Prepping Your Garden for Spring
By MG Calla Victoria
The most important thing that one can do to get ready for spring planting is to prepare the soil. Rich soil is the secret to a beautiful garden. If you don’t prepare the soil your plants will not flourish. Have you will notice, when you start to plant your seedlings (infant plants), all of those small hair-like fine roots? Those thin weak, fine little roots need to be able to stretch out and grow so that your plants will have strong foundations. Those fine hair-like tiny roots cannot push through hard compacted soil and will not flourish in nutrient-depleted soil. Therefore it is imperative that you aerate (loosen up) the soil, and add nutrients that will benefit your young plants. Oh yeah! It is time to get down and dirty!
The first step needs to be a road trip to your favorite gardening center and load up on mulch, potting soil, and fertilizer. Leaves and grass clippings are a free and excellent alternatives to commercial mulch products. The grass add pure nitrogen to the soil and the leaves are an excellent weed deterrent; both are organic gardening techniques as well. So when your gardener cuts your grass, have him bag the grass clippings and leave them for you. Other items to add to your list are eggs shells, banana peels, fish emulsion; charcoal, chicken manure and Miracle grow potting soil for those extra thirsty heavy feeders. The Miracle grow potting soil has gotten a bad rap because is does retain moisture. So I would suggest using it when you plant those thirsty plants like supertunias, and tropicals which can never get enough water, or in plantings near trees. The trees, with their large roots, will suck up a lot of the moisture; therefore smaller plants around trees will need the added moisture retention to sustain themselves.
Preparing your soil:
- Discard all dead plant materials, dig up old roots.
- Aerate soil by turning with a tiller or using a pitch fork-The purpose of aerating the soil is to loosen it up as it has compacted over the winter month, and to assist your new plant material (with has those fine hair-like small roots) to be able to spread and thrive.
- Sprinkle a thin layer of lime over the soil and let it sit for three days, after aerating the soil. Liming garden soil reduces the acidity of the soil by increasing the pH level. Plants can’t get the nutrients they need from soil that is too acid.
Note: (If you have some plant material like azaleas that prefer acidic soil, don’t lime in those areas.
- After three days you can begin installing your plant material.
- Customize you potting soil mixture:
a. Ground up charcoal, use a hammer to ground up the charcoal and add it to your purchased potting mixture. The purpose of adding charcoal to your garden soil is to improve air circulation and increase the soil’s ability to retain water and nutrients. Once added, the benefits of charcoal continue for years.
b. Dice up banana peels and add to potting soil–potassium promotes strong roots.
c. Crush up eggshells and add to potting mix. Egg shells serve as a source of calcium to the plants.
d. Add a time-released fertilizer to your potting mix. This saves you the headache of trying to remember when to fertilize your plants. There are other organic fertilizer options like fish emulsion which puts micronutrients back into the soil constantly replenishes and rebuilding it. It is an excellent all purpose fertilizer. You can buy fish emulsion or if you happen to fish or have a friend who does, you can just plant the discarded parts of fish innards after cleaning the fish. Of course that is provided you do not have any feral cats in your yard like the ones who have adopted my yard. In that case you will have to go with the purchased product. Also chicken manure is a great organic fertilizer option. You can purchase it most garden centers or if you are lucky enough to have a neighbor who owns chickens, like my neighbor Charles, then you get free manure and free eggs.
After you have prepared your soil, you can begin planting your seedlings. Always buy seedling in odd numbers starting with three. Your garden will look lush if you plant in multiples rather than one-of-a-kind plantings.
Check out my “Gardening Tip of the Week.”
This article was published in Data News Weekly's April 5, 2014 edition.