Intentionally Fill

Mar 29, 2021

“What soil should I use to fill my containers and raised beds?”

This is a question that I am asked almost daily during gardening season. But before addressing that, let’s discuss the beds and containers themselves. You may be thinking, “I’m not sure that I know what the difference is between the two.”

The simple answer is containers have a bottom in them, and raised beds do not.


Let’s begin with containers. Selecting the proper container for what you intend on growing is important. Consider these things:
1) What the container is made of
2) Size of container, especially depth
3) Cost

Plastic containers are cheaper, but they weather poorly and end up cracking and crumbling over time. Their colors tend to fade, and they do not have the ability to overwinter perennials well because they cannot offer much insulation.

Terra cotta pots are reasonably priced and are readily available at most stores.  Even though they are extremely common, they break easily, and they dry out quickly, thus requiring more watering effort.

Smart Pots—or heavy duty aeration fabric pots—are growing in favor with gardeners and are a good choice when considering cost and versatility.

The best choice would be ceramic or concrete containers. They are heavy and provide more insulation during the winter months for plants that you hope to overwinter. The obvious drawback is that they are harder to maneuver, and they are more expensive.

When building raised beds, consider these things:
1) Construction materials
2) Size
3) Your ability to build and maintain
4) Cost

Raised beds can be built from just about anything including wood, metal, rock, concrete blocks, tires, tin, etc. Be sure to select materials that will hold up well to all kinds of weather and that will not leach harmful chemicals into your soil.

When building raised beds, keep in mind that you do have to fill them with quality soil, so the larger you make them the more expensive they will be to fill. You can offset that cost by filling a portion of the bottom of your bed with rocks or chunks of broken concrete. You want to build beds that you have the ability to construct and maintain.

Many of you have heard me say before that for the first several years of my gardening career, all I focused on was plants. That was until I learned that the key to growing great plants is growing great soil. Today, most of my gardening efforts are focused on building healthy soil and healthy plants are the result. The two main places where we purchase soil in the Oklahoma City area are: Murphy Products and Minick Materials.

I cannot stress how important it is to use high quality soil that comes from a source that you can trust. It doesn’t matter how much time, effort and energy you put into gathering up the right containers and building the right raised beds. If you fill them with low quality soil you will only produce low quality plants. Remember the old saying, “Garbage In – Garbage Out”? You must intentionally fill.

The same is true with our lives. When we choose to fill our lives with low quality friends, low quality music, low quality food, low quality advice, low quality effort, guess what we produce? Low quality lives.

But there’s hope! Because of Jesus Christ we have the chance to fill our lives with great things. He gives us the opportunity to not only experience eternal life in Heaven but to have a high quality, abundant life here on earth. In John 10:10, Jesus tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly.

Just as we spend much time choosing our containers and raised beds and carefully selecting what soil we will use to fill them, let us be even more intentional with how we fill our lives.  “And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love” (Rom. 5:5).