Spring is finally here!

We know you can’t go anywhere yet, but one thing you can do is get your garden ready for planting. 

Growing your own food is an amazing experience. It’s so fun to watch the seeds sprout into plants and then harvest them and enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of your labour!

Let’s look at four ways to get your garden ready for growing season!

1. Know your soil.

Take a spadeful of your soil and look at its texture. Is it dense or loose? Does it clump together when wet or flow freely through your fingers? Or is it in between, more akin to cookie dough?

Your soil — like all soil — will be a combination of mineral particles that can fall into one of four broad categories:

  1. Clay – These soils have tiny, dense particles. It holds large reserves of moisture and nutrients, but drains slowly and can become crusty and compacted when dry.
  2. Sandy – Sandy soils have large particles and water moves through it easily, but so do the important nutrients most plants need to grow.
  3. Silt – With fine particles that pack together tightly, silts can inhibit drainage and air circulation. 
  4. Loam – If you’re lucky, you will have loam soil, which is ideal for most plants. It contains a balance of three mineral particles and is rich in humus, which is what is leftover after organic matter decomposes.

You can go a step further and actually test your soil to find out the specific pH balance of it, which will help you determine what needs to be added to it, if anything. Do-it-yourself soil testing kits can be purchased online or, if there are any greenhouses open, you can take a soil sample to be tested. Many gardening centres offer this service.

If you don’t have the means to improve the condition of your soil, do some research and find out which type of plants grow best in the soil you have. Even sandy soil can grow plants providing the plants are accustomed to growing in that type of soil.

2. Improve your soil.

Easily the best way to improve your soil is to add organic material to it, like composted yard and plant-based kitchen waste, dried manure or fallen leaves. You can build raised garden beds if you want to be specific about where you put the material.

Most of these soil additives work best when you add them to your garden in the fall, but you can also add them in the spring if you work them in really well to the top four to six inches of soil.

3. Enlist your microorganism army.

When you look at dirt, it might not seem like it’s teeming with life, but it actually is. There is a whole microscopic world in it that includes earthworms, insects, fungi and a whole bunch of beneficial bacteria. These organisms convert dead leaves and plant debris into nutrients for the plants that grow in the soil, aerate the soil and convert organic matter into the aforementioned humus. 

4. Mulch (but mulch carefully).

Mulching is a good way to add organic matter to your soil without disturbing plant roots because you spread it over the top of the soil rather than working it in. It then decomposes naturally while sitting on the soil’s surface. 

It can help your garden retain moisture, suppress the growth of weeds, keep cooler in those hot summer months and improve soil aeration. 

Beware, though, because it can also have its pitfalls, especially if you use the wrong type of mulching material or you put it on too thickly. It can leach micronutrients that are harmful to plants into the soil and change the chemical composition of the soil. In humid conditions, it can also lead to fungal diseases because it may not allow for adequate drying. 

A variety of organic materials can make for good mulches, but you should do your research because they all have their pros and cons. 

If you are thinking about shades and awnings this summer, please contact us for a consultation.

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