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What's the best way to prepare the soil for vegetable plants to grow?
Vegetables use up the soil’s nutrients, which need to be replaced for next year. Thus, you want to add nutrients to the soil that feeds the plants. You want to make the soil loose enough to put in seeds or young vegetables.
How do you make the healthiest soil for plants to spread their roots and absorb food and water?
Some gardeners use tilling, the traditional approach to improve garden soil for vegetables. But what is tilling? It is breaking up the ground by digging the soil 8–10 inches deep and turning it over.
Gardeners debate whether or not tilling is a good practice for renewing soil that has been depleted of its nutrients. This article will provide some points on both sides of the fence. Which makes sense for your gardening needs?
Here are some of the main reasons why tilling might be a good idea, along with some directions on how to best do so.
Additional reasons not to till:
Before you decide whether or not to till, here are a few alternatives to tilling that improve garden soil. Building healthy soil structure takes time. It’s the most important part of tending the garden. Plants thrive in it. It lightens the carbon footprint.
Spread a couple of inches of compost on top of the soil. Let rain, worms, and soil microbes do their job to break down the material to feed plants.
Each vegetable plant has different nutritional needs, pests, and diseases. Switching locations between plants in the vegetable garden the following year improves their chances to thrive. Additionally, pests and diseases don't have much time to develop.
Scientists have actually found which plants are beneficial to each other. For example, this year, plant tomatoes in section A of the garden. Tomatoes consume nutrients they need and leave behind those they don't. Next year, plant beans in section A to consume nutrients left behind by tomatoes. Tomato plants can go in another section. It's sort of like swapping lunches in grade school. Everyone gets what they want.
The freeze/thaw cycle breaks up soil. Worms create passageways as they move through the ground. Even dead roots of plants leave tunnels once they decompose.
Pull weeds by hand, making sure to get the roots. Use a weed fork to get at deep roots like a dandelion’s. A 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch prevents weed growth.
Creating a new garden for the first time requires some serious digging and tilling. After that, build soil by layering organic material on top every year.
© 2019 Juli Seyfried