As the calendar lets us know that spring is just around the corner, it’s time to start getting the garden ready for new plants. From arugula to zucchini and every flower in between, prepping the garden soil can make a drastic difference in having a productive growing season or giving up in disgust (I’ve done both, for the record).
Know Your Soil
Your garden won’t grow without good soil. All the minerals, microbes, and nutrients in the soil contribute to making your plants grow. A soil test is a great start to knowing what might be missing or overabundant in your soil. Too much nitrogen can mean lots of green growth but no flowers or vegetables. Too little calcium can make peppers and tomatoes rot on the vine. Simple soil tests can be picked up at your local independent garden center. These will give you a quick check of acidity and ingredients in your soil.
For a more in-depth or specific test, contact your local County Cooperative Extension Service. For just a few dollars, they’ll test your soil to determine a very accurate breakdown of the minerals and chemicals in your soil. This is especially important if you’re gardening organically so you know what amendments you need to nourish your soil for a better harvest. Our local extension office charges six dollars for a test. Many of the extension offices have options for running the test for specific needs, i.e. blueberries, grass, vegetables, etc.
Once you know your soil composition, you can start preparing for a great gardening season. Get to know your soil. It’ll thank you for it.
Let It Sit
Shhh….it’s a little gardening secret that a great way to let your soil replenish is to let it sit. Rest. Take a nice, long nap. How long you let it rest is up to you. Many of the gardening gurus I trust recommend letting your garden rest at least two weeks between seasons, if possible. If you can let it rest longer, by all means go for it. This year, my garden has been resting since January 1. Hopefully this break will mean that the squash vine borers have left now and won’t enjoy our zucchini instead of us this year.
Let it Work
Wait, am I contradicting myself? Well, not really. You’ll still find weeds that need pulling (now is a great time to start teaching children the difference between weeds and the tops of the carrots since there are no frilly tops or pretty pink radishes to distract them). Weeds need to come out while they’re still small enough to not damage the resting soil. While you’re out pulling the weeds, top off your garden with compost. Cover it over with a good thick layer of compost, either from your compost pile or bagged composted manure. While you and your garden are resting, the nutrients in the compost will wiggle their way into your soil, building it up and working to nourish it. If you have the results from your soil test, the resting stage is a great time to make the additions recommended in the report. If you’re going to let your soil rest for a while (say, more than a month), cover it with mulch. This will help prevent erosion and leaching of needed nutrients. If you’ve had a snowy winter, you’ve got a great built-in mulch for your garden.
Making a New Garden
If you’re making a garden for the first time this year, all the above still applies to you. Yes, it really does. Once you get your bed laid out or built, put your soil in. Then let it rest. Yes, that sounds completely illogical for making a new garden but it will pay beautiful dividends in the long run. Promise (speaking from experience). The resting period may not need to be as long, but the garden will still need one. It gives the soil a chance to settle into its new home while you work up enough energy to get that trunk-load of plants into the soil. And that second trunk-load you bought on the way home from getting breakfast when the car just magically turned into the nursery and the plants just hopped into the trunk (they did demand a ransom payment, but we won’t talk about that).
You’re Ready to Grow
Enjoy your new garden. Feast upon the harvest of your hard work and sweat. Share with the neighbors. Have fun!
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This post was written by Mia of Modern Mia Gardening exclusively for Bonbon Break Media, LLC