Spring is right around the corner and itâ€™s time to start preparing! Many of you will be starting lots of new jobs but also maintaining and revitalizing current sites. One important task for both types of jobs is to prepare the planting beds and amend the soil. Healthy soil will set up your landscapes for healthy plant growth and vitality!
For new sites and empty beds:
The first step is to test the soil. This can be done with a soil test kit but you can also test it by hand by touching and observing texture, solubility and aeration. You can tell how dense and clay-heavy the soil is and how the drainage is looking. Using an actual soil test will also tell you some basic nutrient and pH information, which can be helpful in knowing what soil amendments to add.
The next step is to actually till and amend the soil. We often recommend using compost in your soil. This covers a multitude of purposes, all in one product. Compost is choc-full of nutrients that will feed plants throughout the season. It generally has more than the average NPK fertilizer, providing essential micro-nutrients as well. Itâ€™s also full of worms and beneficial microbes, which will help to aerate the soil, chew through clay clumps and unlock nutrients in the soil to make them available for plants. For more precise nutrient knowledge, you can add fertilizers to the soil as well.
Depending on the soil, you can till it with a rototiller or just turn the compost under with a shovel. Many people are proponents of the â€œno-till methodâ€, which leaves the soil amendments on top of the soil and you plant right through it. Over time, the amendments incorporate themselves.
Photo courtesy of johnandbobs.com
For existing sites/beds:
Obviously, heavy tilling is not usually an option but the soil still needs to be tended! Start with testing the soil again, using the above recommended methods. Many plants need a boost of nutrition after the long winter. Depending on the plant, you can add a specific fertilizer or, again, compost is a great catch-all and will benefit all soils and all types of plants, from trees to roses, ferns to shrubs.
You can use a trowel or shovel to gentle till in soil amendments around the base of existing plants but be careful not to damage root structure! Go very shallow and gentle with this- only mixing in the top few inches of soil. Compost and amendments can also just be left on top of the soil.
For existing lawns, fertilizer or compost can be thinly broadcast over the grass. Look to see if the grass needs to be de-thatched and aerated this spring.
Other tips for preparing your beds:
- Put out a pre-emergent herbicide to keep out the spring weeds.
- Pull any weeds that grew over the winter, to start the year off fresh and prevent them from going to seed and becoming established.
- You can either pull off or till in any decomposing mulch that is leftover.
- Rake empty beds smooth, removing clumps, rocks and remaining weeds as you go.
A healthy, prepared soil bed will yield healthy, happy plants all year long! Preparing now saves you time, money and labor later on in the year! Do you have a favorite type of soil amendment that you use? How do you prepare your spring beds? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page! We love to hear from you!