Prepar­ing gar­den beds for spring and be­yond

The Catoosa County News - - WORSHIP DIRECTORY -

Gar­den­ing en­thu­si­asts may have been think­ing about their land­scape plans through­out the win­ter, ea­ger to once again get their hands dirty with soil. Whether a home gar­dener is mak­ing prepa­ra­tions for ed­i­ble crops or beau­ti­ful flow­ers, he or she must take time to make the soil amenable to plant­ing. To es­tab­lish hearty, durable plants, gar­den­ers can fo­cus on three main ar­eas: ad­dress­ing soil com­po­si­tion, cultivating and adding nu­tri­ents.

Soil com­po­si­tion

Many gar­den­ers pre­fer grow­ing a va­ri­ety of plants in their gar­dens. Such an ap­proach re­quires tak­ing in­ven­tory of the type of soil in one’s gar­den and mak­ing the nec­es­sary mod­i­fi­ca­tions so that the types of veg­eta­bles, herbs, shrubs, or flow­ers that will be planted can grow in strongly. In fact, ac­cord­ing to the plant com­pany Proven Win­ners, the most im­por­tant step to de­vel­op­ing good roots is prepar­ing the soil.

Take a sam­ple of the soil and ex­am­ine it to see what is present. If the soil is too full of clay, too sandy, too dense, or too loose, that can lead to prob­lems where plants can­not grow in strong. Work with a gar­den cen­ter to add the right soil amend­ments to make a rich soil. This may in­clude or­ganic com­post or ma­nure, which will also add nu­tri­ents to the soil.

Cul­ti­va­tion

Cultivating the soil can in­volve dif­fer­ent steps. Re­moval of weeds, er­rant rocks, roots, and other items will help pre­pare the soil. Mother Earth News sug­gests work­ing on gar­den soil when the soil is damp but never wet; other­wise, gar­den soil can be­come messy and clumpy. Use a dig­ging fork or shovel to lightly turn the soil when it’s mostly dry. Gen­tle till­ings also can open up the soil to in­cor­po­rate the nu­tri­tional amend­ments and re­lieve com­paction that likely oc­curred from freez­ing temps and snow pres­sure. Tilling also helps with drainage and oxy­gen de­liv­ery to roots. The DIY Net­work sug­gests turn­ing over soil at a depth of 12 inches to work the soil - about the length of a shovel spade. How­ever, the re­source Earth Easy says that ex­ist­ing gar­den beds have a com­plex soil ecosys­tem and sim­ply top­dress­ing with com­post or ma­nure can be enough prepa­ra­tion for plant­ing. Gar­den­ers can ex­per­i­ment with the meth­ods that work best for their gar­dens.

Nu­tri­tion

Test­ing the pH and the lev­els of cer­tain nu­tri­ents in the soil, namely nitro­gen, phos­pho­rous and potassium, will give gar­den­ers an idea of other soil ad­di­tions that may be needed. Soils with a pH be­low 6.2 of­ten can ben­e­fit from the ad­di­tion of lime sev­eral weeks be­fore plant­ing. Soil tests will de­ter­mine just how much fer­til­izer to add to the soil. Com­plete fer­til­iz­ers will have equal amounts of nitro­gen, phos­pho­rous and potassium. In­di­vid­ual fer­til­iz­ers can amend the soil with only these nu­tri­tional el­e­ments that are needed.

Top-dress­ing empty beds with a layer of mulch or com­post can pre­vent weed growth and pre­serve mois­ture un­til it is time to plant. If ex­ist­ing shrubs or plants are in gar­den beds, use more care so as not to dis­turb roots or dig too deeply.

Prepar­ing gar­den beds takes some ef­fort ini­tially, but can be well worth the work when plants flour­ish through­out the grow­ing sea­son.

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