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How to Improve Soil Drainage in Raised Beds

There’s so much to love about gardening in raised beds. They’re smart, stylish, and entice you out into the sunshine more often. They bring the garden a little closer, and for that your back will never stop saying thank you. But best of all, raised beds allow even the novice gardener to begin growing with a light soil that most field farmers can only dream of. After all, what organic gardener would choose season after season of all out war with a stubborn plot of clay over a rich, loamy blend sold and delivered by the cubic yard? 

Our favorite organic soil blend is a mix of aged pine bark fines, mushroom compost, and PermaTill, which creates the ideal soil structure for a wide range of edible varieties. Yet more than once, our team has been called to correct a waterlogged, heavy soil in a gardener’s existing raised beds. Almost always, these raised beds have been filled with topsoil - a deceptively idyllic label for a heavy, sticky substrate with drainage properties that fall somewhere between asphalt and modeling clay. Fortunately this can be fixed by working in organic material like aged manure and compost, and one or more of the following materials:


Coarse Sand 
Easier to find than a parking spot at your local home improvement chain, coarse sand is also budget friendly. And unlike other material, it won’t break down, and lose its drainage and aeration properties over time.



Like sand, PermaTill is strong, durable, and will continue to provide drainage properties in soil almost indefinitely. It’s an inert media, made by heating and expanding small pieces of slate, and PermaTill has the added benefit of storing water soluble nutrients while still water and air to move through the soil.




Aged Pine Bark Fines 
Often made with bark from either the Southern Yellow Pine, or Loblolly Pine, aged pine fines are a staple of organic soil blends, and frequently used as a conditioner to help lighten heavy soils. or help absorb moisture and then release it slowly as the soil dries out. The aging process, along with their small size and shape allow aged pine bark fines to improve air circulation and oxygen delivery to plant roots.



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