GUIDE: Successful vegetable gardening involves far more than just popping a few seeds into the ground and waiting for a tomato to appear. Now I’d like to give you some gardeners' tips for a successful natural vegetable garden with three steps as Planning your garden, Preparing the soil, and then... Planting your vegetables!
Step I: Planning Your Vegetable Garden
Step II: Preparing the Soil
Fertile, well drained soil is necessary for a successful garden. The exact type of soil is not so important as that it be well drained, well supplied with organic matter, reasonably free of stones, and moisture retentive. The subsoil also is very important. Hard shale, rock ledges, gravel beds, deep sand, or hardpan under the surface may make the development of garden soil extremely difficult or impossible.
On the other hand, infertile soil that has good physical properties can be made productive by using organic matter, lime, commercial fertilizer, and other soil improving materials. Soils should not be plowed or worked while it is very wet unless the work will certainly be followed by severe freezing weather. If the soil sticks together in a ball and does not readily crumble under slight pressure by the thumb and finger, it is too wet for plowing or working, because in this condition it will cake as it dries, making it unsuitable for young plants.
If your garden has already been cultivated and used in past years, there is little to do other than to plow in additional organic material, and fertilizers. The fertilizer may be in the form of composted manure or any good commercial complete plant food distributed at a rate of 3 or 4 pounds for every thousand square feet of vegetable garden. Infertile soil will often benefit from even larger proportions of chemical fertilization, but care must be taken not to add too much because of the danger of fertilizer burn. When manure is added to the soil, it must be composted prior to planting, because fresh, hot manure will also burn your plants.
Different types of vegetables require varying degrees of soil acidity. The acidity or alkalinity of the soil is measured by pH, and must be adjusted according to which crop will occupy that area. Generally, soils in moist climates are acid and those in dry climates are alkaline. A soil with a pH lower than 7.0 is an acid soil and one with a pH higher than 7.0 is alkaline.
You can buy an inexpensive pH test kit at most nurseries, and many good garden centers will gladly test a soil sample for you. Once you have determined the pH you can amend the soil as needed. The pH requirements of different garden vegetables will determine what steps must be taken next.
Only after the site has been prepared, and the soil and conditioners mixed, watered well and settled should you test the pH of the soil. The tested soil should be dry.If a soil test reveals that you need to make corrections to your soil pH, you can use materials commonly available at your local garden center. If your soil needs to be more acidic, sulfur may be used to lower the pH.
For raising the pH, lime is most commonly used. The amount of either material used will depend on the amount of change you need to make. The recommendations provided on the product label will help you determine how much to use.
A general rule of thumb is to add 4 lbs. of lime per 100 sq. ft. of garden for every pH point below 6.5, or 1 lb. of sulfur per 100 sq. ft. for every pH point above 7.5. Sawdust, composted oak leaves, wood chips, peat moss, cottonseed meal, and leaf mold lower the pH, while ashes of hardwoods, bone meal, crushed marble, and crushed oyster shells raise the pH.
The best way to adjust pH is gradually, over several seasons. Most garden vegetables do best on soils that are slightly acid and may be injured by the application of excess lime. For this reason lime should be applied only when tests show it to be necessary. If the soil is excessively alkaline, you may find that you are better off to build a raised bed using topsoil purchased from a nursery.
Once your soil structure, fertility and pH have been established, the soil should be tilled one last time, and then raked smooth.
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Step III & IV: Planting Vegetables & Sowing Vegetable Seeds
Step V: Setting in Vegetable Starts
* Original post: The Garden of Eden for Gardeners