Many people have learned to work in the garden for years and want to know how to prepare their soil so that they can plant a vegetable garden. If you talk to people who have been growing for years, you will find that they spend a lot of time building the soil in their garden beds.
For gardeners for the first time, I always recommend starting small. Since every stain is different, I recommend starting with a raised bed, which is nothing more than building an earth bed on the ground instead of in it. You can add sides made of wood, edges, or other materials as a side wall, but this is not necessary. Heaped up dirt works just as well if you have a limited budget.
Construction of a raised bed frame
For most people, they want the neat look of a wooden frame and this can be done quickly for little money. Start with three 2 × 6 and cut one of them in half. This forms the four sides of the bed and creates a bed that is 4 feet wide and 8 feet long.
This is an ideal size as it minimizes the number of cuts (pro tip: big box stores cut them for you free of charge) and at four feet you can reach in the middle from both sides without having to stretch too much. A few screws make a solid frame that you can use to fill the dirt.
Turn the bottom down
Although we want to build a bed above the ground, we want to break open the ground underneath so that the roots of our plant can penetrate the ground more easily when growing. Ideally, you would scoop off the top layer if it was grass, but I did it both ways. If you remove the grass below, you can reduce weeds that occur later. Therefore, the effort is often worthwhile.
If the floor is pretty bare, I’ll just rake the top up and then buy a gallon jug of white vinegar to pour the vinegar over the small weed or grass pieces to kill a few days before building my bed. White vinegar works well to kill weeds during spot treatments. However, if you have more than 10% coverage, I would simply scrape the top off completely.
The last part is to take a “digging fork” and break open only the top few centimeters of the ground. It can be pretty chunky because we will soon be covering everything with our bottom bed mix anyway. Don’t get too involved in doing it perfectly. This is a really difficult passport that we will get to quickly and keep going.
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First of all, there are many different options here. If you ask 100 people, you will get 101 recommendations. So understand that it’s okay for someone to use something else. For most people who are just starting out, I try to make it really easy and we can go into the nuances later. So use this mix to get started and try different things in a few years. We want to get you gardening as soon as possible. If you delve into the best mix, you will never start gardening.
So I use a mixture of compost, vermiculite and peat moss. I usually buy for a single 4 foot by 8 foot bed that’s about 6 inches deep the following:
- 10 bags of compost (one bag of cubic feet)
- 1 bale of compressed peat moss (three cubic feet)
- 1 sachet of vermiculite (2 sachets of cubic feet).
- 1 small bag of bone meal
- 1 small bag of blood meal
If you don’t know what it is, just print this post and take it to a large store. You know exactly what you need from this list. If the employee does not know these items, it is best to find someone because it is gardening supplies.
There are many different options for compost. My favorite is “mushroom compost”, which you can find in any major hardware store. Just under a second is “Black Kow” compost. I often take a couple of each to put my 10 bags together for my bed.
If you can’t find these special ones, this is not a big deal. Use the compost that you can find in your local shop or garden center. Compost provides your plants with many nutrients and serves as the basis for the root formation of the seeds.
Vermiculite is essentially stone dust that is crushed. It provides many minerals for your plants, but its main function is to act like a sponge for water. Don’t confuse it with perlite, it’s not the same. This may take a few calls to find out if there is a local garden group that may have good clues.
I will also add a note here that if you start looking for vermiculite, you will inevitably come across a classic car that indicates asbestos in vermiculite. This is something we had to worry about 40 years ago, but today there is no source in the US or Canada that does not carefully review and test this. The myth continues to this day, but you shouldn’t have concerns as the industry has long made changes to prevent this from happening.
Garden centers or seed / farm supply places often wear it. I even saw it in small bags in your big hardware stores. If you can’t find it, you should buy a few bags on Amazon, although it’s a little more expensive locally Buy a couple of these sachets of vermiculite and make a 4 × 8 bed.
The last part of the soil mix. This fills the soil, allows good oxygen infiltration and also acts as a sponge that holds the moisture until the plants need it. This can be found everywhere and type or brand do not matter. The only thing I will suggest is to make sure you get it from the floor area where you will find your compost sacks or near the mulch sack. Sometimes they sell small bags that are intended for growing orchids. These are often expensive, but those in the composting division for sacks are usually sold “compressed” for very cheap ($ 10 to $ 20 for 3 cubic feet compressed).
A common question that arises in connection with peat moss is whether peat moss is sustainable. It is true that peat moss was harvested from natural wetlands 10 years ago, but today it is done in a way that is regenerative. If you’re still concerned, you should get coconut coconut, which is similar to peat moss, but is made from the waste product of coconut shells. In the end, I suggest that you are not too busy in your first year or so. Just take control of your first year and work to improve in later years.
Bone and blood meal
I prefer bone meal and blood meal, but there are many options. Their names indicate that it is a product from animal sources. If you don’t want an animal source, you can try or fertilize algae flour. Here you can buy seaweed fertilizer. Bone and blood meal are organic sources of the main nutrient (NPK: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium).
Since we start with such good ingredients, we don’t need much of it. If we start with the soil in the soil, there may be a need for more, as evidenced by a soil test. However, since we are building our own soil, we do not need a soil test for our first or second year. I start with a large handful each, which are evenly distributed over the entire 4 × 8 raised bed.
Mix everything together
Some people will use a tarp to mix the soil together. I just skip this and put everything on a stack in the framed bed, then mix it with my hands or a shovel. If you choose compost that is moist but not soaking wet, it’s easier to mix. Sometimes this means that you pull off the top sacks at the garden supply point so that you get to a bottom layer of sacks that haven’t soaked up the last rain.
Here is my basic approach:
- Take your bale of peat moss and put it in bed
- Use a shovel to prick the plastic in a line to break up the bale
- Turn it over to throw the peat on the ground and remove the plastic
- Shake out half of your vermiculite on the peat moss and put the rest aside
- Take a large handful of bone meal and blood meal each and sprinkle them over the bed
- Put a bag of compost in bed and use a shovel to prick the pile
- Repeat about half of your pockets with compost
- Mix everything with the shovel and hands until everything is well mixed
- Add the remaining materials and mix everything
- Smooth the top and give the bottom a short water
How to water your garden
If you can, you want to water it a few days before planting so all the water can be absorbed into the peat moss and vermiculite. Count water to five and then stop. When the water counts to five again and is completely absorbed by the ground so that the dirt from the water does not shine, water again to five. Repeat the count to five until the water is no longer fully absorbed in five seconds. This is a good indicator that the soil is well saturated with moisture, but not soaked.
In the end, the construction of your floor will set you up for success in the years to come. If you follow this formula and start small, you will have a drastically easier time as we are not trying to fix our existing soil or to control weeds. Start with a 4×8 bed and go a little bigger next year. The number one that I see are new gardeners who burn out their first year because they have taken up too big a garden.
It’s your turn!
- What are your garden plans this year?
- What tips did you learn?
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