The idea of preparing to plant your garden may be a stretch if you still see snow flakes outside your window, but we promise you, that time is just around the corner!
Once warmer temps get a bit closer, our focus as prepsteaders (preppers and homesteaders) inevitably turn to gardening.
But before you put the first seedling into the ground, there are a few tasks you need to complete in order to ensure a successful growing experience.
Here are 10 critical-but-easy steps you can take to prepare your soil for planting, even if you don’t have a green thumb! Use these as your check list, and when the weather does turn warm enough to plant, you’ll be more than ready.
#1: Create a plan.
Determining which plants to grow in your garden is a task you can begin well before the season begins.
What do you want to grow, and how much? How many varieties of plants do you want? Do maturity dates make a difference? (They do.) How do you layout your plants? How many can you position within a given space?
All these questions and more point to one conclusion: For best results, you need a garden plan and calendar. These can be as simple or as complex as you like, but simple may be all you need.
Check this link for ideas on garden layouts and plans. Then choose the one that fits you best.
#2: Purchase and Organize Seeds
With your garden plan in place, you can now start gathering the seeds included in the plan. You’ll find an immense selection of seeds online or at your local gardening center. Or you may have your own seeds from the previous growing season.
If the latter, now is a good time to have a closer look at them. Sometimes mold grows over the winter if the seeds were not properly stored. If you find any of that, you need to replace those seeds.
Next, identify your growing schedule to determine in-ground target dates. If you need to grow seedlings indoors before the season begins, calculate when you need to begin that process. The shorter your growing season, the more likely it is that you begin the process indoors.
Good candidates for starting indoors include:
- Brussels sprouts
# 3: Prepare Your Tools
Before you begin working the soil, double check your tools to be sure they have been cleaned and sterilized. Remember that remnants of plant sap or dirt and debris can harbor fungal spores and many types of bacteria.
If you see any signs of rust on pruners, shovels or hoes, be sure to remove that, as well.
Finally, take time to sharpen your tools as necessary, especially those that directly contact plants such as your loppers and pruning tools.
#4: Remove Weeds and Debris
Somehow, weeds seem to emerge spontaneously up out of the soil as soon as anyone mentions the words “Spring” or garden. Leftover debris from the previous season falls from the sky.
At least, it seems that way at our house.
If you didn’t do this at the end of the last planting season, remove any weeds from the garden area now before they get a chance to re-sprout and take over just about everything.
The best way, of course, is to pull each weed out by the roots. But if you can’t do that, find a good natural weed killer that won’t harm or contaminant the soil.
#5: Check Your Water Supply
If you already have an irrigation system in place, double check for leaks or blockages. Replace any broken hose or connections.
In addition, check your water storage containers (assuming you have some). If these are connected to a rainwater collection system, be sure that it is working efficiently.
#6: Prepare Garden Beds
Around 2 weeks before inserting your first seeds or seedlings into the ground, you should spend time preparing the garden beds. After a long winter, especially if it includes snow and freezing temperatures, the ground needs some work on your part.
First, you need to make sure the soil is not compacted. If so, you may want to loosen it with a motorized rototiller or a hoe. This will help remove any weeds that are left over from the previous season, and make the soil ready for planting.
Next, decide on what fertilizer you’ll need based upon the plants you’re planning to grow. For example, if you’re growing tomatoes, you might want some calcium to prevent blossom end rot. Or if petunias are in the mix, add a bit of phosphorous.
#7: Check the Temperature
In steps 1-6, we covered preparations you need to make to your garden before planting. But don’t rush into inserting that first plant. Check the temperatures first.
Cool season vegetables (asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, etc.) need daytime temperatures in the 60’s F, and nights in the 40’s.
Warm season vegetables (bean, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, pumpkin, etc.) should not be planted until daytime temps are in the 70s to 80s F, with nighttime temps no lower than 50F.
#8: Put Your Plants Into The Ground
At last we’re ready to get our hands dirty! When the danger of frost has passed in your area, you’re ready to begin planting.
If using seedlings, you may want to bring them out of your house or greenhouse for a few hours a day to get them used to the temperature change and to build their wind tolerance. Dig holes spaced apart as suggested by tag instructions.
Insert the plants and compact the soil around the plant with your fingers. Then give them some water.
If using seeds, follow packet instructions for sun and spacing requirements. Make shallow holes in the soil, then insert one or several seeds in each (again, as suggested by the packet instructions).
#9: Set Up Your Watering Schedule.
With plants in the ground, your next step is watering. Water somewhat generously at first, but be careful not to flush the seeds out of their holes. As plants get larger, you can taper off the amount and frequency of watering unless you’re in a very dry or hot climate.
How often you water depends upon your soil, the local temperatures and humidity, and the amount of rain you receive. If you have a clay soil that dries out more slowly than sandy soil, you need to take that into consideration also.
#10: Add Some Mulch For Extra Protection.
Mulch is excellent for helping you to control weeds and to help the soil retain its moisture. You have lots of varieties to choose from, including shredded bark, straw, hay and even river rock.
Rock, by the way, is more or less a permanent mulch, usually added on top of a layer of landscape fabric to help keep it in place and then left alone.
Start Preparing To Plant Your Garden Soon.
The new season is fast approaching.
But as you can see, the season doesn’t begin with the first plant in the ground. It takes a bit of work to ensure that your garden site is ready for a plentiful new season of growth.