Preparing Soil for Planting
So what is the secret to the bountiful gardener’s success? While gardening is certainly a skill, a lot of it comes down to strict science at the end of the day. In order to have a successful garden, you have to have healthy, nutrient-rich soil that is actually helpful in terms of helping the fruits and vegetables that have been planted there grow. With that in mind, what steps should you be taking in order to successfully prepare your soil for planting seeds and gardening in it?
Don’t let the words “building a soil profile” throw you off or intimidate you – this first step is actually way easier than it sounds at the outset. Soil needs nutrients, just like people do, in order to be able to support life – in this case, the growth of your seeds. There are roughly 17 elements, including nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, and several others, which plants need to help grow big and strong.
In order to figure out what kind of nutrients your soil already has and which ones it needs, you will need to buy a soil testing kit or meter that will tell you what elements the soil is already made up of. Once you have this information, you can then begin to buy nutrient-rich soil to mix in with what you already have to make the richest soil possible.
Additionally, you should also test for things that should not be in the soil as well as things that should be there. While there are a variety of contaminants and pollutants that are harmful to people, plants, and animals that could show up in the soil, lead is, by far, the most dangerous one.
The reason for this being the case exists in two parts. The first is that, like heavy metal, lead is particularly poisonous to all living things when it is eaten. Even a small amount of it can cause can lower a child’s intelligence and stunt their cognitive development, and adults do not fare much better with it. Make sure that your soil is contaminant-free before you plant and then eat any kind of fruit or vegetable in it.
One way to help your soil become even more conducive for growing plants and vegetables is to simply add some high-quality compost and manure to the soil that you already have. Doing this will only continue to add nutrients to the soil while not taking anything away from it, so the environment is much more hospitable for your plants to grow in.
In order to be able to yield the best possible crops from your home garden, making sure that your soil is receiving enough air is vitally important. Avoid using heavy soils that are silty or clay-like, as they will not allow for a sufficient amount of air to get into the soil. It is also not good for the oxygen intake of the soil for you to disturb the soil while it is wet, so make sure it is dry before you try and rake it or use another type of tool on it.
A common mistake among first-time gardeners is to put too much water in the soil in the misplaced belief that more water means bigger plants and better soil. As with most other things in life, there is a certain balance that is required to make sure the soil can actually use all of its nutrients instead of being washed away because someone got a bit too excited with the garden hose.
As a point of reference, a healthy patch of soil will only be comprised of about twenty-five percent soil, so keep that in mind when you are watering your garden.
Having high-quality mulch available and ready to use in your garden will only help strengthen the quality of the soil. Mulch slows down the rate of water evaporation from the soil and also protects it from the elements, which is very useful in situations where it is either very hot or very cold outside on a given day.