Some brief tips for preparing your garden:
Digging the soil and turning it well to loosen it up is the first step. This can be done with a digging fork or a rototiller but be careful not to over rototill as that can cause problems with drainage. The most important thing you can add to your garden is compost. Spreading a 1″ layer of good compost will add microorganisms and nutrients to your garden along with earthworms and good bacteria. They will do most of the work in your garden to break down the minerals and natural chemicals in your soil and allow the plants to take them up through their roots.
Planning a layout before you plant can help you discover problems before they happen such as shading and crowding. Check out our Garden Plans page for plant sizes and sun requirements to help you get organized. Always keep the lowest plants toward the Southside and taller ones to the North. Don’t overcrowd but if you live in an area with lots of dry summer heat you can plant a bit closer together than normal to help shade the ground and protect against drying out the soil.
Mulching after you plant is very necessary for hot dry parts of the country and wet moist places also. Mulches keep moisture in the soil, keep it cooler, and prevent fungus spores from splashing up onto your plants’ leaves which cause diseases. Some great mulches are pine needles, dead leaves, hay straws, and even newspaper strips. These will also break down in the soil and add organic material to your soil for next year.
Fertilizing should be done as naturally as possible. Compost generally has some grass clippings in it which provide enough nitrogen for the whole season. If yours does not, you can add manures, or worm castings, (also available in our catalog) which make a wonderful fertilizer or you can use a store-bought organic type fertilizer that has low numbers on the bag such as 6-4-2. Higher numbers on a bag of fertilizer do not mean that it is better for your plant. They can burn your plants and overfeed them and you will have no vegetables at all in your garden. We do not recommend Miracle-Gro because of the short-term benefits to your garden. Miracle-Gro washes away in a few days and leaves behind salty soil. You have to keep using it every week all summer which makes it expensive and it is really easy to overfeed and burn your plants.
The same situation goes for insect control. There are some really good mild organic treatments for pest control but before you use anything, know what you have and the best way to treat it. Sometimes this is as easy as clearing away a few weeds or adding mulch. Many stores bought pest controls that can be very toxic to your plants, good bugs, and you. Always read the package very carefully, organic doesn’t always mean safe! Some products I recommend are Safer soap, Bacillus Thurengiensis or BT, Neem spray, and good old handpicking. Click on Insect Information for more help.