Now that you've got your seeds started, it is a good time to start focusing on getting your soil ready for transplanting time. Now, that may mean a few different things; you may need to amend your soil with fertilizers or just till it—or nothing at all. It just depends what your soil make-up is like. Or course, there are different schools of thought on the subject. Some believe that you should only "mess" with your soil a minimal amount, with the aim of allowing it to naturally build it's structure and nutrients over the years. Others believe that tilling and amending soil is the only way to garden—they generally believe that this gives the grow more control over the outcome of the garden crops.
The following is just a description of what WE think the ideal soil consists of and how to get it. Use it as a guide to preparing your own soil for your spring garden. We've also provided link to our preferred fertilizers and cover crops!
First, it is very important to understand what the texture of your soil indicates. Good healthy soil is a balance of clay, sand, and silt. And if your soil is too high or low in concentration any one of these components, it can lead to poor results. Ideal soil should easily be packed into a ball and just as easily break apart. It should feel soft and spongy.
Start by turning the top 12 inches of ground, removing rocks and large pebbles. Do not work soil when saturated; this will inhibit oxygenation and promote more of a hard pack when it dries. Also, be sure not to over-till, as this will compromise the soil structure. The idea is to “fluff” the soil, allowing it to breathe and allowing the roots of your plants to easily form. For extremely, hard-packed, clay-heavy soil, consider adding small portions of sand to help dry and break it up.
We recommend obtaining a small amount of compost, relative to the size of your plot, and working it in which will increase NPK levels. We recommend making your own compost by way of a tumbler bin or a bin of worms to break down organic material. This allows you to know exactly what you're putting into your soil—and your going green at the same time! Consider adding worm castings to your compost if you have a tumbler bin. Add 2 to 3 inches of compost on the surface of your plot and till it in. Commercial composts have been known to be high in Phosphorus, so you may need to supplement your nitrogen by either adding coffee grounds or working-in clover weeds.
As far as additives go, we recommend both the Mittleider Magic Micro-Mix and AZOMITE. Mittleider Magic Micro-Nutrient Mix is a natural formula of essential plant nutrients mixed with Epsom salt as a weekly feed for your plants.
AZOMITE is a natural deposit of mineralized complex silica substance that contains over 70 minerals beneficial to plants for growth and vitality. Adding some to your compost can have noticeable differences in the end product as reported by Dr. Terry A. Tindell in a study by Utah State University who asserted that tomato plants treated with AZOMITE saw an increase in tissue levels and yields.
And while you are ordering supplies for spring, check out cover crops and cover-crop mixes to be planted in late summer or fall. Late summer cover crops include collards, daikon radish, buckwheat, and clover. The idea is to allow them to grow wild throughout autumn and let the on-coming cold months kill the plants, returning their organic material back to the ground, giving you garden bed full of nutrients for next spring. If you are planning on planting winter cover crops, check out our full article on the subject.