Best Soil for New Raised Plant Beds

Q: I am building new raised beds and trying to decide what the best soil to use. I was going to buy bags of planting soil but that is too expensive. How do I make good soil? Or should I buy it from a local landscape supply firm?

A: I don’t recommend using the bagged stuff. In an enclosed bed it will hold too much moisture. You can make your own soil by mixing native clay with soil conditioner and gritty sand but that won’t work if you don’t have much soil to work with. You can purchase bulk soil at a landscape supply place. Before you buy, check the soil quality. It should feel gritty and slightly slick between your fingers with not too many individual pieces of bark or leaves. Ask which professional landscape companies use their soil. If you’re just doing a couple of beds you can borrow a pickup truck and buy what you need.