Preparing the ground for planting by getting rid of weeds and enhancing the soil is an important part of creating a beautiful garden. Putting effort into preparing your plot now can make a big difference in the amount of care that your garden requires later in the season.
– A garden spade
– Wooden sticks or stakes
– A garden hoe
– A rake with stiff steel tines
– A kit for testing your soil
– Glyphosate herbicide (this is not mandatory but can help with weed control)
– Amendments for the soil
– A garden tiller
Start by deciding where you want to place your garden. If you are going to be planting vegetables, try growing argula, or sun-loving flowers, try to find an area that gets at least six hours of sun during the day. Look for an area where the ground is even and level. Ideally, the soil in the area that you choose should be well-drained. One easy way to tell at a glance if the quality of the soil is high enough is if there are a lot of weeds or dense grass growing in the area.
Once you decide where you want your garden, you can mark out the edges using the garden stakes and string. If you prefer, you could use powdered limestone to create an outline or you could lay out a garden hose in the shape that you want for your new plot.
Next, get rid of any grass in the area. The easiest way to accomplish this is by using the spade to cut out small sections, sliding it underneath to loosen the roots. The pieces of sod that you remove can either be composted or they can be moved to another area where they can continue growing. If there are weeds in the area, consider using glyphosate herbicide to get rid of them. Alternatively, you can hand-pull them or you can use a hoe to pull them out of the ground. Covering the ground with black plastic sheeting can also be an effective way to kill off weeds. Keep in mind, however, that the plastic needs to be left in place for a few weeks to give the plants underneath time to die.
Soil testing is the next step. If you have your own testing kit, you can conduct the test at home. Otherwise, take a sample of your soil to your county extension office for testing. They will be able to tell you the pH of the soil and the nutrients it contains. Based on this information, you can then amend the soil to get better results with your garden.
Once you have a better understanding of the composition of your soil, you can add amendments as needed. For instance, if you have dense clay soil or sandy soil that has trouble holding onto water, adding compost, manure, pieces of bark, or other organic matter can improve the condition of the soil. Placing a layer of mulch that is a couple of inches thick over the garden is also beneficial.
Once the amendments are in place, blend them in with the soil by using a garden tiller. Try to blend to a depth of about a foot. As you go, remove any thick roots or rocks from the soil and break apart any dense clumps of dirt. Wait until the soil is relatively dry before performing this step.
Begin preparing your garden plot as soon as possible. Getting the ground ready the season before helps minimize the growth of weeds. Even though you can prepare the ground right before you plant it, problems with weeds are a lot more likely to occur.
At-home soil testing kits are effective at determining the pH of your soil. They aren’t quite as good, however, at identifying the level of nutrients in the soil. If you want to get the most accurate results, consider professional soil testing.