1 When preparing the soil for gardening flowers or vegetables, choose the location and remove all the rocks, twigs, weeds and any debris from the area. If the location is covered with sod, remove the top layer with a shovel. This cutting garden was my former vegetable garden until a mole cricket issue forced us to move it to another field.
2 Once the soil is upturned, determine its condition - too much sand in the soil may make the soil too dry; and too much clay may make it too wet. The soil should be a good combination of earth, sand and clay. My soil was already well balanced and just needed tilling after the long, harsh winter.
3 Cultivate the soil by turning it over with a fork, a shovel or a rototiller. Tilling the soil breaks it up and prepares it for planting. Till the earth at least one-foot down into the soil, removing additional rocks and debris along the way.
4 Building up the soil is the most important part of preparing your garden for growing vegetables and flowers. A deep, organically rich soil will encourage and support the growth of healthy root systems. This area of the cutting garden was thoroughly tilled and ready for compost.
5 Mix the soil with compost, humus or aged manure. At my farm, I always use composted manure. Drop clumps of compost onto the soil. Work the compost into the soil at least several-inches down. Compost helps make the soil more absorbent and is a great way to add nutrients back into the earth.
6 The fastest way to create a deep layer of fertile soil is to build raised beds. Raised beds contain loose, fluffy soil that is perfect for planting.
7 Rake the soil until it is level. Raised beds warm more quickly in springtime and maintain better aeration and drainage.
8 While raking the raised beds, be sure to mound it neatly, leaving paths in between for walking, weeding and cutting. Once the soil is amended and cultivated, let it sit awhile before planting. Look how nice and straight the beds are in my cutting garden.
9 The beds looked great from a ladder perspective. Once the temperature of the soil warmed up, it was time to plant the first cutting flowers of the season. Perennials already showed their bold spring green foliage. For flower garden ideas, visit my web site. http://www.marthastewart.com/1060827/flower-gardens
10 A lot of the plants we ordered for the garden arrived by the time we finished preparing the beds. When planting outdoors, try to do so on a still, overcast day. Sun, heat and wind may stress seedlings.
11 I can't wait to show you how everything is growing in a future blog. It's important to plant annuals at the same depth at which they were grown in their containers. And always water the plants thoroughly after transplanting.
12 Meanwhile, over in my vegetable garden, now located by the chicken coops, the soil was also readied for planting. The chickens and Guinea fowl did a great job eating the insects, fertilizing the earth, and digging and scratching the soil, which created good aeration.
13 The soil was tilled and twine was put up to divide the space evenly for beds and walking paths.
14 If building a new vegetable garden, test the soil to gain more knowledge of its pH, phosphorous, lime, potassium, soluble salts, and soil texture. Soil testing kits are available at garden centers, or through a local cooperative extension.
15 My gardener, Wilmer, began creating the vegetable beds last week. The soil was tilled and the beds were neatly shaped. When starting a new garden, rotate planting by changing the location of crops each year. Doing this will further improve the soil quality.
16 Wilmer raked the top of the beds so they were level. Each bed was raised about six to eight inches off the ground. Narrow paths were created around each bed for easy access to weeding and harvesting.
17 When building raised beds, be sure every part can be reached without standing on it. The benefit of raised beds is the light, fluffy, well-drained soil, which encourages vigorous plant growth. Let this be a number one "ground" rule - never step on the soil within raised beds.
18 No matter when the soil is prepared, only start planting when the soil is warm enough to be worked. The soil temperature for planting cool weather vegetables is about 40-degrees Fahrenheit. 50-degrees Fahrenheit for onions and leeks, and at least 60-degrees for other warmer, tender crops.
20 The beds look great and are ready for planting - I can't wait to show you what we planted first.