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Container Gardening

In The Beginning... Soils

Garden Chores Calendar

Turf Management Calendar

Garden Ponds


Herbs Listing

Important Kitchen Herbs




Before there can be success with gardening, there must be a successful base in which to begin.....the soil.  Without the proper soil conditions, you have nothing on which to build.  Unless you first prepare your soil, you will be wasting you time, money and efforts.

Even before you touch the soil...what is the location of your garden?  Some immediate considerations include:

Sunlight:  Some plants need full sun while others need shade, and others a combination of the two.
Proximity:  What is the location?  Garden or vegetables?  Depending on the type of garden you are planning, the convenience of the garden will dictate chores such as watering, weeding, etc.
Water:  What will be your water source and how will you get it to your garden?  This too will determine the size and complexity of your garden.  Especially with vegetable gardening, you will only get moderate results if you try to grow a garden without watering it as needed.  Mulches and high organic matter will improve the soil's moisture-holding capacity and reduce moisture loss, but they will not guarantee an ample supply of moisture at all times.


Soil testing is an important practice for the home gardener.  Results will show the amounts of residual fertilizers in the soil and the amounts that should be added to improve plant growth.  Tests also determine the pH of the soil, which will determine how much lime should be added.

Most soil samples can be taken to county extension offices for testing.  They provide recommendations for the kind and amount of fertilizer and lime to apply.

Preparation and Improvement

Begin in the fall.  Chop up all leaves and natural litter and turn into the soil in the fall.  This controls diseases and speeds up decomposition.

Use organic matter when possible.  This improves soil tilth, conserves soil moisture which in turn aids in root development.  Compost is a good source of organic matter.  It can be made up of straw, hay, leaves, manure, sawdust, weeds, kitchen scraps, etc.  When layered with soil and kept moist, your compost pile can supply you with generous amounts of organic material for enhancing the soil.

Cover crops planted in vegetable gardens aids in building soil nutrients such as nitrogen as well as building soil tilth.   Included are crimson clover, rye, annual alfalfa, oats, buckwheat or vetch.   These can be planted separately in in combination.  These are turned under in early spring a few weeks before planting begins.

Fertilizers are sold by grade, such as 10-10-10, 6-12-12 or 5-10-15.  These numbers refer to the percent of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash.  Example in a 100 lbs. of 10-10-10 fertilizer, there is 10 lbs. of nitrogen (N), 10 pounds of available phosphorus (P) and 10 pounds of soluble potash (K).  The other 70 pounds are chemicals used by the plant, plus a conditioner to keep the fertilizer from becoming lumpy.

Application types of fertilizer include:   Broadcast of the fertilizer and worked into the soil prior to planting. Banding after plants or seed are in the ground, which places the fertilizer near the plants or rows.   To much standard fertilizer placed near you plants or seed can damage root systems.

There are also time release fertilizers which can be directly added, even when plants are already established.  They provide longer feeding and are not harmful to the plants or root systems if placed too closely.


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