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Gardening With Charlie - Preparing a New Garden

Jan 12, 2011 06:09PM ● By Anonymous

Choose the spot. Vegetable gardens and most flowerbeds require at least 6 hours of full sun each day. Choose a level spot - either natural or terraced - that has well-drained soil, if possible. Thick grass or vigorous weed growth usually indicate soil drainage and nutrient levels that will support healthy garden plants.

Rejuvenate tired soil. If your garden spot is not new and just needs some revitalization, begin this fall. First, send a soil sample to a private or Cooperative Extension soil-testing lab for nutrient and pH analysis. Call the lab or a local garden center for a collection kit and instructions on how to collect the sample. Test results will tell you which minerals and pH amendments your soil needs to grow healthy vegetables and flowers.

Add amendments. Adjust the soil pH - its measure of acidity or alkalinity - by adding ground limestone or sulfur as recommended by the soil test results. Improve the soil fertility, clay soil drainage, and sandy soil water-holding capacity by adding organic material, such as compost, well-rotted livestock manure, or composted fir bark. Apply a 1- to 2-inch layer of organic material over the garden.

Turn the soil. Work the amendments into the top 6 to 12 inches of soil with a rototiller or garden fork. Break up large clods and remove rocks and roots. Work the soil only when it is dry enough to crumble easily after squeezing - never when it is saturated with water.

Convert lawn the easy way. If your future garden spot is currently covered with grass, you can remove it by slicing under the sod with a spade and cutting it into manageable pieces. Or you can utilize the nitrogen and organic matter in the grass by simply smothering it. First, mow the grass short. Then spread several thicknesses of newspaper over the grass and moisten it with a hose. Finally, spread several inches of compost or composted manure on top. Over the winter the grass will decompose underneath, and by spring you'll have a nice planting bed.

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A former floral designer and interior plantscaper, Kathy Bond-Borie has spent 20 years as a garden writer/editor, including her current role as Horticultural Editor for the National Gardening Association. She loves designing with plants, and spends more time playing in the garden - planting and trying new combinations - than sitting and appreciating it.

Photo Courtesy of Fotolia | Courtesy of Family Features