As you already know if you are a regular reader, soil preparation is your first step in creating the most productive garden or borders possible. This process is begun by loosening the soil to a depth of 12 to 24 inches to help you create the conditions that make it possible for your flowers and vegetables to thrive.
Why you Prepare Your Soil by Loosening it Deeply
1. One of the reasons is to give plants room for more root growth. More root growth allows the plants to take up more needed nutrients and water. This equals a greater potential for growth — or bigger and better plants.
2. Loosening your soil also allows increased drainage which is necessary for most plants.
3. It will allow your garden and borders to withstand drought years much better than if the soil remained compacted. Compacted soil usually leads to stunted, drought stressed plants as is the case in most traditional gardens.
4. In wet years this loosened soil will allow for better soil aeration. Aeration is important for the chemical processes that occur in the plant roots to maintain life.
After you’ve expended a major effort to prepare your soil in order to give your plants the best possible chance to do well ——you certainly don’t want to waste that effort by allowing your soil to become compacted again.
Compact soil can cut down on plant production as much as 50% or more. So that means as much as 50% less vegetables, flowers, or berries than what you could otherwise have.
How to Keep it Loose
If you keep the following simple things in mind, your soil will stay in the condition most favorable for your plants.
- Never work in your soil or walk on your soil when it’s wet. The soil is probably too wet to work if it doesn’t crumble easily when you squeeze it in your hand.
- Never walk on your beds or in your flower borders.
This is simple to accomplish in the garden by using easy-to-reach 3 to 4 foot wide beds separated by narrow paths. It’s a bit more difficult in flower borders. But if you establish permanent places to step – that’ll be half the battle. Stepping stones or heavy mulch can help you establish those permanent places. They make it possible to weed and care for plants without compacting the soil around them.
Just so you’ll know, I can almost guarantee that visitors to your gardens will somehow gravitate towards walking on your beds and in your borders. People who don’t know better, seem to think this is perfectly acceptable. So be ready ahead of time to tell them you don’t walk or step in your beds or on your borders.
- Mulch your soil/Add organic Matter (This is a 2 for 1)
Mulching keeps rain from compacting your soil. It also adds organic matter to your soil as it decays. Organic matter not only helps drainage and soil structure, but helps relieve compaction of the soil as well. Soil that is mulched stays loose and “fluffy”.
By resolving to never work the soil when wet, never walk on you beds, and keep it mulched (which also adds organic matter) you’ll help your flowers and vegetables to thrive.
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