Preparing Your Garden For Spring Planting
Spring is almost here and that means gardening time. My garden beds have been built for a few years and the dirt remains in them all year round and from the looks of it, I could go out and plant today. If you don't have raised beds and just dig down into the soil even better right? The garden is always ready to go in that case. Well, probably not. There are things that need to be done each spring before planting vegetables to ensure a good harvest.
First, remove any garden debris leftover from the previous season. I usually pull my plants in the fall, but not always. Do a general clean up of the area. Pull any weeds, remove any trash, etc. If there are dried leaves leftover from the fall, I just work them into the soil as this will provide more nutrients than removing them. There are some crops that winter over, like garlic and strawberries. I cover these crops with a thick layer of straw so that they survive the winter. Now is the time to remove this straw. I add it to our compost pile.
Second, the soil needs to dry out if you have had a lot of rain. It won't work to plant your vegetables or seeds into saturated and murky soil. Also, if it has been too dry over the winter, water it well before planting to ensure your vegetables get off to a good start.
Third, before planting time, it is good to assess the situation. Were you overrun with weeds last year? If so, cover your garden area with black plastic to kill any weed seeds that could have lived over the winter. This should be left on for a couple of weeks of sunshine in order to get it hot enough to kill weeds. A side benefit of this is that it heats up the soil and can mean earlier planting.
Fourth, feed the soil. Soil is a living thing and should be fed year round. This doesn't mean adding chemical fertilizer. Every year you should feed your soil with compost, manure, grass clippings, dried leaves, etc. I have had my raised beds for four years. I use the Square Foot Gardening method and started with the organic soil mix Mel Bartholomew recommends. This excellent soil can quickly be depleted though, so each year I add a bag of chicken manure, a wheel barrow full of compost and lots of crushed egg shells to each garden bed. Between this and using grass clippings as mulch in the summer and working in dried leaves in the fall my soil is excellent every single year.
Lastly, it is time to plant. Make sure you know which crops like to be planted in the same spot every year and which need rotating. Pay attention to what vegetables do well after certain vegetables and which ones do poorly. Make a plan and get to work. It won't be long before you are harvesting dinner from your own back yard.