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Help needed with ericaceous soil for raised bed

Hi, first post here, and my first garden so bear with me if I ramble!

The garden that came with our house was just a neglected patch of lawn, which we've had landscaped and is now a blank canvas. At the bottom of the garden is a large, timber raised bed approx 2.5m x 1m and 400mm in height. We hadn't discussed soil with the landscapers so they just filled it about three quarters full with generic compost and I think there's a bit of soil from elsewhere chucked in the bottom too (most likely neutral, though I haven't actually tested it).

Our plan with the planter is to have a kind of woodland display, the main feature being a Japanese Maple along with ferns, hostas, bluebells etc (it's a shady corner so should suit these plants). It appears that slightly acidic soil would be best for this but I'm going round in circles trying to work out what would be best to buy and where to get it from. (I can empty the compost out and use it for potting instead if necessary).

I'm in Scotland where ericaceous soils seems hard to come buy. I've found ericaceous topsoil for sale from places like Norfolk, which seems a bit excessive for delivery. If I buy a neutral sandy loam and blend it with a load of ericaceous compost, will that do the job, or is it essential that I start with an acidic soil? Suggestions welcome, I just want to be sure I'm filling it with the right stuff before I start buying any plants.


  • PurplerainPurplerain Posts: 1,052
    That would be approx 8ft by 3ft in old money then (I have never got the hang of metres).

    I think the best thing to do is buy a soil testing kit. You can get them in most garden centres and It would be much cheaper than ordering soil. I am in Scotland and my soil is neutral/acidic so yours might be too. If not, then maybe change your vision to something that likes alkaline soil.
    SW Scotland
  • There's no soil in it as such, and not enough elsewhere to move into it, so either way I need to buy soil to fill it.
  • Joyce21Joyce21 Posts: 15,489
    Thomas, I have lots of ericaceous loving plants.  When planting, I dig a much bigger hole than required and fork in ericaceous compost bought by the bag from a GC. No need to fill the whole raised bed with it.
    SW Scotland
  • OK, hadn't thought of that. I think I'm maybe over worrying that the entire box needs to be acidic whereas a sandy loam with enough of the compost next to the plants would probably be fine.

    This is all new to me and I've looked at so many soil sellers websites and different articles etc that my brain is overloaded with conflicting information! I found a good website called Garden Solutions who seem to have a good load of things I could add in there, so I've emailed them to see if they can recommend what to order to fill it up.

    I think if I'd just planted stuff in the generic compost the builders put in it wouldn't really work, the important thing is probably that I get some loam in there too.
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  • PerkiPerki Rossendale - LancashirePosts: 1,819
    Hi Thomas, I think you are over complicating your soil conditions for Japanese Acers. They need acidic soil conditions, they will grow very happy in neutral PH soil, the colouring in the leaves will be better during autumn with more acidic conditions. They can grow in slight alkaline soil but not very alkaline or wet soil. 

    What variety of acer are you looking at ?

    Just fill your raised bed up with mainly with top soil ( bought or home soil pending PH ) and add compost / manure to help retain moister. Buy a bag pf ericaceous compost and mulch around the acers with that, you can also fed with eriaceous feed in spring and a few weeks before they start getting their autumn colours
  • thomas.holmesthomas.holmes Posts: 15
    edited April 2018
    There's plenty of compost available at garden centres but for some reason nowhere seems to sell actual soil that I've found, other than online bulk buy places, but the metre cubed bags they sell would be a bit of a logistical nightmare. I think I'm going to get a load of loamy soil in bags from this Garden Solutions place, then just use ericaceous compost and mulches where needed. Planning to get a bag of leaf mulch on the go too which is supposed to be good for woodland type plants.
  • Sorry Perki, was typing that while you replied, but you seem to be backing up what I'm now thinking so that sounds like a plan! I think I want to look for the Bloodgood maple as I really like that purple colour. Worried it might be a bit big in the future, but could probably keep its size in check. Information about how big the different varieties grow seems to vary, but I definitely want something that'll get to at least 2m tall, and one with a bit of spread (Dobbies had a load of 'pillar' shaped ones which I wasn't so keen on the sound of).
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  • Here's a photo so you can see where it's going. Fence is about 1.8m high with a bit of sun coming through the gaps. Small tool shed is going to the left where that manhole is which would also provide shelter. Tree would go on left next to shed.
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