The time is coming that we gardeners have been waiting for — getting the planting beds ready.
Start now and you’ll have more time in season for the actual seeding and planting!
Here’s a checklist of things to do:
- Plan out what you’re going to plant in each bed, taking into consideration putting plants together that require the same soil conditions. A simple diagram of each bed on a piece of paper will do.
- Check your soil pH in each bed. If needed, add amendments to each bed to raise or lower pH as needed, depending on what you plan to plant in each one. Use Dolomitic lime to raise the pH, Garden Sulfur to lower the pH.
- Add compost. You can hardly go wrong amending with good compost. Make sure it is GOOD compost. Have it tested if you’re not sure.
- Add minerals. One of the most depleted things in our soils is minerals. Adding good compost will take care of this slowly through biological activity, but you can also give it a quick fix with sea minerals or rock minerals. Two we like are Nature’s Nog and Azomite.
- Plant late winter cover crops to suppress weeds, improve soil health, and add organic matter. Good ones to plant are Austrian winter peas, hairy vetch, and crimson clover. All of these will add nitrogen to the soil. Do this soon (up until March 15). Till them or turn them under in early spring as soon as they begin to flower or several weeks before planting. Don’t let them flower and go to seed!
Keep in mind that these are biological amendments and they can take time to work, so start as soon as the soil is workable.
Give your plants the soil they need to thrive:
- Carrots, chives, leeks, cucumbers prefer a pH between 5.0-6.0, a bit on the acid side.
- Tomatoes and peppers can tolerate a pH range between 5.5 and 7.0.
- Blueberries like pH between 4.5 and 5.5.
- 7.0 is neutral in the pH world.
- This is also a good time to prepare Asparagus beds. They like well draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.7.
Consider getting a soil test done on each bed to determine nutrient needs. My favorite place to get a soil analysis is Clemson University.
North Carolina Dept. of Agriculture sampling is available here.
Get your planting beds ready now, relax for awhile, and then get ready to plant when the weather permits.
Remember, raised beds warm up sooner than ground beds — consider a soil thermometer to determine if your soil is warm enough to plant when the time comes.