Land Preperation

Preparing soil that will produce a healthy garden is more complicated that choosing a spot and digging holes to plant in. You need to choose a location that has good sun exposure, is free of root systems, and has good drainage. You’ll need to test the soil for sand and clay content, and it’s good to have a garden center test a sample for the pH level and nutrient concentrations. Then you will turn the soil over, removing rocks and roots. Lastly, you will need to add organic matter, soil amendments like clay and sand, and smooth out the whole plot before planting.

1, Sample the soil makeup. Use a shovel to dig into the soil, and grab a handful of it. See what the soil seems to be made up of. It might be sandy or have a lot of clay, or it may be good rich dirt. Soil with too much sand or clay will not usually grow garden plants very well.

2, The soil should feel fluffy, like it is full of air, because this means it gets plenty of oxygen.this is also a good time to see if there are lots of worms and insects in the soil, as this usually means the soil is fairly rich.Depending on what the soil is like in your area, you can add soil amendments later to get it to the proper makeup.Generally, dark brown or nearly black soil is best because it tends to mean the soil has a lot of decomposing organic matter and is rich in nutrients. Pale brown or nearly yellow soil tends to be less nutrient rich.

3, Test for nutrients buy a home test kit,Ideal pH is around 6.5-6.8. Adding lime is a common way to adjust the pH of soil, but it is a long process that take about six months to fully take effect in the soil. You can make up for other lacking nutrients with fertilizer and compost, which will be discussed more later

4, Evaluate how wet the soil is. When you are first starting a garden, especially if you’re starting it at the beginning of Spring, you need to wait until the soil has dried out enough. If you squeeze a handful of the soil and it stays packed together, it’s probably still too wet You can perform this test once a week or so until the soil is dry enough to begin garden preparation. soil that has a high clay content will pack more, but this does not necessarily mean the soil is too wet.

5, Dig up the top couple of inches of sod. You need to use a shovel to slice up under any grass, moss, or weeds that are currently growing where you have planned your garden. Make sure to dig deep enough to get weeds out at their root. You may want to go about four inches deep for this step. All of this can go to the compost pile for later use, but shouldn't be incorporated back into the soil until it has composted.You may also want a bin ready just for composting this layer outside of other composts you might have.

6, Turn over the soil using a shovel For new plots, you’ll want to turn the soil over about 12-18 inches deep. You may want to dig that deep into the soil with a shovel, and then go over the plot a second time with a tiller to break the soil up as you dig through the soil, remove any large stones, along with any roots or debris (eg, bits of metal, plastic etc) you encounter. You may need to make more than one pass to break up very compacted soils.this may be the most time consuming part of the project, especially if you end up finding a lot of rocks or other debris. It’s good to have a garbage can nearby in which you can throw anything you find in the soil.

7, Add other soil amendments as necessary. When you check the soil composition and have it tested, you can find out if you need to add sand, clay, or other topsoil to make the soil the best possible mixture for your garden. This is something that a garden center can be exceptionally helpful for. You don’t want to overdo it with adding sand or clay, so try to add a little at a time to even out the overall texture of the soil. You may want to add gypsum or perlite which help to aerate the soil if your test reveals low oxygen content. Sphagnum peat moss is a helpful amendment if you can tell the soil is pretty dry as it helps retain moisture and slowly release it into the soil. You may need to add some basic fertilizer which can help balance the nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which are all vital to healthy plant growth.

8, Add organic matter to the soil at a ratio of 1:1. This means, try to add as much organic matter as you can so the top layer of your garden is half the soil that was already there and half added organic matter. Organic matter can include shredded brown and green leaves, horse manure, wood chips, or compost, such as fruit and vegetable scraps. You don’t not need to add organic matter to the entire 12-18 inches you previously dug, but add it to the top 6-8 inches. Do not add meat, fish, or dairy as organic matter into the soil. Likewise, if you choose to maintain a compost bin or pile, never add these types of scraps to it.

9, Turn the soil over again with shovel or tiller.Since you have added multiple materials to the soil, you want to make sure it is all mixed through the soil evenly. This may take going over the entire garden plot 2-3 times to ensure that it seems mixed thoroughly. It might be a good idea to lightly water the soil after turning it again so that everything can soak together.