and is fortified with plant food that continues to feed your plants for three months. The garden soil improves your existing soil, leading to strong plant roots and robust growth. The company also notes that if you aren't happy with the results within six months, they'll give you a refund of your money.
The soil is formulated from processed forest products, peat, compost, or coir, and a wetting agent that assists in helping the soil with moisture retention. It also contains 0.09% slow-release nitrogen, 0.05% phosphate and 0.07% soluble potash. This is suitable soil for amending your garden soil with and won't bust the bank in the process.
The Best Organic Garden Soil
SunGro's Black Gold Natural and Organic Flower and Vegetable Soil is the perfect garden bed soil for an organic garden containing no synthetic chemicals or fertilizers. Besides pumping up the organic quality of your natural soil, you can even use it in raised bed gardens. It carries the OMRI seal for being 100% organic and is a great choice for amending your existing soil, whether you're growing vegetables, fruits, flowers or ornamentals. The soil contains a rich blend of compost, forest products, Canadian sphagnum peat moss and bark. It has everything you need to feed your plants and improve the soil's drainage and moisture retention. Each bag contains 1.5 cubic feet of organic soil.
The Best Garden Soil for Raised Beds
Coast of Maine's Castine blend organic raised bed mix has the OMRI seal, meaning that all the ingredients meet organic standards. This rich, dark compost-based soil is ready for use straight out of the package and has a good texture which promotes good drainage, leading to healthier plant roots. The mix comes in a 1 cubic foot bag and is suitable for use in raised beds, containers, garden boxes or used directly in the garden. No matter whether you're growing vegetables, flowers, herbs, fruits or ornamentals in a raised bed, this fertile soil will promote healthy growth. It has a pH level of 6.5.
The hand-crafted soil mix is sourced from local farms, as well as the ocean, resulting in rich and fertile soil packed full of organic ingredients. The aged compost is made up of cow manure, worm castings, dehydrated poultry manure, biochar, greensand, lobster and kelp meal, peat, mycorrhizae and lime. The soil mixture results in a well-balanced soil perfect for raised beds, with a good texture promoting good drainage, and moisture retention, as well as good fertility for growing hardy plants.
The Best Garden Soil for Flowers
If your flower beds will be filled with flowering plants, you'll want to use soil that keeps those blooms popping, and Miracle-Gro Garden Soil for Flowers has you covered. The rich, dark mix contains a slow-release plant food that will continue to feed your flowering plants for up to three months, promoting more blooms and bigger plants. It also contains a wetting agent that helps the soil retain moisture and cuts down on your need to water.
The soil is formulated from processed forest products, peat, sphagnum peat moss, compost, slow-release fertilizer containing 0.09% nitrogen and a wetting agent. The soil not only improves your existing soil's drainage, organic content and moisture retention, but it also leads to healthier plants. Each bag contains 1.5 cubic feet of soil. If you aren't satisfied with the results after six months, the company will refund your money.