I get so excited this time of year when the weather is mild enough that I can be outside without a heavy coat and dig in the beautiful loamy soil that is begging for something to grow in it! Before I can stick any seeds in the ground there are some steps I must take to make sure the growing plants have every advantage I can give them. Listed below are the steps I take to have a beautiful garden:)
1. First, I make sure the ground is tilled. I use this tiller. It has done big jobs and little ones beautifully for several years now.
If I am growing in a garden box I use my small Mantis tiller and make sure the soil or soilless mix I talk about HERE is an inch below the sides of the bed so the soil and water will stay in the box. If I am growing straight in the ground, I will mark off the rows and isles. I show how to do that HERE.
2. I make a pre plant mixture that will help my seeds germinate well and that will condition the soil(any soil). It is a mix of
a. 20 cups gypsum (we get it at Home Depot, or a home improvement store).
b. 1 cup epsom salt (you can buy this at the pharmacy).
c. 1/4 cup borax (you can find this in the laundry isle at the store).
When I have the pre plant mixture made, I store it in a bucket and use it as needed.
3. In a garden box measuring 3×8 feet I will put 16 oz. (an empty soup can) of this pre plant mixture into the bed and till it in. If my bed is directly in the soil, and I’m using the Mittleider method of 18″ beds by 30 feet long, I will till in 2 of the 16 ounce soup cans full of the pre plant mixture.
4.When the pre plant mixture is tilled in I then level the bed out so water won’t run off, form edges if the beds are directly in the soil, and water the bed heavily until it is soaked. This will help keep the seeds moist and keep the seeds from washing away on the first watering.
5. Now I mark where I’ll be putting the seeds. In an 18″ wide bed I’ll normally have two rows of seeds going down the length of the 30 foot bed. In a 3 foot wide bed I do 4 rows of seeds down the length. I show this HERE.
6. When the seed rows are marked and the bed is wet I am ready to plant. If the bed is clay soil and the water takes a long time to soak in I wait to plant until the water is well soaked in. Each seed will need its own planting depth and spacing. The rule of thumb is that you plant the seed 3x the thickness of the seed. So if a bean is 1/4″ thick you will plant it 3/4 ” deep. Usually the seed packet will tell you how deep to plant your seed.
7. Plant your seeds and if you have a good loamy soil, cover your seeds and lightly tamp the soil down so the seed has contact with the soil If your soil is clay you will not want to cover the seeds with the clay soil because it will tend to dry and form a crust which is hard for the growing seed to penetrate. In this case you will cover your seeds with sand. Also as your clay soil dries and cracks, fill the cracks with sand.
8. When your seeds are in the ground the next step is to keep them constantly moist but not swimming in water. If the weather is very hot or your soil is more sandy you will want to water several times a day. For small seeds like carrots and lettuce it is helpful to put down a layer of burlap cloth so when you water the seeds they don’t wash away, and so the seeds stay moist between waterings. The smaller seeds are closer to the surface and tend to dry out quicker making it harder to germinate them successfully. If your soil is clay you will not need to water as often because the water will be retained better. Just check the beds and get familiar with how quickly the top 1/2″ of soil dries out.
Congratulations if you follow the above steps. You are on your way to a fantastic garden and so am I 🙂
The next steps for gardening will require that you have an order of micronutrients ready along 25 pounds of 16-16-16 all purpose fertilizer. You can order your micronutrients at www.growfood.com. Tell them that Elisa sent you. 🙂