Monday, March 19, 2012
There seems to be more ways to prepare your garden for spring vegetable planting than any other gardening topic. I think everyone does it a little differently. We have a tiller and I don't even know the brand name. It's kind of old but it still does the job.
We usually till in the fall to plant our winter garden and that seems to turn much of the mulch and debris from the year before underground and turns it into a rich clay soil. The soil in our area of Georgia is mostly red clay -- our county has a few places with different kinds of soil, but our garden is red clay that has been heavily amended with compost and it seems to be richer, and darker every year we plant.
There are many things you can do to help "sweeten" soil. Our region has acidic soil and using lime helps to balance the pH. To benefit from lime, you really need to treat the soil for the next season because it is an amendment that is slow to act. We added lime at the end of last year's summer season because we wanted to help our spring garden.
We have found that tilling until the dirt is not clumpy is a big help. My husband is the designated "tiller" and he goes over any area to plant at least three times to make the ground soft. If the soil is too damp, it will clump, but you can till again in a day or so to break up the clumps.
He also believes that if you till in the fall, then early in the spring you will expose some of the weeds to frost, which will kill some of them. I have also read that the more you till, the more you help the weeds. I don't know which way is the correct way. I believe that weeds will be there no matter what you do and the only way to keep them at bay is by mulching heavily, and often. We like to put down newspaper and mulch to block large areas from sun. I believe mulching is very beneficial because you will keep the weeds at bay and also add compost the soil.
However, don't think you can keep weeds away for good by mulching. The wind, birds and insects will bring the weeds back. It is a battle you must fight every season. You can greatly help the weed problem but I haven't met anyone yet that has conquered it without working every year to control their weeds.
Another thing you can do: Till more deeply when planting root crops so that the roots will have more room to develop. This seems particularly good for carrots.
There are so many methods you can use besides tilling, like square foot gardening, raised beds, lasagna gardening, straw bale gardening. I think all these methods are good. I think one of the reasons we like tilling and composting is because we do have the area for it and it is the least expensive method for our needs at this time. We also are healthy enough to do the hard work that comes with tilling the soil. For now it works and after this weekend I have sore muscles, but I feel good about what we have accomplished.