Ready to up your game? Let’s talk location, soil and mulch.
Location: You know the basics and are bursting to try growing in the ground. Your first choice of plot gets full sun, but is it close enough to a water source? Is the plot safe from deer? If you can’t answer yes to both questions, consider another spot or make plans to run a water line and install stout fencing.
Soil: Your location is ideal, but before you sink a fence post, test the soil. Even if you plan to install raised beds and bring in good soil, test the soil. You wouldn’t buy a house without doing a thorough walk through and inspection, and the same goes for soil. For accurate results, take small samples from about 6-8 inches below the surface from six different spots in the proposed growing area. For details on soil testing and information on where to mail your sample, go to: https://bionutrient.net/site/soil-test
What you’re looking for is any evidence of heavy metals or other pollutants. A proper soil test will contain a detailed list of your soil’s composition so you know what you’re working with and can amend the soil accordingly.
Planning: You’ve got a rockin’ good spot and you’re properly fenced – you’re ready to grow. Now it’s time to consider what will grow where and when. Make sure you are confident on the path the sun will take as it rises and moves west. The angle of the sun is closer to the horizon in the spring and fall and directly overhead in mid-summer. Draw a basic map of your garden and have a list of the vegetables you plan to grow and a calendar on hand. Be sure to leave room for plants to grow, and position taller plants where they won’t shade out their shorter friends. Planning and mapping eliminate the guess work during the season, so you can spend more time caring for your plants and eating the results. For helpful planning tools and calculators, check out: https://www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-library/online-tools-calculators.html
Mulch: The earth considers bare soil a wound that it must cover. Enter weeds. Weeds are highly adaptive, vigorous plants that take advantage of uncovered soil. They’re nature’s Band-Aid. Weeds store carbon in soil, just like other plants, but they compete for the nutrients your vegetables need to prosper. To prevent or control weeds, cover any bare soil in and around your garden. For garden beds, chopped straw or leaves are great choices. Around the beds, wood chips work well. Mulch is essential for keeping weeds at bay and serving as a cap to keep the top few inches of the soil moist and teaming with beneficial microbial life. Never leave your soil uncovered. Mulch equals a much higher degree of success in the garden.
TIP: Straw and hay are not the same thing. Straw is the hollow stalk of cereal grain plants such as oats or wheat. It should only contain a few stray seeds here and there. Hay is animal feed and full of nutritious grains that will sprout in your soil and take root. Look for chopped straw, salt hay or mulch with crushed up leaves. Mulch Master Shredded Straw is readily available and will get in all the little nooks and crannies easily.