by Matt Gibson
The key to a successful vegetable garden is healthy soil. But even if your garden area doesn’t have perfect soil, you can improve it. In this guide, we’ll show you how to prep your garden beds so that you’ll end up with your best vegetable garden yet this season.
Clear The Beds
When do you want to clear the beds for spring planting? Preferably, in the fall. You may have some flowers planted there or some other plants that you care for during other seasons, but if you are trying to get your beds whipped into shape for vegetable gardening, the best time to start is in the fall.
However, if you don’t want to begin cleaning out the beds that early, waiting until early spring to clear the beds is an alternative option. First, clear the entire beds of any weeds and debris. Be sure to yank the weeds up by the roots, and get any sign of them completely out of the garden soil so they don’t rear their heads again during the growing season.
Analyze and Amend Soil
During fall when you’re clearing the beds is also a good time to analyze the soil if you have the means. Do a soil test and see exactly what type of soil you’re working with. Too much sand will make the soil too dry for many plants, while too much clay will make the soil too wet for some vegetables.
The perfect soil for vegetable gardening is a good combination of earth, sand, and clay. Depending on what you find out from the test, you may want to add in a bit of what your soil is lacking to achieve the proper balance.
Dig up the soil using a shovel or garden fork, going about 12 to 14 inches deep. If you have a rototiller, this is the time to break it out and let it work its magic. During this phase, you can work in a three- to four-inch layer of compost, rotted manure, or other amendments needed. Also, continue to remove any debris, such as rocks and stones, that you might find. Rake the soil until it is as level as possible. The end result should be loose, well-aerated soil with excellent drainage.
Fertilize The Soil
Once you have gotten the soil cleared, tilled, and better balanced, now is the time to add in the precious plant food that will help your vegetables grow optimally and produce plentiful harvests.
We like organic fertilizers for vegetable gardening, but standard fertilizers are also an option. Space the bags out evenly on the top of the freshly plowed and mixed ground. Break open the bags, and pour their contents out on the top of the beds. Spread fertilizer with a rake, and work it directly into the ground by piercing the soil with a shovel, breaking through at least six inches deep into the cultivated soil you prepared during the first few steps.
Alternate between the rake and the shovel to work the fertilizer into the soil, turning the soil with a shovel and smoothing out the surface with the rake. IMPORTANT. Always follow the instructions on the bag when you are adding fertilizer, so that you do not burn your plants or harm your soil.
Continue to Amend With Compost
In the world of gardening, patience is key. However, there are always ways to work around if you have a shortage of prep time and still find success. If you decided to plant after just one season of preparation, it’s not the end of the world. You will just want to do some work in between growing seasons to get the soil back to the nutrient-rich levels needed for optimal vegetable growing.
Add in compost as early as possible so that it has time to break down before the next spring rolls around again. Before long, you’ll be passing by the produce section in lieu of your homegrown bounty—all thanks to your hard work preparing your garden’s soil.