Growing your own edible plants can be a very rewarding experience.  After all, you get to literally eat the fruits of your labor!  One of the most important aspects of a successful garden is the soil that you’ll grow your plants in.  Good soil will make your gardening season a breeze, while poor soil will doom you to failure!  Here are some useful tips for preparing your soil for the gardening year:

FIRST, let’s start off with understanding what good soil looks and feels like.  Great gardening soil should be cool, moist (but not wet), crumbly and full of organic material.  A good way to tell if your soil is in good shape is to grab a handful of the soil and squeeze it.  It should feel cool and moist, with the soil crumbling as you squeeze it.  It should not feel clumpy, rocky or overly sandy.  The soil should also have a relatively dark color as well as having visible organic material in it.

Ideally, you’ll want to start your garden soil preparation at least a few weeks before you start planting.  This extra time allows many important biological organisms to begin setting up shop in your garden.  The best gardens will have lots of beneficial fungi and other microorganisms living in them.  More on this later, as there are ways to improve your soil’s biological activity.

Once you have checked out your existing soil, you can start going to work on improving the soil quality.  One of the best things you can do to improve your soil is to add compost.  Compost provides your soil with lots of good organic material while helping to improve soil texture as well as moisture retention.  It is these wonderful traits that make compost one of the most powerful tools in your gardening toolbox.  Ideally, you want your soil to be a mixture of around ¼ to ½ compost, with the rest of the volume being your native soil (or topsoil in cases where you are building raised garden beds or your native soil is terrible!)  Certain types of plants can take higher percentages of compost without getting burned.  Tomatoes are a great example, as they can be planted in garden beds filled almost entirely with compost.  Check with us here at Evergreen Nursery if you are unsure about how much compost to use with your favorite edible plants!

Once you’ve added compost to your soil, it can be very helpful to add a good organic fertilizer to your soil to get your plants started.  We love E.B. Stone and Fox Farm fertilizers for this task.  One of the great things about modern organic fertilizers is that they include beneficial soil microbes and mycorrhizal fungi, which help jump start your plants!  Use these fertilizers just prior to planting, as they are most effective when in close proximity to the roots of actively growing plants.

By now, your soil should be in great shape for planting!  Be sure to keep your soil happy and healthy by adding new organic material to your garden beds on a regular basis.  The best time to add new material is between plantings, so that you don’t have to disturb your existing crops.  Enjoy your fabulous new soil!  Your plants sure will!