The soil contains all of the ingredients that plants require to grow: nutrients, organic matter, air, and water. The soil also supports plant roots.
Soil may be improved each year and can continue to grow plants indefinitely if properly prepared and cared for. Uncared soil will soon become ideal for the growth of weeds.
There are different ways of preparing the soil for organic gardening, but there are a few things you need to know first, they are:
Gardeners must work with a variety of soils. Some are highly sandy, others are sticky clay, while yet others are rocky and shallow.
Sandy soils can not retain enough water, and flying sand can harm produce in windy locations. Clay soils retain too much water and do not enable enough air to penetrate.
Vegetables require deep, well-drained soil with plenty of organic materials. When squeezed in the hand, good plant soil with adequate moisture will not form a hardball. If pressed between the fingers, it should crumble readily. When dried, it should not break or crust over.
The quantity of sand and silt determines the texture of the soil, and clay it contains. Sand is the largest component of soil particles and has a gritty texture to it. Silt particles, which are slippery when wet and powdery when dry, are next in size.
Preparing Soil for Organic Gardening
A good organic soil type is loose and fluffy, with enough air for plant roots and lots of nutrients for robust plant development. It is filled with living things that assist preserve soil quality, ranging from earthworms to fungus and bacteria. So here are things to consider.
Soil Health Evaluation
Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the three most important elements known to be required for plant growth. They are called major or macronutrients because plants extract the most of them from the soil. Complete fertilizers are those that include all three of these nutrients, albeit they are far from perfect. Many plants require secondary nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. Minor or micronutrients include boron, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc.
Some plant micronutrients serve unique purposes, such as cobalt, which is not utilized by most plants but aids legumes in nitrogen fixation. Your soil’s acid-alkaline balance, or pH value, is another crucial component. All of these elements, along with the right texture, contribute to healthy soil.
To make the soil more workable, almost all garden soils may be improved by adding organic matter. Organic material:
- Tight clay is loosened.
- Aids sand in holding more water
- Makes digging simpler
- Adds nutrients
Organic matter additions that are often used include:
Plant materials: such as leaves, straw, and grass clippings are examples of plant materials. Allow debris to degrade in the soil for many months before planting. The majority of gardeners do this in the winter.
Compost sawdust before using it in the garden. Avoid using uncomposted sawdust because it depletes the soil of nitrogen, depriving plants of this critical nutrient.
Composted manure: should be incorporated into the soil well before planting. Fresh manure should not be used since it might harm plants and cause illnesses. For every 100 square feet, apply 30 to 40 pounds of composted manure.
Compost: is made up of decomposed plant components. Before planting, work it into the soil.
Green Manure: Plant wheat or oats in the fall and plow or shovel it under in the spring. If a fall garden is planted, these cannot be used.
Do not exceed a 4-inch layer of organic material.
The addition of gypsum to most heavy clay soils is beneficial. It supplies nutrients, but it also loosens clay soils and makes them more workable. After winter digging, spread 3 to 4 pounds of gypsum per 100 square feet over garden soil. Work it into the soil or let the rain wash it in.
To make clay soil more workable, add sand and organic stuff. 2 inches of clean sand and 3 inches of organic materials, such as leaves, should be mixed into the soil. This should be done in the winter.
All kinds of life, including plants and soil microbes, require water, but not in excess. Healthy soil should contain around 25% water.
Water quickly drains through soils with too much pore space (sandy soils) and cannot be utilized by plants. Because all of the pore space in thick, silt, or clay soils is filled with water, the soil becomes waterlogged. Plant roots and soil organisms will be suffocated as a result of this.
The finest soils feature pore spaces that are both tiny and big. The greatest strategy to improve the structure of your soil through aggregate production is to add organic matter (see below). Furthermore, organic matter retains water for plants to utilize when it is needed.
Tilling the Soil
Till the soil as deeply as possible, at least 8 to 10 inches. Deep tilling loosens the soil, allowing vegetable roots to grow deeper. Each shovelful of the earth should be fully turned over.
When the soil is damp but not wet, it is ready to be tilled. Working with moist soil can lead it to become rough. In the winter, prepare the soil for spring planting by digging it up. Winter temperatures and precipitation aid in soil amelioration. This is especially crucial if this is the first time the soil has been worked.
To create and sustain the soil, add organic matter during soil preparation each year. Make certain that all plant material is turned under the soil. If organic material, like compost, is applied before planting an autumn garden, it should be well-rotted.
Clean and level the soil before planting. Remove any sticks, rocks, or other debris.
Organic materials (straw, hay, grass clippings, shredded bark) protect and insulate the soil from excessive heat and cold. Mulches prevent weed development by reducing water loss through evaporation. They decompose slowly, adding organic substances to the soil.
Artificial mulches (pebbles, gravel, black plastic, and landscape textiles) prevent evaporation and keep weeds at bay in the same way as biological mulch does. They do not need to be renewed every year, unlike organic mulches, and they do not attract insects or rodents. Inorganic mulches, on the other hand, do not assist the soil by decomposing and contributing organic matter, which enhances soil structure and nutritional content. If you want to strengthen the structure of your soil, apply a clean, seed-free, high-quality garden mulch.
Raised Bed Preparation
In most areas vegetables are usually to be planted on raised beds. Raised beds have their benefits for your garden, which are:
- Allow water to flow away from the plant’s roots.
- Create irrigation furrows.
- Allow air to penetrate the soil
- Assist plants during periods of heavy rain.
Rows should be 36 inches apart if the garden is large enough. Some vegetables can be planted in rows closer than this if space is limited, but they will require more attention throughout the growing season.
Straight beds are desirable but not required. Straight beds are less critical in small gardens cultivated with a hoe, rake, or other hand tools.
Rows should be as straight as possible if the garden is vast and handled using a rototiller or garden tractor.
Pull the dirt up into 8 to 10-inch high beds using a shovel or rake. Before planting, pack the beds or allow them to settle. Before planting, level the tops of the beds and broaden them to 6 to 8 inches. Plant on the beds’ tops
Finally, Get your Garden Tools
Beginning gardeners often make the mistake of not preparing properly for their new hobby. One of the most important steps is to get the right tools – and that doesn’t just mean a shovel and a rake. You’ll also need some tools specifically designed for organic gardening, such as a gardening apron, a weeder, and a spade. These tools will help you work more efficiently in your garden, whether you’re planting seeds or pulling weeds.
Gardening may appear anything but “easy” after completing the steps required to properly prepare the soil for planting. Gardening, on the other hand, will become “easier” with proper soil preparation year after year.