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Preparing Your Soil for an Organic Garden: A Step-by-Step Guide

Preparing the soil for the garden, before sowing, is one of the most important tasks to yield good crops. Let's see how to do it.

by BioGrow

Preparing your soil for our garden is one of the most crucial tasks to achieve satisfying results during harvest time. Before starting your organic cultivation, it’s essential to ask some questions about your soil. First and foremost, what are its current conditions? Has it been previously used for cultivation, or is it virgin soil? How much sunlight exposure does it receive? Is there a water source to support the land? What is the climate like in the area? And what crops are most suitable to grow?

As you can see, analyzing your specific situation in detail is essential. Now, let’s explore how to prepare the soil for planting in the healthiest way possible.

Preparing the Soil for Planting

Assuming that you have access to a piece of land, untouched by cultivation (or resting for a while), with ample sunlight exposure in a mild climate and a readily available water source, let’s take the first steps to prepare the soil and establish our organic garden. The fundamental preliminary operations involve preparing the soil and consist of two main steps: clearing and initial cultivation.

Clearing the Soil

The first and foremost task for creating your garden is preparing the soil for seeding, especially if the plot has been unused for some time. Proper soil preparation starts with a thorough removal of all existing weeds and wild plants that may be present.

Avoid Glyphosate

At this point, you face the first turning point between conventional and organic cultivation. Let’s clarify. You may be looking at a terrain covered with weeds, a dense green carpet that appears overwhelming. The temptation for some (hopefully none) might be to use an herbicide: apply the product (most commercial formulations contain glyphosate), and the weeds vanish, easy, right?
The problem is that the product you are using is a poison. Glyphosate, in particular, has been deemed very hazardous and possibly carcinogenic. Furthermore, it destroys the natural fertility of the soil and does not differentiate between beneficial and harmful weeds. Using such products to create your garden sets you on the wrong foot. The cultivation won’t be organic, and you risk introducing dangerous residues into your crops.
The solution, therefore, is to go organic. Embrace this concept from the start: organic means more attention, more work, more prevention. The choice is yours, but if you seek quality in your vegetables, you’ll need to work for it.

Manual Clearing

So, for soil preparation, roll up your sleeves and begin the manual and mechanical removal of weeds. Removing weeds by hand is the most tiring yet effective method. It requires some effort, but it’s worth it. Now that we know that creating a proper garden demands commitment and passion, let’s get equipped with sturdy rubber gloves and start eradicating the weeds.
This step is crucial as removing by hand means uprooting from the root. This, in turn, delays the reappearance of weeds, which are often the main carriers of diseases and harmful insects for our crops. In short, this operation may already determine the success or failure of our harvest.

Use of Tools

Of course, you can use tools to facilitate the work. In this phase, we recommend using a hoe, but only for shallow work (approximately 3-5 cm deep) to remove the weeds.
Before proceeding, assess the height of the infestations. If the field is too full and dense, it’s better to mow with a hand sickle or, for those who own it, use a brush cutter like this one.

Soil Cultivation

Worked soilOnly now can we begin to work the soil. Our soil is finally ready for cultivation. At this point, consider the plot size and the tools available. For soil cultivation and preparation for our garden, there are two methods of action: manual cultivation, using simple tools, and mechanical cultivation, using appropriate machinery.

Manual Soil Preparation

For cultivating a small organic garden, you can start with a few simple manual tools, such as a spade, a hoe, and a rake.
The spade is used to lightly loosen the soil, turning it into clods that will then be overturned. Its structure resembles a shovel, but instead of using the strength of your arms, you push the spade into the ground with your foot (if you are considering buying good quality and reasonably priced tools, we recommend a model like this, without too many frills and with which we personally work well).

Mechanical Soil Preparation

Soil worked with a rotary tiller

Soil worked with a rotary tiller

If we are lucky enough to have access to mechanical equipment, all the previously described work becomes more accessible and quicker.
Once the soil has been evenly loosened with a spade, you can proceed with hoeing, which will break up the clods that were turned over with the spade. Hoeing is essential because it makes the soil soft and crumbly, ready to receive the seeds or seedlings we want to plant. After this step, rake the soil to make it uniform and clear the area you intend to cultivate.
Using an electric tiller (if available) can make soil preparation faster and less physically demanding, especially for medium-sized plots. For more extensive areas, a mechanical tiller can be used.

Soil Ready for Planting

At this stage, our soil is prepared to become a garden. However, creating a garden also involves planning, and you need to start thinking about the next steps: designing the garden layout (what to plant, how, and when) and implementing an irrigation system to help your plants survive periods of drought.
Remember, an organic garden requires dedication, care, and effort, but the rewards of growing your own healthy and sustainable produce are truly worth it. Happy gardening!

Further Reading

  • University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture – “Prepare Your Garden | Soil Testing, Preparation, and Amendments” – This article emphasizes the importance of soil testing and preparation before gardening. It provides information on how to adjust the pH of the soil, the best pH for vegetable gardens, and how to prepare the soil.
  • Utah State University Extension – “Preparing and Improving Garden Soil” – This article discusses the unique considerations for creating and maintaining healthy soils in Utah. It provides information on the types of organic matter, soil testing, and how to amend garden soil.
  • Chicago Botanic Garden – “Building Your Soil” – This article provides a comprehensive guide on how to build your soil for gardening, including the importance of organic matter, the role of microorganisms, and how to make compost.
  • PlantTalk Colorado – “Soil Preparation” – This article discusses the importance of soil preparation for successful gardening. It covers topics such as soil testing, soil amendments, and the proper way to prepare the soil before planting.
  • Purdue University – “Characteristics of Indiana Vegetable Farming Operations” – This research paper provides an in-depth look at vegetable farming operations in Indiana, including information on soil preparation, crop diversification, and market channels.

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