Last year I put in a single raised garden bed and filled it (foolishly I know, lesson learned) with name brand “garden bed soil.” Anyhow after a single year of use Ive lost several inches of volume. I know that naturally any good soil has a good amount of organic matter that may break down and therefore decrease in volume but how does everyone keep a garden bed full when its in use? I currently have strawberries in the bed and while I know that I can and should add compost, I don’t want to add enough compost that I bury the crowns and cause crown rot.
I try to add some real dirt…50 % or so…in such situations. also in potting up plants, try to avoid straight from a bag…unless I get one of a couple brands that are partially top soil, (not just say ‘top soil’ on the bag).
I’ve done raised beds out of 50% sand and 50% compost in January as dry dirt not possible to find…the sand helps, but the shrinkage is considerable.
I have strawberries in raised beds as well. I mulch them with rice hulls. The rice hulls are small and light enough that you can dump them right over the strawberries, then spray with a hose and they will fall down around the base of the plants. They are good for keeping the berries off the soil, too.
Around here you can buy big bales of rice hulls cheaply at feed stores. They are used for horse stall bedding.
Like @blueberry said, you want a good proportion of mineral soil in your mix for a raised bed. The bagged soil blends are usually 60% or more organic matter (much more if there is little to no perlite or vermiculite). It’s unusual for in-ground soils to have much more than 10%. If you were to start over, the thing to do would be to have a mix of topsoil and compost or bagged soil that has at least 50% topsoil. I’d probably go 75% topsoil. That way, it’s relatively easy to replenish the organic matter. The other thing is your soil probably settled a lot over the course of the year. You can try gently lifting up the soil from underneath with a digging fork. Or you could do nothing, and the strawberries will probably be fine.
Doing nothing might just be the best option as long as the plants don’t seem to be performing poorly. Good point Jay.
I to have strawberries in a raised bed in a community garden. I filled the bed 2 years ago and as I filled it I walked on the new fill to compress it tight and overfilled by an inch. It is dropping slowly and will need filling at the end of this year. I will fill overtop of half my berries in 2 foot wide swaths and let that get runnered over. In 2 years I will do the same on the other half.
This doesn’t really help you, but I have actually removed all my raised beds that I work with due to this. If you have a truck or something, maybe call some small local horse farms for manure? The fewer horses the more likely they will be to let you have it. Even 3 horses generates an insane amount of bedding/manure!
I’m following some of the ideas small scale, no-till farms use. Constant application of organic materials (compost, manure, cardboard, wood chips, cover crops etc) on permanent rows. Soil quality keeps increasing. I used to have flooding issues in my garden due to poor compacted soil, not anymore. I woodchip permanent aisles.
I’d say - once the strawberries are finished for the year, renew them by lifting from the bed and replanting them once you’ve filled it with better soil.
Strawbs are tough
Or be lazy and just add an inch of soil as the plants are pushing out a bunch of new runners…and if you cover the old plants too deep and they die, no biggie…the baby plants will sit down on their own in the new dirt. And produce next year.
thats what i do. i hate renewing a strawberry bed so i just bury the older ones with composted chic manure.