I wish that were my garden. . .
The end of April is here and I’ve not so much as raked the dirt in my one new garden bed. There is a pile of pre-cut landscape timbers waiting to be put together into six more garden beds and a garden plot BEGGING to be leveled. I wish my garden looked as pristine and well arranged as the set up in the picture below. Alas, it does not.
Preparing your garden for planting does not require you to have a raised garden bed. Even if all you have is a small piece of tilled earth the same principles apply. If you are like the author of the linked article below you can surely relate that by the time Fall comes around you are ready to be done with cultivating, weed pulling, hoeing, raking, digging and cleaning.
When temperatures start to rise my hands and feet start to itch to get out in the garden to clean, amend and prepare the ground for new plants. There is nothing like the taste of garden fresh fruits and vegetables. So, what should you do to get ready?
- Pull all weeds and volunteer plants as soon as they emerge. To make it easy you could douse the little plants with vinegar, allow them to wilt then rake them out all at once. The vinegar washes away, unlike salt, and is a completely natural and practically harmless herbicide.
- Why pull the volunteer plants? Though having these “freebie” plants may seem like a good idea IF you had any problems with plant diseases the season before you will have them again.
- Amend the soil with compost. If using fairly fresh manure you should wait a few weeks before planting. Honestly, I’d wait even if I were using bagged composted manure from the garden center. Homemade compost is usually less acidic and will be less likely to burn the tender seedling roots.
- Test your garden soil pH. There are many ways to do this – either with a litmus strip and some water, a commercial acidity tester or one of many home made testing procedures. This will allow you to know what you must add to the soil to achieve the best pH OR what plants will thrive better in the soil as it is. Some plants like acid soil while others prefer and thrive in alkaline soil.
- As a good practice try not to plant the same type of plant in the same spot every year. This helps to prevent depletion of nutrients in your garden soil and encourages vigorous growth of your garden plants. Composting and fertilizing do help but crop rotation is another measure in the right direction.
- Mulch heavily around your plants with dry grass clippings, straw or dry leaves. This will suffocate any weed seedlings and also provide compost for your plants.
First, no matter how much cabin fever you have, you need to wait until your soil can be worked. What does this mean? It means that the soil is dry and warm enough that you can pick up a handful of it, drop it back down, and it should break up or crumble. As tempting as it may be to start digging around and turning over soil that’s still cold and waterlogged from winter, you mustn’t. Doing so can damage the structure of your soil, eliminate valuable air pockets that plants need, and produce super-hard clods that are very difficult to break up later.
A great way to prep soil is to mulch with leaves in the fall. I have a confession to make. Although I love gardening and cherish the time I get to spend in my happy place, by the time late fall is approaching, I’m usually so over it . […]