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Soil Preparation


Sugar Creek Gardens’ Time-Honored Suggestions for Preparation of Your Soil for Planting

Increasing soil’s organic matter by 1% has the potential to increase flower and fruit by 12%. Even a small increase in organic matter can have a large impact on your garden. Ideal soil is a dark, rich crumbly loam. It is loose enough to allow water and air to pass through, and contains nutrients to nourish the plants. The process of creating this ideal soil involves loosening the soil with a digging fork and adding organic matter. This can be peat moss, well-decomposed manure, compost, leaf mold or shredded leaves in a generous quantity. Sugar Creek Gardens’ basic steps for preparing a garden bed are as follows:

Determine the basic shape of the garden, using a rope or garden hose laid out to help visualize the outline. Edge along this with a digging spade creating a furrow.

Strip the sod or weeds off of the area with a spade or, if you have some time, kill the grass by smothering it with anchored newspaper or leaves. The sod, newspaper, and leaves turn into rich organic matter which can be incorporated into the soil. Black plastic sheeting can also be used but must be removed. 

Spread a 3-6” layer of organic matter on the garden bed. 

On top of the layer of organic matter spread an all-purpose fertilizer, superphosphate, bone meal, or another soil additive at the manufacturer’s recommended dosage. 

Use a garden fork to incorporate the organic matter into the top foot of the soil. Double digging is the process of removing the soil to a depth of 1’ then turning over the soil beneath that and adding organic matter. This encourages roots to grow deeper, greatly improving their ability to withstand drought. Digging 1’ is fine for most perennials, but for those plants that will be left in place for many years, double digging is recommended. 

Once the soil has been worked, don’t walk on it. If the garden bed is wider than your reach, incorporate narrow footpaths to allow access to all the plants. 

After planting has been completed, add a 1-2” layer of mulch or additional compost. This will keep the plants’ roots cooler and will also conserve moisture, reducing needed watering.

Every year add a layer of organic matter to the garden to continue to build an ideal soil for your plants.