The Key to a Successful Garden starts with Preparing Your Soil

Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” While he was likely talking about inventions, I like to imagine that he meant gardening, too. Preparation for any project is vital to success, of course, and it’s doubly true for those who plant seeds instead of ideas.

Without properly prepared soil, chances for successful growing – much less producing – are greatly reduced. A friend once planted a plot in a community garden without any more soil prep. By the end of the growing season, he’d harvested a dozen or so cherry tomatoes, a handful of peas and a couple carrots. Hardly worth the effort, eh? After reading this, I expect your results will leave his, well… In the dust, just like his garden.

Not only will proper soil prep aid in better harvests and healthier flowers, trees and shrubs, but it also provides additional benefits. One of the most important of these benefits these days is a reduced use of water. There’s also a reduction in necessary fertilizer, faster recovery from wear, less maintenance and higher quality soil nutrients. And, if you do it right, even less weeding!

Here are our expert tips on proper soil preparation:

New Beds

This prep is a bit different from that for existing beds. That difference, though, is a back-saver further on down the garden path.

  • The first step is to aggressively till or turn the soil. Use a shovel or flat garden hoe really get in there and mix it up. For really large and/or hard ground, use rototiller.
  • Following that, give the soil as big and deep a drink as possible with regular daily watering for the next two weeks.

Why? This prep encourages the germination of most of the hidden weed seeds in the bed and gives you the opportunity to eliminate the little pests right off the bat, thus limiting backbreaking weeding time during the season.

Now, finish up your garden bed by following the steps below for existing beds. Then you’ll be ready to plant.

Existing Beds

They’re just waiting for some pre-planting TLC: Turning, Loosening and Composting. They’ve been through a growing season and need some rejuvenation.

  • Turn the soil until it’s really loose.
  • Add in about three – four inches of compost and some planting mix. We recommend brands such as Malibu Biodynamic Compost, True Compost, Sequoia Planting Mix, Kellogg Soils, and the Family Tree line of Soil Amendments.
  • To add even more organic matter, consider using Worm Castings. Agrowinn Worm Castings mixed with Agrowinn Rock Dust Nutrients are the perfect solution. Mix this in with your soil really well.

If you’re working with heavy clay soil:
Add some gypsum as it helps break up the clay. Use about ten lbs of gypsum for every 100sq ft. For nitrogen replenishment a well-composted manure or blood meal will do the job. Always follow the package instructions to avoid over-treating your soil.

How much?
The amount of soil you need will depend on a couple of factors. 1) Are you planting in-ground or in a raised bed? 2) How much native soil do you have? Use Kellogg Garden Products Soil Amendment Calculator to determine how much soil you need.