23 May 2013

Growing Vegetables in our Driveway: Soil in the Raised Garden Beds

By Ed

We've built a garden in our driveway. No, this is not a newly discovered Peter, Paul and Mary b-side, but a project where we're growing vegetables in a spot that is basically wasted space.  (You can read our thinking on this here.)

Last time we walked through how to build the raised garden boxes.  This time, we're dishing celebrity dirt.

*Note, we just used that term to improve our Google Search rank. ;) Our celebrity dirt is Peat Moss and composted Sheep Manure. If you got here looking for Kardashian or Rhianna/Chris Brown gossip, our apologies, but please take a moment to ask yourself what your life has come to and maybe consider starting a vegetable garden of your own.

Want more Dirt (or what to put in your raised bed vegetable garden)? Read on!

Our initial plan was to get some top soil or triple mix. Then, Robin did some digging (puns = awesome) and found that triple-mix can mean almost anything, depending on who's selling it. And, according to Mel Bartholomew (the guru of Square Foot Gardening), topsoil wasn't really the best for container gardening anyways.

Most learned square foot gardening folks felt that if you were starting your garden from scratch, the best soil was the kind you made yourself (and strangely enough, actually contains no soil).  This will make a high nutrient, weed free medium for growing.

The recipe we settled on (amounts are per 4'x4'x1' box):
  • 1.5 bales of Peat moss
  • 7-8 bags of composted sheep manure **
** If we had a time machine, we'd go back and buy a few different varieties of compost, vs. just sheep poop.  Of course, after we were all done with this step, Robin did some more reading and learned there are benefits to variety.  Our beds are done - but there's still hope for yours!

Our plan is to add compost each year - so we'll just avoid the baa-baa variety in future years.


1. Split and open the Peat Moss. It is very dusty, so gradually break it up with a garden fork or small spade.

2.  Add bags of composted sheep manure, one at a time, mixing as you add. Again, dust is a factor so mix slowly till sheep poop weighs the peat down. Work carefully to make sure you don't tear the landscape fabric lining in your bed as well.

3. Water the newly mixed soil with a gentle spray. Peat expands a bit when unbaled and dampened. Giving your new soil a soak will allow you to see if you added enough, or you need to top it up a bit. (It also gave us a chance to test our lining and see if any soil escaped through the landscape fabric in the bottom of the boxes - it didn't!)

And that's it.  Not rocket science, once you have the mixture down.

Final Price Talley for 1 box:
  • 1.5 bales of peat moss = $12
  • 7 bags of composted manure = $21
  • Total Cost = $33/ box

When you add the cost of building the raised bed boxes ($50.56) - we are at $83.56 per box.

Yes, these beds are costing us a lot this year, but now they are done and every subsequent garden we plant will amortize that cost more and more.

And if you have ever weeded a really bad garden and wondered what it would be like to start with weed-free, perfect soil, you can now have that dream come true.  A small price to pay, when you put it in those terms.

Manure is pretty good stuff - it's got the word "ma" which is good - and the word "newer" which is also good...

Can you name the character we borrowed (and misquoted) that line from?


  1. Hello Robin & Ed,

    Re: the peat moss. A really good trick is to make a small hole in the bag, insert a hose on low flow and leave it on for a while. The bag will swell and then gradually the peat moss will absorb the water. Then you open it. No dust and it will mix easily with whatever else you have.

    :)Margo J

    1. Hiya, Margo! That IS a great tip. I hope our readers can get to use it. We will have to wait for next time. Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. George Costanza from Seinfeld!!! I stumbled upon your blog after looking for spy party ideas for my daughters birthday. Now there are some great ideas to try for our family.

  3. I wish you had a next feature to the articles

  4. Enjoyed the post. Might try a fall planting.

  5. The most ideal approach to guarantee that your kids eat sound is to develop your own particular vegetables! Also, the secret to getting your youngsters intrigued by sound, natural vegetables is offering them some assistance with growing their own.You and your kids can develop your own particular vegetables regardless of the fact that you don't have masses of space to develop vegetables in your greenery enclosure or a predetermined vegetable plot, following there are increasingly potential outcomes for developing vegetables in holders.

  6. It would be a major help for you to choose what vegetables that you are going to need to plant. It would be extremely useful for you to get a leaflet that clarifies the time allotment every vegetable takes to achieve development. You're going to need to figure out how to plant it, the correct time to plant it and where to plant it.


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