Vegetable Garden Soil
Testing and Fixing Your Soil It’s best to test the soil before you begin planting a garden with vegetables. Check drainage by soaking the soil with a hose, waiting a day, then digging up a handful of soil. Squeeze the soil hard. If water streams out, you’ll probably want to add compost or organic matter to improve the drainage. Next, open your hand. If the soil hasn’t formed a ball, or if the ball falls apart at the slightest touch, the soil is probably too sandy. (Add organic matter to improve sandy soil.) If the ball holds together even if you poke it fairly hard, you have too much clay in your soil. (Organic matter improves clay soil, too.) But if the ball breaks into crumbs when you poke it — like a chocolate cake — rejoice! Your soil is ideal. If your soil doesn’t drain well, your best bet will probably be to install raised beds. Here’s a hint: Build raised beds on existing lawn by lining the bottom of frames with several layers of newspaper, then filling with soil. That way, you don’t have to dig! Get more information about raised beds. Learn more about amending your soil here.
Vegetable Garden Soil
While exact pH requirements for vegetables vary somewhat, in general, the soil in a vegetable garden should fall somewhere be 6 and 7. If your vegetable garden soil tests significantly above that, you will need to lower the pH of the soil. If the soil in your vegetable garden tests significantly lower than 6, you will need to raise the pH of your vegetable garden soil.
Vegetable Garden Soil
If you are starting a vegetable garden, or even if you have an established vegetable garden, you may wonder what is the best soil for growing vegetables. Things like the right amendments and the right soil pH for vegetables can help your vegetable garden grow better. Keep reading to learn more about soil preparation for the vegetable garden.
Vegetable Garden Soil
Intensive Cropping This type of planting a garden with vegetables means using in wide bands, generally 1-4 feet across and as long as you like. Intensive cropping reduces the amount of area needed for paths, but the closer spacing of the plants usually means you have to weed by hand. Because of the handwork required, when thinking how to plan a vegetable garden with rows remember: It is important not to make the bands wider than you can comfortably reach. Intensive cropping also allows you to design your vegetable garden, making it a good choice, for example, if you want to grow vegetables in your front yard. It’s a great solution for mixing vegetables with ornamentals, as well. A specialized version of intensive cropping is the “square-foot method.” This system divides the garden into small beds (typically 4×4 feet), that are further subdivided into 1-foot squares. Each 1-foot square is planted with one, four, nine, or 16 plants, depending on the size of the plant when it matures. It also makes sense to leave some areas of the garden unplanted at first. This allows you to plant a second crop to harvest later in the season. Lettuce, radishes, green onions, carrots, and bush beans are commonly planted several times during the season. Don’t miss these other vegetable-garden design tips! Download our free vegetable garden plans!
Why Plant a Garden with Vegetables Starting a vegetable garden at home is an easy way to save money — that $2 tomato plant can easily provide you with 10 pounds of fruit over the course of a season. But planting a garden with vegetables also gives you the pleasure of savoring a delicious, sun-warmed tomato fresh from your backyard. In almost every case, the flavor and texture of varieties you can grow far exceed grocery store produce. Plus, growing vegetables can be fun. It’s a great way to spend time with children or have a place to get away and spend time outdoors in the sun. Learning what to plant in a garden with vegetables, and how to tend them for the best harvest, is probably easier than you think. If you plan it right, you can enjoy a beautiful garden full of the fruits of your labor, without having to spend hours and hours tending it. Planting a garden that includes vegetables and flowers means you’ve combined natural companions, and that can turn a potential eyesore into an attractive landscape feature. Read on for more tips on your first vegetable garden! Get inspired by the White House vegetable garden!
Digging Your Beds Loosen your soil before you plant a garden with vegetables. You can either use a tiller or dig by hand. Once the soil has been loosened, spread out soil amendments (such as compost) and work them into the soil. Avoid stepping on freshly tilled soil as much as possible. Otherwise, you’ll be compacting the soil and undoing all your hard work. When you’re done digging, smooth the surface with a rake, then water thoroughly. Allow the bed to rest for several days before you plant. Eight simple steps to a new garden.
THOUGH some gardeners may be blessed with perfect soil, most of us garden in soil that is less than perfect. If your soil has too much clay in it, is too sandy, too stony or too acidic, don’t despair. Turning a poor soil into a plant-friendly soil is not difficult to do, once you understand the components of a healthy soil.
Organic material – All vegetables need a healthy amount of organic material in the soil they grow in. Organic material serves many purposes. Most importantly, it provides many of the nutrients that plants need to grow and thrive. Secondly, organic material “softens” soil and makes it so that the roots can more easily spread through the soil. Organic material also acts like small sponges in the soil and allows the soil in your vegetable to retain water.
To get the most accurate test results, take a soil sample from each garden area: lawn, flower garden, and vegetable garden. Spring and fall are the best times to perform a soil test. The soil is more stable, and these are good times to incorporate any recommended fertilizers. Many labs will give recommendations for specific organic amendments upon request. If not, you will have to compare labels to find organic substitutes for the chemical fertilizers that may be suggested.
Soil texture can range from very fine particles to coarse and gravelly. You don’t have to be a scientist to determine the texture of the soil in your garden. To get a rough idea, simply place some soil in the palm of your hand and wet it slightly, then run the mixture between your fingers. If it feels gritty, your soil is sandy; if it feels smooth, like moist talcum powder, your soil is silty; if it feels harsh when dry, sticky or slippery when wet, or rubbery when moist, it is high in clay.
Once the soil has been loosened, spread out soil amendments (such as compost) and work them into the soil. Avoid stepping on freshly tilled soil as much as possible. Otherwise, you’ll be compacting the soil and undoing all your hard work.
Improve the soil. Work a minimum of 2 to 3 inches of compost or soil conditioner into the soil with a tiller or fork. This helps drainage, the ability to hold nutrients, and promotes beneficial micro–organism activity. This is also a good time to add lime or sulfur to adjust pH as recommended by a soil test. If you don’t have time to send off a soil sample for testing, use a purchased kit, or take your chances that the pH is okay and test it later.
As a founding employee of Gardener’s Supply, I wore many different hats over the years. Currently, I have my own company called Johnnie Brook Creative. The gardens around my home in Richmond, VT, include a large vegetable garden, seasonal greenhouse, cutting garden, perennial gardens, rock garden, shade garden, berry plantings, lots of container plants and a meadow garden. There’s no place I’d rather be than in the garden.
Determining How Much Space You Need Once you know what you want to plant, you can figure out how to plan a vegetable garden with the right amount of space. Keep in mind that when figuring out what to plant in a garden with vegetables, you don’t need a large space to begin. If you choose to grow in containers, you don’t even need a yard — a deck or balcony may provide plenty of space. In fact, a well-tended 10×10-foot vegetable garden will usually produce more than a weed-filled or disease-ridden 25×50-foot bed. Get ideas for growing veggies in containers.
Lots of people dream of having a huge vegetable garden, a sprawling site that will be big enough to grow everything they want, including space-hungry crops, such as corn, dried beans, pumpkins and winter squash, melons, cucumbers and watermelons. If you have the room and, even more importantly, the time and energy needed to grow a huge garden well, go for it. But vegetable gardens that make efficient use of growing space are much easier to care for, whether you’re talking about a few containers on the patio or a 50-by-100-foot plot in the backyard. Raised beds are a good choice for beginners because they make the garden more manageable.