Although the weather is still cold and dreary in my neck of the woods, spring will soon be in the air. Despite my previous failed attempts at maintaining beautifully groomed gardens, I will again be planting some fruits, vegetables, and flowers around my house this year. Preparing the soil for gardening is essential for maintaining a healthy garden and plants. However, many gardeners—especially new gardeners—are often stumped about how best to prepare garden soil in preparation for planting. By following these tips for cleaning, tilling, and fertilizing soil, even the most experienced gardener can easily prepare the soil in their garden.
Cleaning the Soil
The first step for preparing the soil for gardening is to clean up the soil. Begin by removing any garbage such as plastic bags, food wrappers, or disposable cups that may have accumulated in your garden over the winter. Then move any large natural debris such as sticks and rocks. If you are cleaning up an old garden, next pull out any weeds and old plants that may have sprouted at the beginning of the spring. The best way to dig up unwanted plants is to remove each individual plant from the soil at the root with a garden trowel. If there are any large patches of grass in your garden, use a garden fork to twist the roots loose before digging the grass up with a trowel. If you are turning a lawn into a garden, use a sod stripper or tiller to remove or loosen up the grass before cleaning the rest of the plants out by hand. It is not recommended that you mix the unwanted plants into the soil because the roots can sprout and create a weed problem.
Tilling the Soil
After you have cleaned the garbage and weeds from your garden, you will need to till the soil. If your garden is old, simply use a tiller or garden fork to turn the soil over. Dig down between six and eight inches, and the turn over the soil. If you have turned lawn into garden or your soil is hard and difficult to work with, spread peat moss over the garden before tilling. Peat moss will make the soil looser and will help retain and distribute moisture. Other materials to turn into the soil include grass clippings and dead leaves. After you have tilled the soil, level out the surface of your garden with a gardening rake.
Fertilizing the Soil
While tilling your garden, you also have the option of adding fertilizer to the soil. Fertilizer improves the nutrients present in the soil and comes in organic and inorganic varieties. If you are using a store bought fertilizer, follow the directions on the package for application. For questions about the best type of fertilizer for your garden, consult a professional at a garden store about the fertilization needs for the soil in your area. Two great alternatives to commercial fertilizers are homemade compost and manure. A compost pile for organic kitchen scraps from fruits and vegetables is easy to start in most backyards. Gardeners who live on or near animal farms will often have an inexpensive and readily available supply of manure on hand. Before tilling, spread the compost or manure on top of the soil, and then till in.
Maintaining a healthy garden means preparing the soil before gardening. By cleaning, tilling, and fertilizing the soil, a gardener can easily be preparing the soil for gardening. Soon the weather will turn warm again in my neck of the woods and gardening season will begin. Is your soil ready to plant?
Fertilized Garden Soil: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paardenstalmest_Horse_manure.jpg