Vegetable gardening is exciting; planting seeds and waiting for them to shoot is so much fun. However, it is easy to get ahead of yourself, and the possibility of failing before you’ve even started looms. Growing is a calculated exercise, and plants will not grow well if you compromise their favorite conditions, including the soil.
Whether you’re a professional or just starting out, making sure you invest in the all-important preparation work is crucial to a successful outcome, and the ground is the place you need to start. Here are 7 ways to prepare your ground before growing.
1. Understand your soil type
The soil around you varies depending on where you are. There are six types of solid; clay, chalk, peat, loam, silt, and sand.
Each type has a different consistency; for example, clay-heavy soil will become quite sticky when wet and sandy soil feels gritty.
To identify yours, dig a small patch, take a closer look and feel it. Doing this is vital because different soils have unique preparation needs.
It’s also worth identifying the PH of your soil. Knowing whether you live in an acidic or alkaline area will dramatically help your chances of anything growing.
Some plants, such as blueberry bushes, thrive in acidic conditions, whereas cucumbers need a more alkaline environment. To test your soil, you can purchase test kits online.
Weeding is the bane of most gardener’s life. It’s backbreaking and relentless work, but it’s a must. It’s a necessary part of gardening and knowing the detrimental consequences of using weed-killing chemicals means we really do just have to get on with it.
The trouble with weeds is that they are also fighting for their rights to sunlight, nutrition, and water, taking these vital components away from the crops you want to grow.
There are several ways to rid your patch of unwanted weeds naturally, but the most common is simply to dig them up. Make sure to remove their roots, although avoid digging too deep and bringing other weeds to the surface, giving them a chance to thrive.
Another easy way to remove extensive collections of weeds is to use a weed membrane. Covering them up starves them of light and will kill them right back.
3. Add nutrition
It’s simple; plants need nutrients in the soil to grow strong and healthily and grow the food you desire. Different crops require different nourishment to thrive, so check your seed packets for advice before setting off.
You can either supplement your soil through shop-bought fertilizers or composts or add nutrition to your ground organically at home. This is usually in the form of compost and has the bonus of supporting your soil structure.
However, if your plant needs a specific nutrient, you’ll no doubt be able to find a solution within your home. Eggshells, for instance, supply plenty of calcium, coffee can provide a nitrogen boost, and banana skins are jam-packed with potassium.
4. Check the drainage
Pond plants aside, one thing that pretty much every plant across the globe needs is effective drainage. Overwatering could just be the most common cause of death amongst plants.
With only a few exceptions, if you leave the plants sitting in a pool of water, you’re opening yourself up to a world of problems.
The main reason waterlogging soil is a problem is that you’re essentially drowning them. Plants need oxygen to circulate in the soil to survive, and overwatering stops this. It also leads to rotting roots and algae or fungi covering the soil’s surface.
Check sufficient drainage before you plant anything in your soil, whether in a bed or a pot. You’ll know there is if, after heavy rain or watering, your soil is without a sludgy pool.
Well-drained soil will feel moist but not saturated. If there is a problem, be sure to fix it before going any further.
5. A cardboard cover
Cardboard is a natural resource that can add tremendous value to your garden in two key ways.
Firstly, adding a layer of cardboard is another perfect weed killer. Lay it out over the top of wherever you want to plant, add a layer of topsoil, and you’re ready to go without digging out each pesky weed.
You can also use it as a base for raised beds; just lay it down before building around it. Once you’ve filled the bed with soil, the grass and weeds won’t stand a chance of coming through.
Wherever you lay cardboard, it will begin to decompose. As it breaks down, it will add some great organic matter to nourish your soil, including carbon, and it also helps to structure the ground you’re planting into.
Once you have put everything in place to make sure the soil is ready, you need to think carefully about where you’re going to plant your crops.
Take time to observe how much direct sunlight each area receives and for how long during the day. Also, make sure to rotate your crops so you’re not placing the same plant in the same spot year on year; doing this will drastically reduce your harvest and likely invite certain pests back.
Considering companion planting will also help the productivity of your plant. There are certain combinations of plants that complement each other by assisting pollination, preventing pests and disease, and will help you to make better and more efficient use of your soil.
7. Be patient!
When it comes to your soil being ready for planting, waiting is essential. A warm spell of spring weather can easily lure you into a false sense of security, but a sudden freeze can easily follow and undo all your hard work.
Planting your seeds undercover and waiting until your soil is warm enough means your crop will be happy from the beginning, giving a better yield.
Waiting for warmer soil also means your plants can metabolize better and make their food through photosynthesis. If you plant straight into the cold ground, you risk your seeds not germinating at all or rotting away.