Garden Gardening Tips Organic Gardening Soil Improvement and/or preparation

Organic Gardening – Think you can’t start this year? Consider this.

I received an email from Stephanie, a reader, who had just finished reading Organic GardeningCutting Through the Hype to the 3 Keys to Successful Gardening.

She writes:
I have to say that your book is the best book on organic gardening that I’ve ever read…and I’ve read (many).

The conventional advice for organic gardening often had my head reeling!  It seemed so complex,—

I was already pretty overwhelmed by the thought of what I wanted to do.

— I finished it (the book) in two days and I’m so excited to start now. You made me feel like yes, I CAN — grow organically, — and grow my family’s food. (She has 3 children.)

Stephanie went on to say that she had dreamed of gardening for years and had long range plans to grow most of her produce.

She and her husband have just bought their first home this year. They plan to spend this next year laying out the grounds and improving the soil before growing anything.

Certainly improving the soil is a good idea, but I hope Stephanie will consider the following notes and suggestions:

Losing a Years Worth of Knowledge

Every year that someone with a dream to accomplish something puts off the actual “doing”  – even on a small scale, they lose a years worth of hands-on knowledge that would be invaluable to them in the future.

Life is too short to wait!

More than likely there will never be absolutely perfect conditions to start any project. There will always be challenges and conditions less than perfect.

Even if you’ve just moved to a new place and plan to improve your soil for a large garden, there are still ways you can do something small, NOW, that will not interfere with those plans.

There are ways that won’t take much time and yet will reveal to you what kind of soil you have, how plants react to various places on your property, and lots of other little things that you’ll be glad you already have under your belt when you start your large garden.

Plant Something in a Small Space

Plant at least something (maybe lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes) starting this year. And yes, maybe your ground won’t be perfect, but you will learn so much about your soil and property that you can’t learn any other way. This will benefit you tremendously, when you get your larger garden ready.

For a quick start and one that will take the minimum amount of effort, here’s what you could do:

In an area (or even more than one area) that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of sun each day, prepare a planting hole with about a 2 to 3 foot circumference.

  • Remove the sod and weeds.
  • Loosen and remove the soil to a depth of 24 inches.
  • At the bottom of the hole add straw and a bunch of leaves. (Or whatever organic material you have on hand and some compost if you have it.)
  • Throw in some of the dirt you dug out. Put in more straw and leaves (or whatever).
  • Throw in the rest of the dirt.
  • Mulch HEAVILY with straw and/or leaves.

These planting holes can be prepared now as long as the ground is not frozen.

I’ve used this method many times over the years when I didn’t have a spot already prepared. They don’t always perform as wonderfully as my already improved garden soil, but they do perform well.  How yours perform will depend on the soil you’re working with.

You might be amazed at what these spots will produce for you and it will set you way ahead in your gardening experience – not to mention feeding your family at least some homegrown food!

Increasing Your Output Even in These Small Spaces

Since tomato seedlings or cukes don’t usually go in the ground until the weather warms in May, you can use the surface of the planting holes for cool weather crops like lettuce, radishes, turnips, kale, or even a few peas. When it’s time to plant your cukes or tomatoes, just plant it in the middle of the planting hole.

If the cool weather crops are still doing well and still producing, leave them for a while. Then about June, just pull them up (or cut them off at ground level so the soil can benefit from the roots staying in the ground) and lay them on the surface of the planting hole and cover with straw or leaves.

Final Thoughts

Thinking and planning are great.  But the actual planting and growing – even on a very small scale – will put you much further ahead with your plans.

Years go by quickly.  I think you’ll find that one year of knowledge that you can gain by taking a small step and planting something this year is well worth the effort.


Related posts:
Should You Wait Until Your Soil is Improved to Plant Your First Garden

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  • Just get going! Couldn’t agree more. Any mistakes are valuable learning experiences. In fact, on this New Year’s Eve, I think I’m going to adopt that as my motto for this upcoming year. Happy New Year to you Theresa. Thank you for encouraging us and giving us the tools and inspiration we need for garden success.

  • Sandra, you hit it right when you stated that “Any mistakes are valuable learning experiences.”

    I’d like to take that even further.
    If one is not doing anything, they won’t make mistakes. And they won’t learn anything either.
    How much a person knows is usually in direct proportion to the mistakes they make.
    If you’re busy doing and living life to the full, you’ll make lots and lots of mistakes. And it follows that you’ll know so much more than the average person.
    So yes, a good motto for the coming years is “Any mistakes I make are valuable learning experiences.”

    Thanks Sandra!

  • A nice post, inspiring us to move forward in the new year! I am getting ready to sort my seeds and order whatever I need to round things out. Winter sown varieties are uppermost in my mind!


  • Good having you comment Pat. Hard to believe it’s that time already.

    By the way everyone, I got the nicest email from Stephanie today. You’ll recall from the post that she and her husband were going to improve the soil and not plant a garden this year.

    She writes, “—I shared what you wrote with my husband, and we’re now aiming for two planting spaces, as soon as the soil can be worked.  Thanks for the inspiration! —”

    I was so glad that she let me know and thought you’d want to know too.

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