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Soil Preparation

Soil Prep Is Important for Successful Gardens

Preparing the soil is one of the most important steps in gardening.

If erosion is not a problem, plow or spade clay soils and grassy areas in the fall. Limestone is most effective when applied in the fall.

On new garden sites that were lawn areas or were heavily infested with weeds, consider using an approved chemical to kill existing plants before turning the soil. Plow or turn soil to a depth of 7 or 8 inches. Leave fall-plowed land rough until spring.

Many garden tillers are not adequate equipment for the initial breaking of soil in a new garden site. Starting in early spring, disc or rake the soil several times at regular intervals to keep down weeds and to give a smooth, clod-free planting bed.

If you did not plow or spade the garden site in the fall, turn the soil in spring as soon as it is dry enough to work. A good test to determine if the soil can be worked is to mold a handful of soil into a ball. If the ball is not sticky but crumbles readily when pressed with your thumb, the soil is in good condition.

If you did not apply recommended lime to the garden site in the fall, apply both lime and recommended fertilizer in the spring. Plow or spade the soil, spread the lime and fertilizer, and mix it in with a disc, harrow, or rototiller.

Pulverize the soil and get a smooth, level surface by raking as soon as possible after turning. This helps to firm the soil, break up clods, and leave a smooth surface for seeding. Soil left in rough condition for several days after turning in the spring may dry out and form hard clods, making it much more difficult to prepare a good seedbed.

Prepare a small garden plot for planting by using a spade, shovel, or spading fork to turn the soil. Use a small tractor or garden tiller for a larger garden. Completely cover all plant material on top of the ground and work it into the soil when the soil is turned.

Where the soil is clay and level and likely to stay wet, use a hoe, rake, or tiller to pull the soil into raised rows that are 10 to 12 inches across on the tops. Let the sides slope gently to the walkways to provide good surface drainage.

Conventional row spacing is 36 to 40 inches apart, but spacing depends on a number of factors: equipment, garden size, and vegetables being grown. Rows for vigorously vining vegetables like watermelons, cantaloupes, pumpkins, and winter squash are usually 6 to 8 feet apart.

Raised bed gardens are relatively easy to prepare for planting once the beds are constructed. (See Raised Beds)

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News

Raking leaves
Filed Under: Soil Testing, Lawn and Garden, Herb Gardens, Turfgrass and Lawn Management, Vegetable Gardens September 28, 2021

Autumn is officially here! It’s not hard to love this time of year. Temperatures are cooling, leaves are changing, and there will be more branches than foliage soon. It’s hard not to love this time of year! As we close out this calendar year, it’s easy to convince yourself there’s not much to do in the yard. Take a break, but also take time to check off these tasks

Rows of mums fill a flower bed.
Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Cut Flowers and Houseplants, Flower Gardens, Herb Gardens, Vegetable Gardens September 13, 2021

The 2021 Fall Flower & Garden Fest will return to an in-person event but will be modified because of the persistently high number of COVID-19 cases. The fest will be held 9 a.m. to noon daily Oct. 4-8 at the Mississippi State University Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station in Crystal Springs.

Purple, pink, and orange mums.
Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Flower Gardens, Landscape Architecture, Vegetable Gardens August 27, 2021

With the fall season slowly creeping in, there are many things to look forward to, including the drop in temperature. I enjoy watching the leaves change color and drop, too. That also means now is a great time to pull out your rakes, garbage bags, and compost bins and prepare to remove the leaves in your yard! Here are a few other things for you to accomplish in your garden and landscape during the month of September. 

People stand in a garden.
Filed Under: Agriculture, Community, Food and Health, Food, Vegetable Gardens August 13, 2021

When members of the Jackson chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority brainstormed ways to serve their community, they decided to start a gardening project. Their plan was twofold: grow fresh produce for members of the community who could not get to the grocery store on a regular basis; and get community members involved and teach them how to grow produce. But they soon discovered they were going to need some guidance.

Orange flowers.
Filed Under: Master Gardener, Lawn and Garden, Landscape Architecture, Vegetable Gardens July 30, 2021

After a relatively mild summer, heat and humidity have arrived in full force in Mississippi. Going outside during the afternoon is miserable these days! If you’re like me, I try to get all my outdoor activities wrapped up in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat. Be sure you can recognize the signs of heat-related illness, and remember to drink plenty of water anytime you’re outside! Hydration is important!

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