For a great garden this spring, start with great soil!
Whether you are planting a veggie garden or flower beds, starting with great soil will lead to bountiful harvests and spectacular blooms. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have great soil, we have to make it! So get out those shovels and spades, and follow these steps to great soil and/or watch my video ‘How to Prepare Soil’.
Step 1: Dig and turn soil
Dig soil with a shovel or garden spade to a depth of 10 inches or more throughout the vegetable or flower bed area to be planted. It’s a little bit of work, but think of the calories you’re burning! (or recruit someone with a strong back to do it for you!)
Step 2: Spread soil amendment on top of soil
Spread 3 to 4 inches of soil amendment on top of the soil.
To create great soil, you need the right balance of minerals, organic matter, air, and moisture. ‘Amending’ the soil means to add something to the soil to get it to retain water but drain well, and have a texture that allows good root growth. ‘Organic matter’ is usually the ‘amendment’ that is needed for most garden soils. Whether you have clay soil or sandy soil adding organic matter will improve its texture, drainage, and water retention. ‘Organic matter’ soil amendment is sold under the names compost, soil amendment, garden soil. It is made up of decomposed once living things like bark, plant waste, manure, straw, etc. Note that some soil amendments may also have fertilizer added. If you want to have an ‘organic’ garden, be sure to choose soil amendments labeled ‘organic’ or ‘OMRI Listed’. For more information on types of amendments, see the University of California’s ‘Amendments for Landscape Soils’.
Step 3: Sprinkle fertilizer on top of soil
Choose a fertilizer that is recommended for the type of plants you will be planting, ie: vegetable fertilizer, flower fertilizer. If growing vegetables and you want grow ‘organic’, choose fertilizers labeled ‘organic’. Read the package for the amount to add to your planting area. This will usually be in terms of the square foot area of your garden bed. For instance, if the bed is 4′ by 5′ then the area is 4 x 5 or 20 square feet. If the recommended amount is 1 cup per 10 square feet, then in this example you would need to use 2 cups of fertilizer for the 20 square foot bed.
Step 4: Cultivate amendment and fertilizer into soil
Use a pronged cultivator tool to mix the soil amendment and fertilizer into the soil thoroughly. Chop up dirt clods until you have a nice crumbly soil texture.
Step 5: Rake soil smooth
Using a rake (or your hands if it’s a small area), rake the soil smooth and level so that there will be no puddling when you water.
Now you’re ready to plant and watch those plants grow like crazy in the great soil you’ve created!