Organic Gardening Soil Improvement and/or preparation

Gardening Advice – Who Should we Follow?

When we first develop an interest in gardening — but don’t know much about it — we pretty much follow either what we’ve seen family, neighbors, and/or friends do.  Or we go on line, Google, and see what other gardeners are doing and what they say we should do.

After doing a lot of that myself in recent years— I’m thinking that I’m very fortunate I didn’t have internet when I started gardening.

I’m also fortunate that after only one year of gardening without any “how-to” information — I discovered Organic Gardening Magazine. (In those day they were read cover to cover and were jammed packed with practical information gardeners need.)

Who Dictates What’s Out There?

There’s still good information out there. But a lot of information is dictated by “marketing” and businesses selling a product — and not necessarily what the best gardening practices are.

Because of “marketing” certain practices and/or methods become so popular that various magazines feature them because they’ve become  popular— it’s what the public wants to hear about.  It’s considered the “in” thing.

Often — a great idea is promoted that really fills a need, but the movie, video, or article promoting it only tells part of the story. This can be because the producers don’t have enough time or space to tell all of it.  Or it can be that in their zeal to tell the good part — they don’t want to tell any of the negative parts.  Without the additional information — a gardener might not be quite as successful with that method as he/she had hoped.

Before Marketing as We Know It

I’m very grateful that I started gardening at a time that my Organic Gardening magazine was telling me it was important to prepare my soil deeply; thus, giving plant roots more opportunity to get what they needed from the soil.

A lot was written on very successful vegetable gardens in desert areas that get very little rainfall.  The gist of those articles was how to cope with little rainfall and be successful in spite of it. It’s easier than you might think although you don’t see as much about it now-a-days. I guess that’s because of irrigation systems being so popular and so widely promoted.

Gardening without Soil Preparation

There are various methods that promote gardening without any soil preparation at all.  Many of these methods originally began as an ingenious way to still be able to garden if you

  • (1) were not able to prepare the soil deeply or
  • (2) you had close to a year or more to let the layers of organic material on the ground do most of the soil preparation for you or
  • (3) you were at a location temporarily and just wanted the easiest way to try to grow a few vegetables while you were there.

Those are great reasons to use the various methods that don’t involve any soil preparation.  But if you want a long-term growing area that will give you the best results — deep soil preparation is the way to go.

A Reader Writes

Friend and reader, Sandra, wrote to me last night.  She had been to the Mother Earth News educational event that they have each year in September.

She started out with a little humor (that I really enjoyed) by saying:

The guy I heard at Mother Earth News got all his information from you, I’m pretty sure. :)”

Of course, that made me smile.

She continued:

“He said don’t ONLY go on top with preparing the soil (like lasagna gardening) you have to ALSO go down (remove the weeds and loosen the soil ) Hmmmm, I’ve heard that somewhere before!! ” —

“Pretty much what you preach about soil preparation is what this guy was talking about. You could have given the talk. The place was packed with people wall-to-wall, so I don’t know if it was new information to these folks, but I did not learn anything that I had not heard first on TMG!”

Reader sees the Difference in Properly Prepared Soil

Over the past year or so that Sandra has been reading TMG and following my advice she has had great success in her garden and I have enjoyed her various reports telling me the details of those successes.

In her email of last night she included another success story that I wanted to share with you.  She wrote:

“I renovated one of my bad beds (pre-Theresa) where we had put landscape fabric down on top of the weeds and just piled on top.—

“You should see the difference in the sweet potatoes I’ve harvested from a well-prepared bed versus this one. They are at least 75% smaller (in the “bad bed”), and it’s no wonder. I’ve fixed that—-” “— it’s a properly prepared bed now.”

Final Thoughts

It’s always good to broaden our knowledge base by reading and watching what others do. As you watch and read, keep the basics in mind:

  • deep soil preparation,
  • add organic material to the soil, and
  • cover the soil

If they go too far afield from these basic principles or if things get too complicated — I hope a little warning bell will go off in your head. Success might not be as much of a sure thing as they’ve indicated.


Related Posts:

3 Simple Things to Guarantee a Successful Garden

Soil Improvement Your Foundation for Success

Soil Preparation – First Key to Soil Improvement

Cont’d. Soil Preparation – First Key to Soil Improvement


Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot easier.


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  • Yellow pear are my favorite tomatoes but always been a problem with splitting no matter what I try. I understand they are prone to this, but this year a very serious problem. I finally tried letting them finish ripening indoors with some success and finally found if I pick at first sign of ripening, put them in a window sill they ripen beautifully with no apparent loss of flavor.

    Thanks again for all your help


  • Amen…………..I too cut my baby gardening teeth on the first Organic Gardening magazines and the wisdom of Robert Rodale. My husband was managing a small ranch in the fertile San Joaquin Valley of California and there was an existing garden left by the elderly couple who had moved “to town” and sold the ranch. It was my first real garden and my only source of information was the knowledge I received while earning my Girl Scout gardening badge (Zucchini plants in my Mom’s front yard) and having lived in a rural farmland area since my birth.

    One of my most memorable blunders was cutting the “suckers” off the existing raspberry plants because that is what I remember my mother doing to the few fruit trees we had in our yard. Also “pruning” the beautiful hydrangea plant growing in the shade of a huge orange tree near the cellar door. However the garden did survive and the experience has stayed with me. Even though my life these past 70+ years led me in several directions, I somehow always managed to have a few plants, garden or something green growing.

    Thanks to you Theresa for all your help in establishing our garden here these past 5 years. We are in a high desert area and the challenges were many. Happy gardening……..

  • Yes you can Betty. That’s the beauty of it all. Once you prepare deeply, continue to add organic matter and keep the soil covered — all you need do in years to come is plant through the mulch (or pull back the mulch in the case of small seed) and plant.
    As you go along with that program you’ll develop a feel for just what you need to do and when you need to it.
    So easy.

    Ray – glad you made the discovery that picking at the first sign of ripening is the way to go. Tomatoes are probably the most popular crop and yet this remains a secret to most gardeners. And by the way — you need not put them in a window sill. I keep mine in a basket on our enclosed porch. When you have time — read all my posts on tomatoes. Lots of tips in them. Picking at the first sign of ripening with no loss of flavor is one of them.
    Thanks for sharing your experience Ray.

    Alice, I’m honored that you would give me credit for helping you establish your garden in the high desert! You’ve really had a lot of challenges — but I’ve loved hearing of all your many successes and how you met the challenges. You’re an example for us all. Thanks so much for commenting.


    Betty Taylor — a reader who commented above — of Persimmon Ridge Farm, wrote an article on her blog that says a lot of things that I’ve felt and wanted to say for a long time.

    She talks about how the world looks at her (and other various organic gardeners, homesteaders, etc.) as doing things the hard way by not using chemicals and poisons. (Actually — we are doing things the easy way.)(You’ll get a real big smile out of her picture that starts the post showing how they do things at Persimmon Ridge Farm the hard way.)

    She says: “We are agricultural preservation zones.”
    And indeed we are!

    She talks about her bees, her goats, what passes for agriculture in this country, cheap food — and the great price that is paid for cheap food.

    I’m not doing the article justice — so please read it for yourself. It’s beautifully written and I think you will feel an instant bond with Betty.

    I have to say it again — I have the most wonderful readers in the world!!

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