How Much Soil Do I Need?
Calculate the amount of soil you need for your raised bed or planter
Calculate the amount of soil you need for your raised bed, pot or planter.
Pot or Elevated Planter
"Raised Bed" calculates in cubic yards and cubic feet.
"Pot or Elevated Planter" calculates in quarts.
(apply 0.5 cup per 5 square feet)
Good soil is the single most important ingredient for a good garden. Raised beds give you an immediate advantage over a regular garden, because when you fill your raised bed, you can fill it with a blend of soil that's superior to the native soil in your yard. Soil that's loose and rich with nutrients and organic matter will allow the roots of your plants to grow freely, and ensure that they have access to the water and nutrients they need to sustain healthy growth.
Example: How Much Soil Do I Need for a 3x6 Bed?
To fill a 3x6 bed with 10" sides, you will need 15 cubic feet of blended soil. To create the blend, use the following quantities:
- 9 cubic feet of topsoil (9 20-quart bags)
- 4.5 cubic feet of compost (4.5 20-quart bags)
- 1.5 cubic feet of soilless potting mix
- 1.5 cups Gardener's Supply granular organic fertilizer
Before placing your raised beds in their permanent location, be sure to remove any grass or perennial weeds from the area. Use a garden fork or shovel to loosen the native soil to a depth of 6-10″. This will improve drainage and moisture retention in the raised beds. It also means that even with a 5″-high raised bed, your plants will think they're growing in a bed that's 12-18″ deep — plenty of room for carrots, potatoes, full-size tomato plants and most any other vegetable you'd ever want to grow.
If you'll be filling more than one raised bed, you may want to buy your soil in bulk — by the cubic foot or cubic yard. Use the Soil Calculator to figure out the total amount of soil you'll need for each bed. For most situations, we recommend these proportions:
- 60 percent topsoil
- 30 percent compost
- 10 percent soilless growing mix—also known as potting mix.
Where to Buy
In our Raised Beds department, you'll find DIY raised beds, raised bed corners, elevated raised beds, watering systems, pest protection, season-extending tools, and accessories.
Keep in mind that proportions are approximate because soil volume varies from source to source. For instance, if the calculator specifies .444 cubic yards of soil for your bed, go ahead and round it up to a half yard.
If you do not have access to quality topsoil, an acceptable substitute would be a 50-50 blend of soilless growing medium and compost. If you want to add peat moss to the bed, it should not be more than 20 percent of the total mix. Peat moss is naturally acidic and is not a good medium for growing vegetables.
'Can I re-use old potting soil?' Yes!
Top it off: If the level of soil has dropped, add fresh planting mix also known as potting mix. Ideally, the soil comes to within an inch or so of the rim of the planter or raised bed. Use a fork or hand tool to blend the new soil into the old soil.
Gardener's Supply Organic All-Purpose Fertilizer and Container Booster Mix
Recharge it: Measure the square footage of your raised bed or pot to figure out how much of the two "secret ingredients" you need for your bed.
- Gardener's Supply Organic Fertilizer: Use 1/4 cup per square foot. Slow-release, granular organic fertilizers give plants balanced nutrients for vigorous root growth and improved water penetration all season long.
- Container Booster Mix: Use 3 cups per square foot. This is the secret sauce! This potent, all-organic formula includes a complete diet of nutrients and trace elements to keep plants lush and healthy: concentrated plant and manure compost, washed granite, black rock phosphate, and other natural ingredients.
Sprinkle the granular fertilizer and booster mix onto the soil surface. Use a hoe or cultivating tool to incorporate the ingredients into the top few inches of soil.
Plant, feed and repeat! Now sow seeds or plant transplants into your raised bed, and then stand back. Great results are sure to follow. During the season, keep your plants happy by feeding them regularly.
Last updated: 09/13/2022
Share this Article:
People who read this article often purchase
Get the Dirt
Stay up to date on new articles and advice. Please fill out the information below.