What’s the Best Soil for Containers & Raised Beds?

Improving soil

If you live in an apartment, have only a small amount of patio space, or are facing some severe issues with your soil, you may want to consider container gardening or raised beds. 

gloved hands holding soil

Now that you've decided to use containers or raised beds, you may be wondering what the best soil for raised bed vegetable gardening is?

Perfect Soil For Containers and Raised Beds

It may seem easier for you to just dig up some soil from your backyard and put it into pots for your garden, but this doesn’t really work. The soil from your yard is typically heavier and will clump together in a pot. This will create problems with drainage and root growth.

The type of soil you want for a container or raised bed garden will be light and fluffy, and contain a few crucial components for success.

tomato plants in containers

Here are the things you should consider:

A good soil base

You will need a robust base to work with in your garden. Topsoil is an excellent place to start; it is the top layers of soil that are more developed and nutrient-rich. You can buy this in bulk at your local garden center, or you could potentially use soil from your yard if you have completed some simple testing that returned sufficient results.

Organic matter

This will be important to contribute and maintain the nutrients your garden needs. Peat moss or compost are both great ways to add organic matter to your garden. 

Peat moss is a decomposed, fibrous material that typically comes from a type of moss called sphagnum - it can be easily bought at a garden center!

Compost is decomposed organic matter that can be made up of a lot of different materials. You can purchase ready-to-use compost that is generally made from animal manures or byproducts of landscape maintenance.

It’s also pretty easy to make your own compost from kitchen scraps and fallen leaves, we have another series of blog posts to get you started on that.


Getting the drainage right is the most important thing when working with containers and raised beds. Vermiculite, perlite, or coarse builder’s sand are all mediums you could add to improve drainage in these types of gardens.

The size of the containers you are gardening in may dictate what sort of mix you’ll use. If you are opting for a few circular pots for your apartment balcony, you may consider a soilless mix containing lots of different types of organic matter as well as a drainage component. But, if you are using a raised garden bed, it may be more cost-effective to use some sort of soil base since there is more space to fill.

Many garden centers sell pre-mixed media for any type of need you have. You can try one of these, or you could go for it and mix your own soil this year. We’ve linked some helpful articles below that will give you some more in-depth information on mixing your own soil.

Learn More About Raised Bed & Container Garden Soil Mixes:

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