Preparing the Ground

No Way Around ItWork Alert! There's No Way Around It!No Way Around It


Of all the things in gardening, the preparation of the ground may be the most important. The proper preparation of what will be the plants' home can insure the plants' survival--or doom it.

Unfortunately, all ways to prepare the soil require work. Unless, of course, you HIRE IT DONE!!! Hiring it done, however, means you must be satisfied with whatever the employee can do. Only you will care fully about the end result. It is with that in mind that I will describe these laborious methods to prepare the ground. On the front page, I mention that I will only discuss labor-intensive practices if they are really necessary. These are, indeed, truly necessary practices.

There are many ways to prepare the ground. Which one is suitable, depends on what kind of soil you are starting with, how much space you have, and on what kind of plants you intend to grow in the target area. I will try to organize them in a logical manner for you.

If the dirt is poor in some way, you have some options. You can spade,shovel, or till in some compost or peat, which will improve the texture and nutrient level of the dirt. You can add a commercially prepared fertilizer. You also can build a raised bed.

For a Mid-Sized Area
For a Large Area

For a small area, the trusty shovel is the best bet. If there is sod, you will definitely need a shovel instead of a spade. If you can get the shovel blade sharpened, or sharpen it yourself, it will make the job much easier. The sharp blade will cut through the grass roots easier. It may seem easier to just turn the shovels of dirt over, but established grass can find any hint of sun coming between the clods and grow to it! Therefore, you will need to wrench the turf away from the dirt as well as you can. This will take a lot of earth with it. Don't worry about it--if you want the earth back, you will need to let the grass die off (Throw the clods in a pile--most of it'll die in a few weeks) before you shovel the earth back.

This will leave an area which is lower than the surrounding area. If your dirt is pretty good (you can get it tested at your county agricultural extension office), go ahead and leave it. With an indentation in fairly good dirt, it is quite convenient since the water won't be running off all over the place!

If you build a raised bed, you won't need to shovel up the grass since you will be putting at least 6" to a foot of good dirt on top of it. That will kill any grass under there with lack of light.

To improve the texture and soil nutrient level, compost or peat mixed into the soil is your best bet. Over the years, the poorest clay or sand "junk" can be turned into a fertile, loamy garden.

You can also put down commercial fertilizer, which is quick and easy, but compost lasts much longer while improving the texture of the dirt. There are other options, too numerous to discuss in detail. These include spraying Miracle-Gro on the plants, which feeds through the leaves as well as the ground, planting things which will grow in poor earth, and even burying fish under the plants!

Good luck and happy gardening.

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