Healthy Soil, Happy Garden!
One of the most important things to do when preparing your garden is to make sure that you have rich and healthy soil. Here are some tips on what you can do to ensure that your soil is ready for planting season!
First things first, be sure to prepare your soil at the right time. If your soil is either frozen or soggy, wait for a little while longer. A good way to see if your soil is ready is to grab a handful and squeeze. If it forms a clump of mud, it is not ready to be worked on quite yet. If it falls apart, then it is ready!
1. Don’t use thin soil. It sounds simple, but it’s an easy mistake to make. To prevent this, dig through your garden to loosen the soil. Make sure you dig deep enough -- 6 to 8 inches of good soil is enough for most plants. If you are growing root-oriented crops, such as potatoes or carrots, digging even deeper (at least a foot) is ideal.
2. Get a soil test! Test your soil to see the nutrients it has and the nutrients it needs. A soil test will tell you the levels of pH, soluble salts (fertilizer dissolved in water), potassium, and more. There are a couple ways you can test your soil. You can purchase a soil test kit at a local store (they are pretty inexpensive). You can also contact your local cooperative extension service office and have someone come test it for you (it’ll either be free or very cheap). Another way is to research what type of soil you have, depending on what part of the country you live in.
3. Proper pH It is important to ensure that your soil has the proper level of pH. You can tell what level of pH your soil is at by conducting a soil test (see #2). If your soil is not at the right pH level, it can result in nutrient deficiency or toxicity in your plants. A pH at the level of 7 is considered neutral. Anything at a 7.5 or above is considered toxic. The ideal pH level would be anywhere in between 6 and 6.5. This will help promote strong and healthy plant growth in your crops!
4. Add lots of organic material Adding organic material is always a good idea. Dehydrated cow manure, compost, shredded leaves, and rotted horse manure are all-around great options to go with. How much you should add and what you should add to your garden depends on how fertile it already is, but be generous when distributing your organic material! Good soil needs moisture. Use a a drinking water safe hose so that you are not adding contaminants from the hose to your soil. Here is a list of materials to go with your soil’s specific needs:
- Ground bark: helps with the structure of your soil.
- Compost, Manure: conditions the soil
- Leaf mold: adds nutrients to soil
- Lime: makes pH level higher in acid soil; loosens clay soil
- Sand: helps with drainage, especially in clay soil
Happy gardening! Comment below with some of your own tips on how to create healthier soil in your gardens.
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