Getting the garden ready for the season can feel like such a daunting task. At this point, the lawn may be looking shabby and appears that it needs a good hair cut to knock down some weeds. Weeds may be eyeing you each time that you walk past the landscape and flower beds. The vegetable garden needs some attention too! If you already feel defeated, I have got just the solution for you! In episode 2 of the Sunshine Gardening podcast, I am sharing my top 3 spring gardening chores to help you finish strong for the month of March. Once you have completed these chores, I bet that the other tasks will seem less daunting to you. Stay with me as we march into those spring gardening chores!
Soil is the basic foundation block for gardening. All plants require essential nutrients to grow and this process is done by supplying nutrients through the root system which is then anchored into the soil. In Kentucky, soils are often times less than ideal with lots of red clay content which makes it difficult for soil drainage and nutrients to reach the plants root system. To help alleviate this issue, gardeners must first build good soil.
The first step
to obtaining good soil is through the use of a soil test. Soil testing is one
of the best practices to perform annually for your garden because there is
simply no guesswork involved. A standard soil test will determine the current
fertility status of phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium
(Mg), pH, and cation exchange capacity. Soil test recommendations will also
reveal lime and fertilizer rates to apply which makes it extremely cost
effective for home gardeners and even commercial horticulture producers. Most
vegetable gardens perform best under slightly acid conditions with a pH range
of about 6.2 to 6.8.
When taking a
soil sample for a home vegetable garden plot, take soil samples 6 to 8 inches
deep. Next, collect 12 to 15 core samples using either a soil probe, spade, or
trowel at the recommended depth. Make sure to take samples at random by
scattering to different locations in the area to ensure a well, represented
sample. After collecting samples, mix all the cores together in a clean bucket.
Allow the sample to air-dry on newspaper for a day and bring contents in a bag
to the Extension Office. Soil test samples generally take a minimum of a week
to two weeks maximum to get back. Extension agents will review the soil test
results, highlight the recommendations and sign it before returning to the
client in the mail.
If you are sampling other areas around your home, contact the local Extension Office in your area. They will be happy to walk you through the proper steps in soil sampling different horticulture crops.
season is the perfect time for breaking ground. Sometimes though, the spring
weather can be a wet one. Wait to work the ground until the soil has dried. Working
ground when wet hurts the overall soil structure by forming clods that are
difficult to break apart. Some gardeners may want to consider planting their
spring vegetable transplants in raised bed gardens since they warm up faster
and dry out quicker in comparison to conventional gardening plots.
indicator in knowing when to break ground is when soil is moist and crumbles
readily when formed into a ball. Loosen the soil to a depth of 10 to 12 inches
with a spade or rototiller. Pulverize any clods that may work their way to the
top, since large dirt clods can cause poor seed germination. Spread compost out
and lightly work it into the soil.
Incorporating Organic Matter
to achieving good garden soil is by incorporating organic matter. Adding the
right ingredients of organic matter will improve soil structure and take care
of several issues. It helps to loosen and improve soil drainage of heavy clay
soils and increases both the nutrient and moisture holding capacities. Organic
matter also favors a buildup of beneficial organisms such as n...