The birds are singing, the ground is thawed, which means it’s time to prepare your soil for planting.
In different areas of the country, you can start preparing your soil earlier. For instance, down south, the weather becomes warmer earlier, but up here in the north, a person needs to wait a while longer as our weather is bipolar at times (especially this year).
Nevertheless, when the ground is thawed and the freezing temperature is behind you, it’s time to prepare the soil for planting.
Now there are different beliefs on preparing the soil. Some believe in no-tilling through the entire planting process and harvesting.
“No-till farming (also known as zero tillage or direct drilling) is an agricultural technique for growing crops or pasture without disturbing the soil through tillage. No-till farming decreases the amount of soil erosion tillage causes in certain soils, especially in sandy and dry soils on sloping terrain.
Other possible benefits include an increase in the amount of water that infiltrates into the soil, soil retention of organic matter, and nutrient cycling. These methods may increase the amount and variety of life in and on the soil. While conventional no-tillage systems use herbicides to control weeds, organic systems use a combination of strategies, such as planting cover crops as mulch to suppress weeds.” -Wikipedia
No-tilling is one method and then there are others, like us, who till first thing in the spring. I love it when the ground gets turned up, and you see the dark layers of soil.
Note, you shouldn’t till when the wind is blowing extremely hard as you do not want your top soil blowing away. Also, through out the winter and even early spring add compost, ashes, and other natural supplements to keep replenishing your soil so it does not become depleted.
If you are unsure what your soil needs, you can get information or bring in a sample to your county extension office.
How Much Soil is Enough?
You do not need a large plot of dirt to have a garden. There are lots of methods where vertical planting can save on space. Also, using five-gallon buckets for tomatoes adds additional planting space. If using a bucket, however, you still need to make sure you have quality soil.
Where Should you Plant a Garden?
When you have tilled or are ready to plant using the no-till method, make sure your garden area is not a bog. Yes, you want water, but you don’t need to drown your seeds or plants. This means do not plant where gutters will drain into your garden or where there is a low area that holds water when it rains. Natural drainage is the best kind, so choose areas where the garden will sit a little higher or where there is a natural small slope.
The soil will not be so hard when you choose these types of areas, which means your seedlings will have an easier time germinating and growing. Keeping your soil happy is the best way to keep your veggies or plants growing healthy and nutritious.
Just think of it as your body. What you put in your body, fill up with, or ingest, creates your entire body’s strength and overall health. Your movement, energy, etc., comes from the food and minerals you feed it just like a plant. In other words what we feed the soil produces the quality of the entire plant and thus your produce.
Now there are elements that come along depleting the nutrition and minerals which is why it’s a good idea to get the soil checked every few years. Or simply keep an eye on your plants each year to see if they are still healthy and thriving.
Remember keeping your soil healthy is like your body; it’s the base and foundation. Once that is taken care of the plants will thrive.
Continuing the Care of the Soil
After your seeds have been planted and all through harvest time, keep the soil free of weeds which will rob your plants of the nutrients they need. This can be done by spacing out your rows so you can till in-between or pull out the weeds using your hands or other tools. Straw, cardboard, or old carpet can also be laid in the rows to help keep weeds at bay.
Also, water the ground when needed. If you want your plants to grow to their full potential, they need water. Set up rain barrows to catch nature’s very best and natural liquid, or use a sprinkling system or hose.
After Harvest Care
After you have harvested the last of your produce and your garden area is clear, you can till one last time before winter or, using the no-till method, plant a cover crop.
Like the year before, add ashes, compost, or manure to replenish what your soil so graciously gave. Often we have small piles in our garden that come spring we till under.
After using the same garden spots for over 15 years, the soil is still thriving, as are the plants. There’s nothing like caring for something that so selflessly gives back year after year.
Let the groundbreaking and garden preparation begin.