Oooh, what a fun time! It’s time to prepare your garden. You’ve been looking through all the seed catalogues that have come in the mail. Now it’s time to really get serious about this years garden. So what do you need to do to get this years garden off to a great start? Let me count the ways.
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Looking through the catalogues is not enough. You need to decide which seeds to buy and get them ordered. Like right now! Not sure how to decide which ones to buy this year? (no not one of each. Yes, I know, I want to too.) What to plant in your vegetable garden will give you some ideas to narrow it down.
For this you need to know your planting zone and your frost free date. You can call your county extension service to get an approximate date for your area. Then look at the seed packet to find out when to start them. Are you starting them ahead of time inside? Starting seeds is a good place to check out first. If you are direct sowing there are a few things you need to do first.
You should check your soil PH and nutrient levels every year until you have them where they are optimal. You need this information to know what to add to your soil to make it the best it can be for growing your vegetables. And then check the levels every few years while doing the next thing on this list.
The single most important factor in creating a successful garden is soil preparation.
First check to see if your soil is dry enough to work. If you take a handful and squeeze it, it should crumble and crack apart. If it gushes water and stays in a tight ball, wait! If you work it when it is too wet you can make the structure of the soil worse and it will be hard for your plants to grow in it. Especially if you have clay soil. When the soil is dry enough to work, spread at least 1″-2″ (more is better) of grass clippings, leaf mold, compost, vermicompost, composted manure, old hay or whatever other organic matter you have on hand, on top of your garden and gently turn it into the first few inches of soil. Your soil needs this every year as rain, snow and just gravity compacts it. And organic materials continue to break down. If you don’t have enough organic material, you can buy fertilizer and commercial compost. But that is an expensive way to go.
Without a good supply of organic material, your soil will not hold the fertilizer nearly as long and you will have to keep adding it. Your soil will also dry out much quicker. After a few years of adding plenty of organic material most plants will not require added fertilizer, saving you a ton of money! Grass clippings are a great source of nitrogen and many other needed nutrients.
By adding an earthworm tower to your garden, you are insuring that you have worms that will break down what you just worked into the soil. Earthworms are wonderful for a garden. They turn organic matter into food that the plants can easily use. They bring up nutrients from down deep in the soil. Their travel tunnels bring air and nutrients to the plant’s roots and loosen the soil so the roots can easily spread out.
If you haven’t already, start a garden journal. You need to have a plan as to where you planted each plant so next year you can rotate your crops. You will also want to make notes on what variety you planted so you will know what you really liked and want to plant again. What you didn’t like. What the bugs and diseases liked more that you did. What the weather was like, and so many more things. Trust me, even if it’s just a three ring binder You need a garden journal.
After your plants are in the ground or coming up, don’t forget to mulch. Grass clippings are a great way to keep the soil moist and cool and to add some “slow release fertilizer” to your plants. Besides they are wonderful at suppressing weeds. If you use leaves, make sure you shred them first as they can become a blanket, not letting moisture through. Don’t use wood chips as they steel nitrogen from the soil, in order to break them down.
Don’t forget the flowers and companion plants. They help to attract the good bugs and scare away the bad. They attract pollinators and can help in so many other ways. Besides just making your garden so much prettier.
Want to learn more about building the soil, weed control and having the best garden you’ve ever had? Check out “Dirty Hands In Your Garden”.
Hoping you have a ducky gardening season!
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