Home Vegetable Garden Guide

Soil Preparation

The last step in planning your garden is soil preparation. Good soil is key to the success of any vegetable garden. Once you have located and designed the perfect garden location, you will need to examine the soil as well as have it tested for nutrient levels in order make amendments needed for successful plant growth.

Examine

The soil should be crumbly, but slightly moist. Spring soil can be too wet to plant in. When you squeeze a handful of soil, it should break apart into smaller clumps. If it clings into a ball, it is too wet and compacted. You will need to wait for it to dry more before planting.

Testing

Most local county offices can advise you on testing the soil in your area. The results of the soil test will indicate the pH (acid-alkaline balance) of the soil as well as the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium content. The necessary nutrient levels are relative to the soil type and the crop being grown, so be sure to inform the laboratory that you are growing a vegetable garden to get the proper recommendations. Although different vegetable plants have varying requirements, the soil test institution calculates an optimum average for recommendations.

Amendments

It's good practice to incorporate organic matter each year while preparing the soil. The addition of organic matter to make the soil drain better or hold more water in addition to providing valuable nutrients. The pH number is important because it affects the availability of most of the essential nutrients in the soil.

 

CORRECTING THE pH: The pH can be adjusted using lime or rock sulfur. Below are recommendations to use as general guidelines.

Always following manufacturer specific recommendations when using any chemical.

 

Increase the soil pH by 1.0:

Hydrated Lime per squared yard Soil Type
4 oz Sandy
8 oz Loamy
12 oz Clay
25 oz Peaty

Reduce the soil pH by 1.0:

Ground Rock Sulfur per square yard Soil Type
1.2 oz Sandy
3.6 oz All other soils
Please note: The correction of an overly acid soil should be considered a long term project, rather than trying to accomplish it with one treatment. It is better to test your soil each year and make your adjustments, gradually increasing the pH. The addition of hardwood ash, bone meal, crushed marble, or crushed oyster shells will also help to raise the soil pH.

Final Soil Preparations

Use a tiller or hand tools to turn and loosen the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. Working in any amendments directly in the planting area in your furrows or raised beds can be accomplished quite easily at this time. We highly recommend working compost and fertilizer at least once a year during this time. Remove clumps of grass, roots, stones, lumps and assorted debris that accumulated over the winter.