Preparing the garden soil for spring
Gardening is chaotic in the spring. You want to start planting, but it’s too wet. You should really test the soil pH levels, but who has time for that when you’re in a hurry to get stuff in the ground? That’s why fall is a perfect time to prepare your garden soil for spring so you’re ready when Mother Nature is.
Leonard Perry is an extension horticulturist at the University of Vermont. He says amendments are great to add in the fall, especially organic matter. It loosens up heavy soil, helps sandy soil hold more water and nutrients, and is also beneficial for earthworms.
"Probably the most common is compost, and you want to use maybe an inch layer. More if the soil’s really poor or if you haven’t worked the soil before, used it, if it’s a new site, then you want to add more than an inch layer of compost," says Perry. "Examples are dehydrated cow manure, shredded leaves. One of the things you don’t want to use is fresh wood products like sawdust. Those tend to rob the soil of nitrogen when they break down."
Perry says fall is the time to soil test and add nutrient amendments.
"Lime is a great one if you need it. Lime increases the soil pH, it makes it less acid. That’s important to add in the fall because most sources of lime, especially the common dolomitic, take some time to work, several months," says Perry. "So, you add it in the fall if needed, then the soils will be ready at the right pH come spring."
Perry does not recommend tilling the garden. It rips apart soil structure and subjects it to erosion from wind and water. It also creates a nice landing spot for weed seeds. Instead, protect your soil by planting a cover crop such as winter rye, oats, or clover. It’ll add nutrients when it’s worked into the soil in the spring.
Learn more about prepping gardens for spring
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