Now (February 1st) is getting to be the time that we start preparing our soil for the garden. A garden takes lots of planning and prep work to have success.
Lets find the perfect location. To have the most success it will be critical that you find a place in the yard that gets at least 6 hours of full sun but all day sun is preferable. It is good to know which direction is north and south because even though an area looks wide open, if it is on the northern side of some tall trees or a tall house then there is a great chance that it will be shaded too heavily. The northern side of anything is always the shadiest and there can be no substitute for sun when growing veggies. The south side of anything is the sunniest side and often the best choice for a garden.
Soil preparation is crucial and even though it is too cold right now to plant your veggies, it is the perfect time to prepare the soil. Here in Georgia, it takes a lot of work to get a plot prepared and suitable for a garden. Well drained soil is a must for a garden, for our Georgia clay is nutritious but certainly not porous. Warmer climates however have the opposite problem with their sandy soils which leaches nutrients out too quickly, forcing them to raise their beds. As for parts of the north, well they probably have it a little easier than us, for in many places it is as simple as plow and plant.
Amending the soil with organic matter such as composted manure, soil conditioner, peat moss, or topsoil is a must. It gives our clay soil proper drainage and gives sandy soil the opportunity to not drain so quickly while adding nutrients to the deficient sandy soil. It does not matter how fertile or properly drained your soil is if the pH is out of wack. A suitable growing pH is 5.5 and 6.5 and here in Georgia it is critical that we add lime to the soil, for if the pH is off then the available nutrients will be locked out and unavailable to your plants. Areas like Florida with sandy soil have alkaline soil and have put sulfur down to lower the soil pH. A soil test is the best and only way to know for sure the pH of your soil and what actions will be needed for your garden.
Once we have put our amendments down on our garden site we need to till them into the ground with a roto tiller. The Home Depot sells tillers and rents tillers in the tool rental department as well. For a small garden, you may not want to spend a lot of money on a tiller, therefore I recommend either renting a tiller or purchasing a front tine tiller. Front tine tillers are more affordable but jump around more than a rear tined tiller but a tolerable work out for a small garden. If planting a large garden then I seriously recommend a rear tined tillers, for they are much smoother to operate and they wont kill your arms with prolonged use. It is recommended that you do not till wet ground, for it will clod up and not break up as well as needed. Wait until the ground is a little drier.
There are a couple different options for fertilizing your garden. If you are a gardener like me then you have little time and will choose a slow release granular fertilizer which feeds for up to 3 or 4 months. Where as this is the lazy mans way to fertilizing it is affective but it will not get you the 10 lb tomato that a water soluble fertilizer will. If you have spare time I recommend using a water soluble fertilizer such as Miracle Gro or Vigoro. You can apply a water soluble fertilizer every 2 weeks which in time will give you prize winning veggies. Different regions of the US. Have different soil deficiencies therefore fertilizers vary by region.
Planting a garden is a big responsibility and takes a lot of time and commitment. Spend the time to follow these steps and your garden will reward you with the fruits of your labor.
I am Ingar from Atlanta. I also have experts in Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago to help answer any questions that you might have. Swing on over to your local store and our experts will get you hooked up with everything you need. Please share with us and the community your experiences and expertise with gardening as well, for this will make us all better gardeners.
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