How do I prepare the soil for my Vegetable Garden? Plants prepare their food using sunlight, air, nutrients, and water. Roots grow downward in the soil in search of nutrients, water for food preparation and oxygen for breathing. It is important to prepare the soil before gardening so that the roots can easily access them. A well-nourished root will make a plant, strong, healthy and improve the yield. So it is essential that you prepare the soil for gardening.
Prepare the Soil for Sunlight & Air
All Vegetables require at least 6-8 hours of sunlight for food preparation. So choose a suitable spot for your garden. Clear out weeds, rocks, grass and other foreign agents from the garden bed. Use gardening tools to dig and loosen the soil to a depth of about 12 inches. This will aerate the soil. Now, the roots can easily penetrate the soil. Next, do a soil test to assess the quality and condition of your soil.
Prepare the soil for better Soil QualityAdditives determine the quality of the soil
The soil is of different types – silt, sand, and clay. When sand is too much in the soil, it will be porous, water retention will be less, and the soil easily dries and is unsuitable for planting. Similarly, when there is too much clay, it will be overly wet and forms lumps and is not ideal for roots to breathe. For vegetable gardening, the soil should be a combination of all these types. So add coarse sand, or, clay-rich soil, or, compost, treated manure, humus to your soil, as suggested by your soil test to improve the soil quality. Or add good topsoil or potting soil for immediate planting.
Prepare the soil for higher Organic Matter in SoilOrganic Matter in Soil
Adding compost to your soil will make any soil perfect for cultivation. After digging, add compost up to a depth of 6 inches in your soil. Turn it well without compressing the soil. Since compost takes time to break down, so add it 2-3 months before planting. Composting can also be done directly on the soil.
Water to prepare the soil
Water your soil and retain the desired moisture level. The soil should not be soggy before planting. Allow it to dry if it’s wet. Compost and sand will help drain excess water. To maintain the moisture content and prevent weed growth, cover your garden bed with 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch. For e.g. peat moss, fallen leaves, cardboard, newspaper, etc.
A soil test will also reveal the nutrient level in the soil – pH, phosphorus, lime, etc. Low or high pH soil, is not good for plant growth. To achieve a desirable pH, add organic matter to the soil. Alternatively, plant cover crops like cereals – wheat, oats, barley, or legumes like beans, etc. Cereals are deep-rooted plants. They bring nutrients back from great depths into their stems and leaves. Nitrogen is essential for strong plant growth and plants cannot absorb it from the air. Legumes help in nitrogen fixing in the soil. These cover crops will also prevent weeds from growing. After about 3-4 weeks, kill the cover crops, without pulling out the roots by covering it to the ground. When they decompose, they return nutrients, nitrogen, etc. back to the soil hence, it will be available for your next plant in 2-3 weeks.
Divide your garden into small plots since it will be easy to maintain and access. Providing pathways in between will prevent us from walking on the garden bed. Install fences, mesh, cages, etc. wherever necessary to prevent pest, rodents, etc. from destroying the soil.