Preparing a vegetable garden site for planting is easy to do with a little planning ahead of time. Starting your preparations in the Fall for your spring garden makes it so much easier on you and your plants. A great bonus is that you’ll make it harder on insect pests to survive over the winter and you’ll have less of them to deal with during growing season.
Prepare in Fall for a Spring Planting
Fall is really the best time to start getting your garden ready for a spring planting. Any soil amendments should be added at this time with a light addition in spring. Working your soil in the fall means that you can probably plant a little earlier than normal.
All the organic material you added in the fall will be well composted and ready for your plants. Adding in any lime, sulfur or other nutrients in the fall gives them time to interact with your soil and improve it ahead of time.
Turning over your garden soil and cleaning it up will make it a lot harder for harmful insects to live during the winter.
Working Garden Soil
Don’t work garden soil when it is wet. Grab a handful of dirt and squeeze it. If it crumbles then it should be fine to work. A hard, compact or lumpy ball of dirt that stays together is dirt that is too wet to cultivate and work.
When using a garden tiller, don’t pulverize the ground too fine. You want some larger pieces as a means to keep the soil from crusting when it is dry. Using a shovel on small areas works great as you can get some exercise in also. Just use a garden rake to break up the clumps some after you turn them over with your shovel.
This is one thing that is vital if you want to produce the most and tastiest vegetables. A soil test will give you the basics of what soil amendments you need to add. Without a soil test, adding the right fertilizer is a shot in the dark.
Knowing what pH level your soil is at gives you an idea of which plants will grow best. Most plants will tolerate a pH level of 6.0 – 6.5. But some plants grow best when the pH level is at a certain level.
You lower soil pH by adding sulfur and raise soil pH by adding lime. Both of these take time to interact with your soil. Adding them in during fall gives them this time to properly adjust soil pH.
Using one of the test kits sold in the local gardening center is not the best way to test. But these will give you a good indication if there is anything drastically wrong with your garden soil.
When in doubt, talk to your local college agriculture department or local county extension agent. Either one of these will be glad to help in testing your soil or be able to tell you who can assist you.
Generally you want about 2 to 5 percent of organic matter mixed in with your soil. This breaks down into soil and by doing so helps provide your vegetables with great nutrients they desperately need in order to produce for you.
Amend your soil by adding compost to it. Sure you can use commercial fertilizer but you will only improve the plants that are currently growing. Adding in compost and mulching around your plants will improve your soil for years to come.
Check with your local city or county organizations as they may have a program to give out free compost, manure and mulch. Putting these materials in a garbage pile does no one any good so lots of county and city agencies are readily giving this stuff away.
Set up a place at your location to pile discarded kitchen vegetables, fruit, grass clippings and tree leaves. You can use a real compost bin or just wrap some mesh wire around some old posts and throw your stuff in there and let it compost for several months.
Using compost is almost as powerful as commercial fertilizer and is so much better for you and your plants. There are entire web sites set up to tell you how to compost. If you want the best and most produce possible, then good compost is one of those secret ingredients.
You normally think of this as actually working in your garden and not preparing your garden. But mulching is preparing your garden for the future also. Taking your grass clippings and tree leaves and piling it around your plants as they are growing is a fantastic way to add more nutrients for your plants, control the ground temperature, prevent weeds from growing and help keep insects at bay.
Using mulch in your garden is the smartest things you can do. It will slowly break down into humus and improve your garden soil tremendously. Humus if you don’t know is that sweet smelling dirt that grows under trees in the forest. It smells nice and in your hand is light and fluffy. It is full of the best growing medium imaginable.
Plant a green manure crop of rye or oats in the fall and turn under in the spring. These plants fix nitrogen in the soil and your plants will be able to use it when most needed. Throwing some rye or oats over your garden before winter sets in will help prevent soil run-off when it rains also.
Place fresh manure from cows and horses in the ground during autumn. This gives it plenty of time to start breaking down. Using this fresh from the source will likely burn your plants as it tricky to add the right quantity. Putting it in the ground at this time lets any disease organisms die and not attack your plants.
The best way to get your tasty vegetables is to prepare ahead of time. Waiting till you are ready to sow seeds and start working your garden soil is not the best way to approach vegetable gardening.
Plus during fall you can take your time and tackle your gardening projects at a much slower pace. Growing vegetables should be one of the less stressful and more fun things we do in live. Preparation ahead of time will make your life easier.
About the author: John Collins is a gardner specializing in vegetables. Working at gardening is his passion as is writing about it. You can find a lot more information about vegetable gardening at his own website.