To have a pleasant garden, ground preparation is a step that should not be overlooked. Indeed, the soil is an important element in your garden because it is the plants’ source of food. The preparations may be done manually, but some tasks require mechanical equipment. Knowing the soil type is a prerequisite for determining the maintenance needs, particularly in terms of the required amendments.

Preparing the ground for gardening work includes amendments and mechanical work, which can be carried out by hand or with the help of machines. If mechanical work is intended to improve the soil’s structure and texture, amendments, on the other hand, are used to correct the soil’s composition by providing the nutrients essential for plant growth.

Knowing the soil type to define the required work

Knowing the type of soil is essential to determine the amendments and the work to be carried out. A balanced soil is one of which the neutral pH is between 6 and 7. Indicator plants that grow there include the spotted medick, the common sorrel, the ribwort plantain and the common chickweed. Alkaline soil has a pH above 7. Its indicator plants are heather, common broom and birch. Carbon-rich soils are characterized by the presence of plants such as brambles, blackthorns, dog roses, ivy, and hawthorn, among others. Finally, soils rich in potash or nitrogen are used as a support for nitrophilous plants such as round-leaved crane’s bill or hedge bindweed.

Preparing the ground for a vegetable garden

Work begins by a thorough clean-up which consists of removing roots, rocks and old stumps. If the ground is covered with grass, the use of a herbicide completely removes the existing vegetation. To facilitate the work, the use of a rototiller is recommended for larger areas. Mechanical tasks include trench ploughing, which consists of ploughing the land with a deep tilling plough. Tillage improves soil aeration to a depth of 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm), while the clods of earth will need to crumbled and turned over with a harrow or motorized hoe. Improving the soil structure also requires the use of peat moss, which, when it decomposes, yields black earth. When it is added to the ground, clay soil becomes lighter and sandy soil retains water better. The supply of manure intensifies microbial activity, thus making the provision of nutrients more readily available to plants. For large vegetable gardens, setting up planting beds for crops in single or multiple rows greatly facilitate mechanical maintenance. Plants that do not need to be trained or staked are more suitable for small vegetable gardens and can be maintained manually.

Preparing the ground for planting roses

If the ground is soaked after heavy showers, the preliminary work consists of draining it. Preparing the ground that will accommodate the rose bushes consists of amending the soil based on its composition. An overly clayey, humus or calcareous soil needs to be amended in order to be suitable for rose-bushes. The ground must be dug up to a depth of 20 to 24 inches (50 to 60 cm) two weeks prior to planting. Weeds, old roots and stones will need to be removed. On the other hand, the addition of a complete fertilizer containing nitrogen, potassium and phosphoric acid helps to enrich the soil. Organic fertilizers, such as potting soil or compost, are used as a supplement to mineral fertilizers.

Useful tips to carry out your work successfully

To facilitate your work and protect your back, using a rototiller is recommended. It will take care of every step of the ground preparation process for you: removal of the top vegetable layer and tillage of the earth layer with back and forth motions. The inversion of the milling cutters allows gardeners, while hoeing, to remove weeds and to turn over the soil between planting rows. In addition, soil preparation for the next growing season consists of spreading a 3-inch (8 cm) thick layer of compost. The compost will be mixed with the soil by using the rototiller. Your soil will be ready for the following season, giving its components sufficient time to fully decompose to nourish the soil.

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Published in Gardening by Alexander on 07 Sep 2011