How Nature Helps You

Help Your Flowers and Vegetables to Thrive

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.

The Obvious

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”.

Final Words

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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  • Theresa,
    I just love reading your blog and since I’m new this year to your site, I’ve been reading a few back-posts each day. Today, I read posts from April, 2010, and learned about zucchini milk (never heard of it before), how to root sedum (thanks for the pictures–so helpful!), and cover crops to try in addition to my favorite, buckwheat!

    Keep the friendly posts and pictures coming. The seasonality of it and archives are great assets!

  • You made my day Gayle! I am so pleased that you love reading TMG and that it has been of help. Comments like yours fuel the writer’s fire. 8)

    As you probably know by now, Bill (my husband) takes all the pictures for me — so all that credit goes to him. I think it adds a lot to the site. He always makes time to take pictures for me. (If I took them they would not be as wonderful as his.)

    Thanks too for the comment on the archives. Does make it so much easier to find things or even to browse.

    Sure nice having you as a reader. Let me know if there’s anything special you’d like me to write about.

    Thanks again for taking time to comment

  • Hi Theresa, Love your blog and even tho we have been gardening for 30 years or more I still learn alot reading your tips. Thank you for the time you put into this site. It is so encouraging these days with bad news everywhere.

    I have a question about fertlizing my puny looking plants. Do you recommend “Spray and Grow” or any such stimulant to make plants take off? Just about to plant more squash and cucumbers seeds just in case my plants get squash bugs or something even worse. My green beans have really been great this season. They are so tasty and nutritious.

    Thank you again for your great blog. Betty

  • Hi Betty,
    Sure glad you are learning from reading TMG and that you find it encouraging. I sure try to make it so.

    I had to google “Spray and Grow” because I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t spend a lot of time reading about it – so I still don’t know much.

    If you continue to improve your soil, you should not need anything additional. Your soil holds all the answers.

    What I have found is that when I transplant things to the garden, they sit there a while and work on taking root before they take off.

    If you feel you have to add anything additional, add a couple of handfuls of finished compost to the soil before you plant. If you’ve already planted, add a few handfuls out from the plants and incorporate into the soil.
    If you feel you need to spray a seedling — do so with a seaweed spray or fish emulsion. (Keep in mind that sometimes the fish emulsion can draw animals. Seaweed is better that way.)

    Green beans ——aren’t they great!! Wish they’d grow and produce all year. Tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers — makes the summer!
    Hope this helped Betty. Let me know.

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