Home gardening can be a relaxing and rewarding hobby. However, before digging in and planting vegetables or flowers, gardeners must prepare the site to grow the biggest, colorful flowers and best-tasting vegetables. Taking time to plan and prepare the site gives the new garden the best possible start and plants will yield wonderful results as the garden area matures. A well-prepared site allows plants to become established more quickly and develop strong root systems. Healthy plants are naturally more resistant to pests and disease.
The procedure for preparing a garden site is the same whether the gardener plans to start from scratch or expand the size of an existing garden. The ideal time to begin preparing a new site is a few seasons before planting; however, several weeks will also do. Soil amendments need time to break down and begin enriching the soil, even those added to improve water retention and drainage.
If a gardener cannot prepare the new site well in advance, a new garden site can still benefit from some immediate preparation before planting. The key is to use fully aged manure and compost that are already broken down. The site chosen should be large enough and provide the right growing conditions for the plants a gardener wishes to grow. Plants vary in the site conditions they need, so determine the sun exposure, soil type and water needs of a plant before choosing and preparing the site. Some plants require a sheltered location away from wind and frost.
When preparing the site, remove all sod before tilling the area, because grass will sprout again even if turned under the soil. Once sod is removed, the gardener can mix in organic matter, such as compost or manure, to improve soil fertility. Organic matter also helps sandy soil retain moisture and nutrients, while helping improve the drainage for heavy, claylike soils.
To ensure the new site is ready for planting in the spring, plan and prepare the site in the fall before winter weather sets in; this allows organic materials time to break down. If the gardener did not prepare the site in fall, he or she can still do so in spring; however, it must be done as soon as the ground can be worked, usually after the ground thaws and dries out a bit. A good time to start preparing soil is about the same time seeds are started indoors.
The new site requires maintenance. In summer, if plants fail to thrive or show signs of stress, gardeners should test the soil and make any necessary adjustments. This helps get the next year’s plants off to the best start.