I may not have a huge garden (10 ft x 20 ft), but all garden soil need tender loving care and attention. I would say there is 5 main points that we should consider in preparing the soil. Not taking any consideration into the fact that Minnesota has temporarily returned to a cold tundra, blechh!
- INSPECT & KNOW YOUR SOIL! Areas to Test
A. PH: get a tester or you can use a home made method.
i. PH Commercial Tester – either 2 or three pronged tester which typically also test moisture and lighting starting at $10 but definitely range a lot higher in price. Also come in the form of capsule testing as well.
ii. Home Made Test – you can very easily test your own dirt without a commercial tester with just Vinegar & Baking soda.
B. Moisture: make sure that the soil is not to damp or drying out.
i. Moisture tester– these commerical testers typically look like the one to the right and usually are combined with PH and light tester. Starting as low as $10, the one I am using was $13. I have found the the light and the moisture are worth the cost alone. The PH tester I would leave to the capsule style.
ii. Finger/chopstick test – this is just a simple test for indoor container plants. it may not be super accurate, but without a tester it’s a simple way to tell moisture by sticking your finger approximately 1 inch deep into the soil.
iii. Percolation tester – this type of test is good to test if it is a shady area or if it seems to hold to much water, but doesn’t hurt to check to see if your soil is draining well enough. All you have to do is dig a hole 6 inches wide and a foot deep, fill it full of water and time how long it takes to drain, if it takes more than 4 hours to drain, then you might consider some adjustments to assist the drainage.
C. Soil Structure: check to see whether the soul is still compacted or if it is ready to plant & the soil type.
i. Squeeze Test – a simple test by which you grab a handful of moist soil from your garden and it will help to identify whether it is; sandy soil, loamy soil or clay soil.
ii. Flag Test – up until just this year I had not considered whether or not my soil could be too packed down still. If you can, use a flag on a wire, by gently pushing this flag in you can tell if it is still to compacted if the flag is bending to easily or if it goes in smoothly.
D. Active Organisms/Worms
i. Worm Test– it might be common knowledge to you, but worms in your garden is a good thing. If you dig up approximately 1 foot deep & 1 foot wide of moist garden soil and look through it you should find at least 10 worms in that amount.
2. CLEAR ROCK & DEBRIS
A. Do you have a lot of rocks or just some rocks throughout your soil? Make sure that you clear any rocks and other branches or debris. If you have a lot of debris consider designing a simple cheap soil sifter – here
3. ADD AMENDMENTS
i. dolomite or calcite Lime is one option to reduce acidity
ii. hardwood ashes
iii. eggshells are great to dry & crush up & it doesn’t cost you anything extra to use these.
iv. Bone Meal
i. Coffee is one way to reduce alkalinity
ii. common sulfate
iii. Peat or sphagnum peat moss
5. READY SET & GO!
Now that we have checked and prepared the soil for planting the garden now let us start tilling the garden and plant our precious vegetables, fruit or flowers even.
Once you have completed tilling then it is time to sit back and relax since the hard part is mostly done. Now when I sit back and look at my garden as things have been planted I realize that in some ways I relate to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. – 1 Corinthians 3:5-7
Paul indicates that we despite the differences in Apollos and himself they are God’s method to achieve growth in spiritual lives, much like I am with my garden. God may use me along with other tools and even the city for providing the watering ability, but we are only used to achieve that growth. Neither I nor the city that provides the watering could achieve true fruit without God. Much like the evangelists, pastors, friends or family also cannot achieve the growth since only God provides growth.
What special steps do you take when preparing your garden soil?
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