Encouragement (for Life as well as the Garden) Garden Soil Improvement and/or preparation

Should you wait until your soil is improved to plant your first garden?

One reader has recently moved to Yakima, Washington.  The ground at her new place has never been worked for a garden. She spent the fall collecting and spreading grass clippings and leaves over the area where she plans to plant.

Based on the questions that she asked she was concerned that the soil was not just right and said, “I don’t want to wait for a year to start planting.”

She didn’t give me a lot of detail in her email so I don’t know if she is trying to do her garden via the lasagna method or not.  If she is — and doesn’t plan to work the soil — then she may need more time for the lasagna layers to decay and for the soil to soften if she wants to plant things like lettuce, beets, radishes, peas, onions, beans and greens this spring.

She could put in warm weather crops at the appropriate time if she digs spots under the layers for plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and cukes.

If you Want the Ultimate

As I’ve mentioned numerous times in previous posts — if you want the ultimate and the best garden possible — you’ll  prepare the soil deeply.

If you just can’t Dig

If you absolutely are unable to dig or till the soil — then you have to do what you’re able to do.

If the Lasagna method (layering organic material on the soil and allowing it to decay) is all you can do — so be it.  You’ll do the best you can.

In any event – Go Forward

Whatever this reader plans — she should definitely go forward with her garden this year! Even in bad conditions one should make an attempt to go forward with a garden the first year —- even if it’s on a small scale.


Your first year will be VERY important and informative for you.  It will introduce you to exactly what kind of soil and ground you have.  The sooner you learn your soil the better off you are. Get started now so you can have the information you need under your belt for next time.

No point in waiting. Life is just too short!

A Fundamental Truth— Never wait for Perfect Conditions

Never wait for perfect conditions.  More than likely — that ain’t gonna happen.  There will always be challenges and less then perfect conditions in most situations.

Final Thoughts

You never know what will succeed —- until you try.

We are all limited in one way or the other.  But all of us can make an effort and do a lot more than we think we can.

If you’ve just moved to a new place —- don’t wait — do something this year —- no matter how small.  Take advantage of the time you’ve been given for your property and soil to reveal to you what they’re all about.


Suggested Reading:

Focus On What you Can Do

Never Underestimate the Power of a Little

Soil Improvement  -Your Foundation for Success

Soil Preparation – 1st Key to Soil Improvement

Adding Organic Matter – 2nd Key to Soil Improvement

Compost – What it is and Methods used to get it.

Organic gardening is easy, effective, efficient —- and it’s a lot healthier.


All content including photos is copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com.  All Rights Reserved.



  • Dear Theresa,
    This is so true. I moved to my place late last spring and plowed up the perfect spot, so I thought. I had no idea that my beautiful black soil could limit anything but learned the hard way about how much water it didn’t hold, how much water flooded the area in a huge downpour with no where to go and learned where not to plant certain crops. (About all I did grow was the grass and weeds that got turned under.) This year I am digging 2 new garden beds by removing the sod and digging deeply. It’s hard work but will pay off. And, I chose a new spot that won’t flood! I thought I wasted a whole season but in fact, I gained a wealth of knowledge from it.

  • Another option to lasagna gardening may be to use hugelkultur beds. The two methods are somewhat similar. I have heard they work really well for long term soil improvement and reduce water requirements. I am currently setting up some small versions to try on my little urban lot.

  • Theresa, If there is one thing I could teach myself and my kids, is to give it a try. And not to wait for it to be perfect. And definitely not to be afraid to make mistakes, it’s the only way to learn. And, there’s nothing at stake (unlike years ago when the family food depended on what grew in the garden) except a seed packet or two. Low risk, great learning, fresh air, exercise. Where’s the down side to just going for it!!!!
    Oh, and you should talk to your reader about the power of a little – that’s been a fantastic lesson for me in all areas. Actually, Theresa now that I think about it, I’ve learned so much from you.

  • Ever try a broad fork? I have used one exclusively for years and LOVE it. By adding year old compost manure (no chemicals from the animals or the feeds they eat) 3″ thick during the winter, then broad fork just before planting, my soil is lovely.

    I have a mantis and have done double dig so am experienced in both. Never tried the lasagna, never had enough stuff to make one work.

  • Lavonne,

    Hugelkultur beds have always fascinated me Lavonne.

    I’ve not used them but I think everyone should at least know about them. There are so many offshoot ideas you can get from the concept — even if you don’t use it. And I always think about doing one on a small scale — for example a small limb rather than trunk of a tree and use it after its had time to decay for lettuce or pansies or whatever.

    I would caution against snakes however. Those beds always seemed to me the perfect home for snakes. (In and around the edges.)

    Thanks for the comment. It’s a great thought.

  • So true, Theresa! If I had waited for conditions to be ‘right’ for me to garden, I wouldn’t have gotten much gardening done, if any at all. Each time I overcame obstacles and planted whatever ‘ground’ I had available to me, and I managed to produce something, or even just get it to germinate and grow a little, I felt as if I had won some grand prize for effort, if nothing else.

    For many years, I’m serious when I say I carried my garden with me, because I moved a lot and the only way to garden was to do it in a multitude of small, easily-carried pots and containers. On one occasion, I moved from TN to FL with 200+ individual plants in about 45 or 50 pots, vases, bowls…you get the idea! I mainly experimented with growing small groups of ornamental plants (flowers, cacti, succulents, etc)in the pots and spent much of my time using bonsai techniques (learned from reading, but also from my own trials and errors) to keep the ones with larger growing habits as small as possible while still being healthy.

    Gardening is full of losses, but it’s never a total loss as long as you just keep trying. Over time, I gained experience, knowledge, and also a sense of confidence in what I could do to and/or with plants and their environments (the small pots and containers)to produce a ‘garden’ that made me proud, even if it wasn’t the vegetable garden I dreamed of growing someday.

    I’m glad to say I finally got to fulfill that dream last year and my garden exceeded my wildest imaginings despite crazy temps, drought, moles, voles, excessive periods of rain, and my own inexperience! I’m hooked on gardening for life and I wouldn’t have it any other way! 😀


  • Sandra – I think these concepts are so important to anything we undertake in life.
    I have a tendency to want everything just right —- and although I think high goals and ideals are the way to go — I also know that one can’t be perfect and if we wait for that we may never do anything.

    I have to tell myself everyday —
    * Little by little Theresa — you’ll get it done
    *Take imperfect action — don’t wait.

    You encourage me by repeating what you’ve learned from me on TMG. BECAUSE – I’m still working on getting it right too!

    Thanks Sandra!

  • Glad you mentioned this great tool Bonnie! How wonderful being able to have that lovely composted manure free from chemicals!
    A broad fork makes it so easy to incorporate that into you soil. Hardly any work at all.
    Great comment. Thanks Bonnie.


  • Suzanne, thanks so much for giving readers the benefit of your experience. This really made the point I was trying to get across.

    So many times – we undertake things that don’t turn out as we wanted and then we look at them as failures and a waste of time —- when in fact — as you said — we gain a wealth of knowledge from the action.

    Thanks again for the excellent input.

  • What a WONDERFUL post Grace! Thank you for taking time to share all that.

    A big CONGRATULATIONS on fulfilling that dream for a great vegetable garden IN SPITE OF all the crazy temps, drought, moles, voles and excessive periods of rain!

    Way to go girl!

  • You’re welcome, Theresa…on both counts…:).

    And thank you, too. I learn so much from your articles and nearly as much from the replies of other readers, and it really does help me keep my mind on gardening and on doing it in a way that’s working with Nature, not trying to force her hand, so to speak.

    ~ Grace

  • I moved last fall to new place. In backyard there’s a place for garden. But previous owners used only small part for garden. Most of the yard they used for chickens.

    I’m double digging now, and trying to mix clay soil with black, that I have in one part of my garden. So far I made 5 garden beds, size not wide and not too long, like Theresa wrote in one of the posts.

    I still have a lot of work to do, especially because I have weeds and deep in soil roots of English ivy, but I have so many plans that I don’t want to give up. Thank you, Theresa for your posts, I learned a lot and still learning.

  • Congratulations on all the work you have done! And in record time too! You’re really doing great.

    You mentioned that you are trying “to mix clay soil with black that I have in one part of my garden.”

    Usually when you double dig — even in clay soil — the first shovel’s depth will be a bit better than the clay hardpan underneath. (I’m thinking that maybe this is what you mean when you refer to the “black” soil.) When you loosen the 2nd shovel’s depth — which would probably be hard clay — just add organic material to that clay after it’s loosened. After that — put the top layer (loosened of course) back on the top and mix with some more organic material. My point is — you don’t mix that lower depth of soil with the top layer.

    If this is what you have already done — don’t be alarmed or upset. Nature will work it all out for you in the long run. But just remember for the future that it’s best not to mix that top layer with that hardpan bottom layer.

    Again congratulations on all you have done! You are going to have a wonderful garden and it will just get better and better with each year that passes!

    And yes — you have indeed learned SO MUCH! Keep up the good work!

  • Thank you Theresa. Yes, I am mixing top layer. I wish I could have more organic matter to add. I don’t have leaves anymore, all I have some pine straw and wood bark what was left in the garden.

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