How To Prepare Garden Soil
It’s planting time!
For those of us who don’t live in the warmest regions of the country who have already started their gardens, it’s time to get our hands in the dirt and play! The latest freezing dates that gardeners anxiously wait to pass are soon to be behind us.
Oh yea, I’ve planted before the date for our location several times, thinking ‘awe, it’s not going to freeze’! And then, BAM, a nasty hard freeze comes along and I’ve lost hundreds of dollars in baby vegetable plants as well as hours in labor of love.
Talk about a dreaded feeling!
So for those of us who don’t have our plants or seeds in, it’s time to prepare our garden soil that will help produce healthier and more abundant vegetables and flowers (oh and fruit too) that have more vim and vigor!
We have both raised beds and in-ground gardens and grow vegetables in both. The raised beds were easier in setting up and adding soil and amendments; and are easy to prep every year. Living in the South with its challenging clay soil is a different story indeed for our larger in-ground gardens!
Even if you’re blessed to live in a region with soil that is close to perfect, it’s still a good idea to feed your gardening soil. For a healthy garden, you want a lot of healthy creepy crawlers living down under the surface: worms, good bugs, and tiny microbes. These little workhorses will flourish when your soil is healthy and balanced.
First, here’s what we do and have done to our raised beds’ soil:
1) We purchased high quality top soil and filled each of them ½ full (we have 8 raised beds).
2) We then put 2 large bags of Black Cow manure in each bed and blend it in the top soil.
3) Then we mix in 2 huge bags of Miracle Grow Gardening Soil in each bed.
4) Every fall, we mulch up organic matter from around the acreage: leaves, thin tree branches, grasses, and aged horse poo (provided freely by the horses on the acreage). Organic matter is great for those intense hot summer days by absorbing and retaining water for your plants’ roots. Don’t add too much or the nitrogen in your soil will be absorbed by these ingredients. So we always add this in the fall when we’re putting our beds to sleep for the winter.
5) Once all combined, we spray liquid stinky-smelling fish / seaweed emulsion all over the beds to get the feeding started. There are numerous quality brands on the market, but here is one easily available to purchase online (just click on it): Neptune’s Harvest Fish and Seaweed. What this stuff does is add tiny little micro-nutrients (iron, zinc, manganese, boron, and copper, plus growth hormones that encourage strong root growth and lastly antitoxins that fight pests and bacteria). Fish/seaweed emulsion is a must for getting your soil balanced. We use the liquid form because the nutrients get into the soil immediately.
Good stuff even if it smells terrible!
6) Every spring we add in more of what we need from the list above. This year we didn’t add top soil to the beds, but we did add more to the in-ground gardens. If you look at the photo above, I have one bed prepped at the time of writing this post today. The bed behind it is unprepped, yet we amend each bed the same every spring. You can visually see why we need to continually amend every year. It may sound like a lot of work, but it is worth every minute of effort. (PS: the plants growing in the bed in the back photo is rhubarb — which is nearly impossible to grow in the South — we firmly believe that it’s what we do to our soil that helps these healthy rhubarb plants return every spring!)
What if you have clay soil, as we do here on the acreage?
Moving from the rich, ‘black gold’ soil of Iowa to the red, hard, clay soil of the Carolina’s was one of the biggest challenges this gardener has ever encountered in all of my years of gardening. But not to worry, with a little elbow grease, back muscle, and copious amounts of amending organic ingredients to condition the soil, we have converted our gardens throughout the years into healthy and happy homes for our plants.
It does seem like a never-ending battle at times, but for us, the effort is worth the wonderful result: beautiful flowers, shrubs, and trees plus large amounts of fruits and veggies!
Always resulting in productive gardens!
Hey, before you go, I’ve had lots of people ask me how to amend the soil for growing SUPERB TOMATOES! Here’s the link for these great tips that I know will help you grow amazing tomatoes too!