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Mud bath problem with new raised vegetable beds

We looking for advice please on how to resolve a problem with the filling of our new raised beds. 

We wanted to turn our hands to growing veg this year. Our garden is almost completely clay so we removed two skip loads of soil to level off a sloping bank and have spent the last few weekends making timber raised beds to put there. We have four of 1.5m x 1.5m. 

We asked our local landscaping company what to fill them with and ordered 8 builders bags of grade A topsoil. After barrowing all of this in, we watered the beds yesterday to get them ready for planting. But the water just pooled on the top of the soil in huge puddles. We tried turning the soil over and now have beds full of mud😟. It doesn’t look great for planting. What have we done wrong? What can we do now?

Looking online now maybe we should have used a mix of topsoil and compost? But the thought of barrowing lots of the soil out again and buying lots of compost (£££) does not appeal. Is this what we have to do? Could the top soil be the wrong kind of soil? Should we add sand? Any advice is welcome. Thank you. 


  • GemmaJFGemmaJF Posts: 2,286
    Hi, welcome to the forum.

    I would have used either a mix of top soil and compost, or just compost.

    It sounds like you may have a drainage issue with the underlying clay.

    Did you put the top soil directly on the clay inside the raised beds? Or is there a liner of some sort at the bottom of the beds?
  • Butterfly66Butterfly66 Posts: 920
    Did you leave the beds to settle for a few days before watering? It could just be the amount of air in the soil if it’s newly installed. I would let it drain for a few days and then see how it is. You usually find that the soil level drops quite considerably once settled so they will probably need topping up anyway.
     If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”—Marcus Tullius Cicero
    East facing, top of a hill clay-loam, cultivated for centuries (7 years by me). Birmingham
  • Thank you for the advice. 

    Hi @GemmaJF - yes we put some stones and a membrane at the bottom of the beds. It does not seem to be a problem draining out the bottom though - the water is just not permeating through the soil. Wish we had bought a mix of soil and compost now. 

    Hi @Butterfly66 - good point. No we didn’t leave them to settle. Hopefully the level will drop as you say and we can dig compost in later. 

  • foxwalesfoxwales Posts: 69
    Don't faff, leave the beds dry out, mix some compost or mushroom compost into the top layer and then plant.  If you can see water draining out of the bottom of the beds, then you have good drainage.  
  • tui34tui34 Posts: 3,206
    I agree with Foxwales.  Let it dry out a bit, add some compost on the top, mix it in and plant.  
    A good hoeing is worth two waterings.

  • Thank you everyone for the advice.  We can certainly let them dry a bit and settle and then mix some compost into the top layer.
    @Rik56 - two are 36cm deep and two are 48cm deep
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