Prepping Your Garden Soil in the Spring

Preparing your garden is just as important as the later work of planting, and gives opportunity for doing helpful work at a time when it’s too early to plant.

  1. Clear away old debris from last year, bringing the surface of the soil back to a “blank slate”.

  2. Apply compost, compost tea, or any other amendments that you’ll be adding to the soil this year. Yes - this can be done a few weeks ahead of when you’ll be planting your seeds and seedlings.

  3. Cover the soil in some way. There are 3 main options:

    1. A “green manure” crop. More detail on this soon, but it’s essentially a quick-growing crop that is turned into the soil before planting your seeds. Eg, oats, or oats and peas. The purpose: to feel the soil life, and to protect the surface of the soil from rain and wind. These crops are particularly useful in areas that won’t be planted into the harvestable crop for 6 - 8 weeks.

    2. Some type of mulch that will break down: shredded leaves, cardboard, hay, straw, etc. Avoid wood chips unless they’re already partially composted.

    3. A cover that is re-usable / won’t break down: landscape fabric.

A tip for using mulch in the spring: try to apply it on a warm sunny day. That way, the soil will retain more warmth, instead of trapping coolness into the soil.

One of the hardest parts of gardening in April is to not get too excited about planting. While it is certainly possible to plant a few early crops (like peas, greens, onions, etc), that can only happen when the soil has sufficiently warmed and dried. There won’t be many opportunities for planting in April, and only a small portion of the garden should be planted, at most.

Therefore, focus on other activities - which includes other ways to prepare for the gardening season.

Prepare or source your compost, or a method of making compost tea, that will help feed your soil biology this summer. Then, you’ll be set for action when the weather is suitable for planting.