Before plants go into the ground, there is plenty to do in the garden. Plants take up a lot of minerals and nutrients from the ground and throughout the growing season, especially if they are producing vegetables. These both need to be replenished in the spring if you want keep an equally well producing garden. Follow these guidelines to help your garden grow well and produce a good crop for your family.

• Start off by clearing out your garden from last year’s plants that may still be in the ground. Remove any debris such as dead weeds, leaves and twigs, etc. that may have blown into the garden space over the winter if they haven’t begun to break down already.

• Next, loosen dirt with a fork by digging in about 12 inches and turning soil over, breaking up clumps as you go along. Hard rains and heavy snow compact soil, leaving your garden bed unsuitable for plants. Loosening the dirt freshens the soil and aerates it, giving delicate roots room to grow freely and allows much needed oxygen to get to them. It will also help with proper drainage.

Once you have your soil turned over, it’s the time to balance your soil texture. Vegetables like well draining, loamy soil. If you have a lot of clay or are making your garden for the first time, you will probably need to add sand. Coarse sand helps with good drainage and also helps break up the clay. This helps needed oxygen to get to the plant roots. You can purchase sand in bags. This mixture should be done at a rate to make a nice ball when compacted in your hand. Add sand slowly until you find the right ratio to make a ball that holds together when squeezed, but is not sticky . You will also want to blend in some compost or peat moss. This can also be purchased in bags. Spread compost evenly to 3-4″. This will help replenish much needed nutrients and good bacteria to your garden as well as lighten up the soil. (If your ground is too sandy, you will need to add topsoil or gardening soil.)

• Use digging fork or shovel to turn mixture and soil together, making it as uniform as possible.

Good gardening earth is a combination of nutrients and the right soil texture. At this point, you need to determine if there are any additional supplements your garden needs. We recommend Pelletized Gypsum to help with calcium, which is needed to avoid Blossom End Rot, a disease found in tomatoes caused by lack of calcium. You may also need to add a good fertilizer, lime to balance PH, or a selection of other additives available today. Rock dust will add minerals and trace elements to your soil, which is much needed to keep plants healthy. You can purchase a PH soil test kit to help determine what your soil is lacking.

• Fertilizers and minerals can be broadcast and a hoe used to mix into a few inches of soil.

Soil can become so depleted of natural minerals and nutrients, that if not taken care of on a yearly basis, can cause plants to not grow properly or produce as they should over time. This can be challenging to bring back up to proper status, so do yourself a favor and keep on top of your soil’s needs. Whether you are growing an organic or non-organic garden, it is important to keep your soil fed. In addition to the above suggestions, a good fertilizer can also help maximize the nutrients in your garden.

A healthy garden starts with healthy soil. Be sure to replenish those spent nutrients and minerals before planting every spring and you will have happy plants!

Until next time, Happy Planting!
~Liz

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” ~Audrey Hepburn