How to Prepare Organic Garden Ground
Before ever planting your first seed, prepare your ground for next spring! Organic gardening is something that gets better with time. Depending on what abuse you have given your soil, it may take many years to get the ground up to par.
Never fear, start planning your organic garden in the fall and winter so next spring you will have a jump start on your healthful, organic vegetables, herbs and fruits.
This plan is for a no-till organic garden. You will till the ground the first year and then never again after that.
Most manure, when applied green/fresh/hot, will burn your plants. Uncomposted manure can spread parasites and other nasties as well. For the best results, compost your raw wastes by feeding them to red wigglers (Eisenia fetida/foetida).
Any manure can be composted but the very best will come from organically-fed animals. Chicken, pig, horse, goat, sheep, cow, llama, alpaca, elephant and other herbivore feces composts quickly into rich fertilizer.
You CAN compost dog and cat manure but it might be stinkier and might harbor more parasites. I avoid using carnivore poop around my gardens and in my worm bins.
To compost easily, just pile the manure in layers. Manure/brown leaves/manure/brown leaves--etc. As you go, you can toss several handfuls of red wigglers throughout the moistened layers.
This is an open system so the red wigglers can escape easily. They will not if you keep them fed and the manure pile at an optimal temperature and moisture level.
Cover your composting pile with a layer of straw or a light-colored tarp. Do not use black as this may overheat the worm pile. Worms will migrate away if the pile becomes dangerously hot. They will usually return when the temperature comes down.
Leave this pile to sit for several months, over the winter (or two), if it all possible. The resulting compost and worm castings will be a rich addition to your organic garden.
You can purchase red wigglers online or gather your own beneath livestock poop. Its easier to purchase them though.
Preparing the Soil:
Till your soil deeply. This will break up unyielding clumps and help to remove large stones. Save your stones for later garden projects.
Rake the soil level. Stand back and decide where your pathways will be. Walk only on these areas. The planting spots will never be tilled again so you must never walk through them.
Apply a very thick layer of compost to the garden area. I do mean THICK. If you have planned ahead enough, you should have enough compost to put down six, or more inches of organic waste.
Water the compost thoroughly and allow it to sit over night.
Lay down several inches of straw mulch to the entire garden. Even the walkways. Water the straw down to it creates a solid-looking mat. This will keep weeds from growing later. Weed seeds germinate quickly, so as soon as you till, put that mulch down. It is much easier to keep seeds from germinating than to pull up sprouting weeds seedlings. This is why you must never pull back more straw than you need to plant.
When you are ready to plant the garden, simply pull back only as much straw as needed to plant the seeds or plant starts. The rest of the garden should be completely covered, at all times, with straw (or newspaper/cardboard/seedless hay/cut grass).
Walking on the mulched paths will compress the straw and make a neat and tidy pathway. It will also prevent weeds from sprouting. I had only a handful of weeds my entire growing season this year. My dear husband, who didn't mulch, had more weeds than garden plants. He worked really hard weeding but they finally beat him.
I only watered my garden a few times, the entire growing season. He had to water weekly, or more. Anyone that has to pay for water knows how expensive a large garden can be. I used rainwater, collected in my rain barrel for the veggies and my flowers.
The thick layer of mulch holds moisture very well and keeps plants growing at a healthy rate. This is the best growing method I have ever used.
Since you are working on ground that isn't stepped on, the soil is loose and airy. Any weeds that manage to sprout come out easily! Organic gardening is too awesome, y'all.
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