Now that winter is finally over and the weather is turning warmer, it’s time to get your garden ready for planting. Robust plant growth isn’t an accident. Proper soil preparation is needed to ensure that vegetable gardens and flower gardens are productive as possible.
The first step toward planting a garden, if you are planting it directly in the ground, is to do a soil test. What is your soil type? Is your soil alkaline or acidic? Most plants prefer acidic, loamy soils. Sandy soils and clay soils on the other hand can be more difficult to grow in; if you have these soil types soil amendments may be needed. One of the best ways to help prepare your garden is by adding organic matter to the soil such as grass clippings from the first mowing of the year, or compost. These organic materials will help with both nutrient delivery for your plants and will also ensure that the soil holds a proper amount of water. If you are an organic gardener you may choose to exclusively use this type of garden soil addition as fertilizer.
Double digging may also help to prepare your garden for planting. When you double dig you are increasing soil drainage and aeration by loosening two layers of soil as you add in organic matter. This creates good garden soil for your plants to grow into and will help plant roots grow deep and strong.
Early in the season cover crops may be a good idea to plant. A cover crop is a plant that you grow specifically for the soil. It’s meant to grow and be turned under into the soil instead of being harvested for your plants. Growing a cover crop can help ensure that you have good soil and that your soil for planting is full of available nutrients for your vegetables.
In addition to planting directly in the ground, another good garden idea is to use raised beds. This means the soil is layered on top of your existing soil, generally within a frame. This can be done directly or in grow boxes. For these gardens, you’ll most likely purchase pre-prepared soil mixes that will come ready for use right away. They will have the proper nutrients available from the start and may make for an easier experience for beginning gardeners.