Gardening Tip #2: Soil Preparation

Garden Soil

As mentioned in Tip #1, soil health is critical to the overall health of any garden. Soil is where the plants receive the water and nutrients necessary for growth. As you prepare your garden space for planting, soil preparation should be your top priority.

Checking ph Levels

Improper soil preparation can make the difference between a productive garden and one that struggles to surivive. Luckily, as with all of our garden tips, getting soil prepared is a fairly simple process.

To ensure that your garden's soil is optimized for plant growth, we recommend testing the soil every year. Easy-to-use soil testing kits are widely available . Your area's localc cooperative extension office can also perform soil testing for a modest price. They will quickly indicate deficiencies in soil as well as the ph level of the soil . Based on the results of the test, amend the soil as necessary.

Most garden soils have a soil ph level between 5.5 and 8.0. If a soil test indicates a ph level below 6.0, the soil is too acidic for healthy plant growth. Adding ground limestone to the soil will amend this.

If the test shows a ph level above 7.5, the soil is too alkaline for most vegetable plants. Adding sulfur to the soil is the solution in this case. Lime and sulfur products are both available at garden centers and hardware stores everywhere, and are typically inexpensive. Both are also completely natural products. Follow the instructions on these products for proper application to the soil.

Pounds of Limestone Needed to Raise pH (per 1,000 Square Feet)
pH Number of Pounds for:
Sandy Soil Loam Soil Clay Soil
4.0–6.5 60 161 230
4.5–6.5 50 130 190
5.0–6.5 40 100 150
5.5–6.5 30 80 100
6.0–6.5 15 40 60
Pounds of Sulfur Needed to Lower pH (per 1,000 Square Feet)
pH Number of Pounds for:
Sandy Soil Loam Soil Clay Soil
8.5–6.5 45 60 70
8.0–6.5 30 35 45
7.5–6.5 10 20 25
7.0–6.5 2 4 7

Bringing the soil to the proper ph level will give the plants growing in it the optimal nutrition needed for proper growth.

Organic Matter

The other important part of soil preparation is adding organic materials to the soil. Generous amounts of organic matter in the form of animal manures or compost add additional nutrients and minerals to the soil; these are the ingredients any plant needs to thrive. A soil rich in nutritious organic matter not only produces healthier plants and better yields, it does this all without the need for toxic, artificial chemicals and fertilizers.

Natural organic products are available at most garden centers; to learn about making your own free compost at home, read our introduction to composting article HERE.

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