Want a Bountiful Summer Garden? Do These 3 Quick Things to Your Soil This Weekend
Has planting season crept up on you? No worries. Three easy steps will have your soil ready for veggies and flowers in no time.
It happens to all of us: In no time flat, winter has slipped away and it’s suddenly time to get spring vegetables and ornamentals in the ground. You have no time for soil tests, lengthy weed-killing regimens, or—heaven forbid—soil replacement, but you still want the rewards a beautiful and productive garden can offer.
What can you do at the last minute to get ready for planting? Luckily, it’s quick and simple to get your dirt prepped; three important steps can get your garden soil ready. If you’re really in a race against the season, you can accomplish all these tasks in a single weekend.
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Aerate the Soil
Plants need air both above ground and below. Heavily compacted soil impedes air circulation around roots, and dense dirt is a less hospitable home for earthworms and other organisms that improve the health of your soil. Water and plant roots, too, have a harder time moving and growing through packed soil.
While there are fancy machines you can rent to aid with aeration, you also can make use of a shovel and bow rake, or a simple garden fork. Using a shovel or spade to lift and dump soil, turn over your soil a few inches down. Then, use a rake to break up large dirt clods and reposition your newly aerated soil. Alternatively, use a garden fork to aerate your soil without turning it over. Step on the fork and rock it back and forth to loosen the soil, repeating this motion throughout your garden.
As you turn the soil, weeds will be upended and you can pluck them out as you go. Have a discard bucket at the ready for easy collection and disposal.
Compost is a wonderful soil conditioner, adding essential nutrients, aiding in moisture retention, and suppressing harmful pathogens. Whether you purchase compost from a nursery or have a compost pile of your own to draw from, your garden will thank you for mixing in some of this “health food” for plants. When buying it, look for locally sourced compost when possible.
The good news is you can mix compost into the soil while you aerate it! As you’re digging and raking, simply dump compost on the soil, mixing it in as you go.
Mix in Fertilizer
Like us, plants need nutrition to thrive. And like your refrigerator, the soil needs replenishing when it runs out of nutrients. Fertilizer gives your plants much-needed fuel to grow longer and stronger stems, more foliage, better blooms, and bountiful fruit.
At a local nursery or from online retailers, you can buy fertilizer in liquid or granular form. Liquid fertilizers are concentrated and need to be mixed with water before being added to soil. Meanwhile, dry fertilizers can be mixed into the soil while you’re aerating and adding compost.
You’ll find fertilizers with different ratios of essential nutrients, but since we’re in hurry-up-and-get-it-done mode, a balanced fertilizer such as 13-13-13 will provide equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium without needing to get too in the weeds about which nutrients your plants need.
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Sip Iced Tea on the Porch
The only remaining step is to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Whether you’re growing zucchini or zinnias, this quick process will enrich your soil and help your garden flourish. Aerate your soil by turning it over with a shovel and/or raking it, and while you’re at it, mix in compost and fertilizer. Ever generous, Mother Nature will happily repay you with bountiful beauty, while you sit on the porch and take it all in.