Winter Garden Bed Preparation
Getting Your Garden Bed Ready For Spring Vegetable Planting
It's not unknown for my vegetable garden to be somewhat of a jungle in Winter, because the weeding doesn't get done. Grass and weeds take over with a vengeance, so a lot of work needs to be done to prepare the beds for seeds and seedlings. It's best to work at preparation during Winter, as it's a time when not much grows, especially if you live in a frosty area.
I was going to put up a picture of the weeds and grass which had taken over my veggie patch, but it would be too embarrassing to show you the size of the thistles and other things which grew there. The made an ideal hiding place for slug and snails though, which is another reason for getting down to work on this area. Slugs and snails are definitely not welcome in anyone's vegetable patches or gardens.
Unless otherwise noted, all images are my own.
The First Step - Removing Weeds
The first thing to do in garden bed preparation is to remove all the weeds. Sounds easy, but when the section is as overgrown as this was, it's no easy task. Paspalum and couch grass, not to mention thistles, just do not want to go.
When you start work on the garden, dig down at least a foot, more if possible. Some types of grass can go down quite a long way to get under fences and edgings. At this stage, it's also a good idea to remove any stones you come across. Removed stones can be used in the bottom of plant pots, so they can be useful.
After a lot of hard work, the soil was heaped up and the ground was almost weed free. Did I mention that the weeds and grass kept growing? I swear they came up as soon as we finished work and turned to walk away.
Get yourself a good quality spade, and make digging a little easier.
Ready For Planting
Our soil is not that great, as it is just a very thin layer of topsoil over clay. We grew potatoes in this area in the past, to help break up the clay, but more needs to be done. Gypsum is helpful, and a good fertilizer is a must. We prefer the organic variety, and make our own compost. Growing green mulch in the bed is another option, but so far, we haven't used it.
The bed in the photo above has been dug, and forked over to break up the clay, and is now ready for planting. We'll add some compost and mulch when we're ready to plant, along with a little fertiliser to help the seeds and seedlings along.
It's a good idea never to plant the same variety of vegetable in a patch two years running. Having three or more beds which you can rotate is better.
Potatoes make a good first crop in a new vegetable patch, as they are ideal to break up the soil. Make sure you remove all the potatoes before replanting with other vegetable, as they can be quite invasive in the future.
Are you good at keeping the weeds down?
Once you've dug your garden, you'll need a good fork to break up the soil.
Finally, The Seedlings
Although we still had a couple of small areas to dig over, most of the vegetable patch was planted in time for Spring, and we are looking forward to reaping the results.
So far, we've had spinach, potatoes, peas, broad beans, and lettuce from the garden, and the recently moved strawberries are flowering happily. The tomatoes are flowering, and it looks as if we will have a good crop from them also.
The seedlings at the back of the photo are green beans, and the three at the front are pumpkins. The seeds in the middle hadn't come up when this photo was taken. The little green dots near the seedlings are snail bait, but it's a little hard to make out. Snails grow almost as fast as the weeds do.
Sometimes, instead of planting the seeds in separate areas, we mix them and spread them over a whole section. This helps protect them from pests, as the scent and appearance of the plants is disguised.,
The End Results - Some of the vegetables we've enjoyed in the past.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Freeze Your Excess Vegetables & Fruit
Some years, we have much better crops than others because of rainfall and heat differences. When we have a lot of vegetables and fruit, we freeze some of it, or preserve it. On occasions, we've even made wine with some fruit. It's a good way of saving money. We really recommend that if you have even a small garden, you prepare it for the next season, and enjoy some home-grown food!