Soil preparation for a vegetable garden comes even before selecting plants and seeds. Without preparing garden soil providing good plant soil your vegetable garden will not prosper. It may be necessary to add soil amendments to improve soil composition or texture.
Loamy soil, usually darker in color is best for growing vegetables and other plants. Soil should not have either too much sand, or too much clay, but be somewhere in between. Garden soil with a good composition could be best described as \’crumbly\’. You can test this by taking a handful of soil and squeezing it into a ball until it clumps and then poking it with your finger. If it clumps but breaks apart when you poke it, then it has a good texture.
Clay soil makes growing a struggle for your vegetable plants. The heaviness of clay is restrictive making it difficult for your plants to grow up though it. Clay can hold both water and nutrients, but sometimes holds too much water, restricts air flow, and warms up slowly. Clay soil is also difficult for the home gardener to work.
Sand, on the other hand drains well, but loses nutrients rapidly due to it\’s overactive drainage factor. Because of it\’s drainage factor, sandy soil may dry out too fast and make garden soil hard to maintain from a watering standpoint.
Organic matter is one of the best ammendments for poor garden soil. Organic matter from a compost heap that is properly aged can be of great benefit to your soil. Fresh manures should never be applied to a soon to be planted garden area. If you are going to use manure, start in the fall, apply the manure and till it under.
Another method to improve garden soil is planting a cover crop referred to as \’green manure\’ in the fall about a month before frost. Annual rye, ryegrass and oats can be planted in the fall and tilled two to three weeks before planting time. Do not allow crops to go to seed. Cover crops hold water, prevent the loss of nutrients in the garden and help prevent erosion of the soil.
Beneficial Organisms And Soil
Adding manure, compost and cover crops will help to increase and maintain the nutrient level of garden soil as well as improve it\’s physical makeup. The other benefit is that it will encourage the activity of microorganisms and macro-organisms.
The larger of these small creatures or macro-organisms are earthworms which eat their way through the soil. The waste they cast off adds nutrients to garden soil. They also help to keep the soil loose, allowing for air circulation and improved drainage.
Many of the others, called microorganisms, are so small we never see them. There can be hundreds to millions in a single cupful of soil. The majority of these are beneficial to soil and should be welcomed by the avid gardener. As in all things, there are a few that create problems. Overall, the activity and presence of these small creatures is very beneficial to garden soil.
Garden soil should never be worked when it is wet. First of all, it is difficult to work. Aside from that, working soil before it is dry enough to be workable will pack it down and can actually be damaging to the soil.
Soil Sampling For Ph Level
Using a soil testing kit can be a good place to start. By running a soil test, you start out knowing what you have to work with, and you will have a fix on what soil amendment is needed.
Ph levels run between 1 and 14. A ph rating of 1 is super acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. A ph of 7 is considered neutral. You can contact your local extension service and get instruction for having your soil tested, or there are also soil testing kits available. This will determine the alkaline or acidic level of your soil. Most vegetable crops do well with a ph level between 6.2 to 6.8. A soil testing kit will tell you other things about your soil, and take the guesswork out of what soil may be needed.