The first and most important preparation you need to do when gardening, is prepare the soil properly. Today I am going to share a simple guidelines. Every city, every piece of lands soil is going to contain different properties. So, some areas soil will need more preparation more then others. A good garden soil has depth and the soil is loose, fertile, drains well and has plenty of organic matter in it. I highly suggest you taking a soil sample down to a local nursery to have your soil tested after you prepare it, to make sure it is good to go! I have seen the cost of this range from $5 to $15. I have never used one, but you can purchase home soil testing kits too. I honestly don’t know the science behind soil. I’ve only gardened for a few years. But, I do know that the more attention my soil gets, the better my plants grow and the more they produce.
My family is gardening at an Organic Community Garden this year. I am super excited about! They prepared 50 ft long raised beds and we have 3 of them. They already had the beds made, but we had to add things to the soil as well. Their beds were made of a combination of ground soil and compost. I would say it was originally a combination of probably 60% ground soil and 40% compost.
Then, because it is an organic garden, they provided us a list of things they required to add to our garden row. Per 50×3 ft row we added:
3 bags of premium compost
2.2 cu ft (approx 65 quarts) peat moss
5# bag of Azomite Minerals
5# bag of DTE Fertilizer (What fertilizer you use, may vary depending on what your soil needs. For example, our soil tested a tiny bit on the alkaline side, so we bought a fertilizer to help that vs an All Purpose Fertilizer. This is something your local Nursery can help you determine, once you know how your soil is doing.)
Again, these amounts are based off the need of a 50×3 raised garden row. So, you will need to adjust the amounts to fit your space.
Here is a little explanation of what each of the suggestions are:
Compost: Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment. Compost is a key ingredient in organic farming. Compost can be rich in nutrients. It is used in gardens, landscaping, horticulture, and agriculture. The compost itself is beneficial for the land in many ways, including as a soil conditioner, a fertilizer, addition of vital humus or humic acids, and as a natural pesticide for soil. (Source: Wikipedia)
Peat Moss: Peat moss is derived from sphagnum bogs and is a good source of humus for your garden. It is used in growing medium mixtures to increase air circulation and moisture retention. In garden beds, peat can serve several purposes: aeration of plant roots in heavier soils, adding body to sandy soils, absorbing and retaining more moisture and reducing leaching of nutrients in soil. Peat moss can hold up to 20 times its weight in moisture, releasing slowly for more uniform soil moisture. (Source: Garden Guides – The Purpose of Peat Moss)
Azomite: Azomite is a natural re-mineralizer for soil. It is a unique silica clay mined from a 30 million year old volcanic ash deposit which contains minerals unlike any volcanic deposit in the world. Azomite contains more than 67 trace mineral elements and every essential micro-mineral needed by plants and animals, including a wide range of rare earth elements and other minerals not included in fertilizers or animal feeds. You use Azomite to replenish the trace mineral content in the soil, to increase the number and size of fruits and vegetables per plant, and to help plants contend with disease.
DTE All Purpose Fertilizer: DTE All Purpose Fertilizers deliver a steady supply of organic nutrients that stimulate soil fertility and microbial activity to produce healthy plants naturally. Application Rate: Apply 5 lbs per 100 sq.ft. Additional application rates included on package. Available in 6 lb boxes. available in 25 lb bags and 50 lb bags. call for pricing and shipping rates. Ingredients: Fish Bone Meal, Blood Meal, Rock Phosphate, Greensand, Langbeinite, Acadian Kelp Meal and Humic Shale Ore. (Source: Ali’s Organics)
If you want a much more detailed article on soil preparation (specifically in Utah, but got info all around), I found this great document from Utah State University.
Lisa has much deeper beds then what our garden rows are. So, she makes her beds up of 40% regular soils, 40% compost and then 20% top soil (like a potting soil) and additives, like Perlites, Vermiculite, Azomites and fertilizers. Lisa prefers to use a Vegetable and Tomato Granule Fertilizer, because it is only required every six weeks.
I hope this gives you some direction on getting your soil all prepped and ready to plant! Also, if you missed it, be sure to check out the other posts in our Garden Basics Series: Planters, Beds and Trellises and Planting and Pests!