Improving the Soil in Vegetable and Annual Beds

What you’ll need

step 1: Improve the Soil After Every Harvest

Whenever the garden is empty—after the vegetables have been harvested or the annuals removed, add organic amendments like Cow Manure Plus Organic Compost to improve the soil. This organic material decomposes in the soil to humus—a dark, sticky material that improves the soil in many ways. Humus accumulates in the soil over many years, so regular additions of organic matter are like building a nest egg in the bank.

step 2: Add Organic Matter

Each time you work the soil, spread 2 or 3 inches of Cow Manure Plus Organic Compost on the surface. Also add any other amendments you need, such as lime, sulfur, or gypsum. Mix it in by turning the garden with a shovel or rototiller to a depth of 6 inches.

step 3: Plant a Cover Crop

If you have a few weeks of growing season before you plant the next crop, plant a fast-growing cover crop, such as annual ryegrass, to keep the soil busy. Let the cover crop grow as long as you can (but don’t let it go to seed), then till it into the soil 2 weeks before you plant again. It will decompose in the soil to add additional humus and plant nutrients. Farmers call this sort of crop “green manure.”

For more about cover crop read: “Cover Crops and Green Manures”

step 4: Prepare the Soil for Planting

Just before you plant, spread vegetable & bedding slow release plant food on the soil and till it in. This slow-release fertilizer will feed your plants for four months, releasing soluble nutrients as the plants need them. With a garden rake, smooth the surface of the soil and rake out any rocks or clods, to leave a smooth, soft planting bed.

step 5: Plant and Mulch

Set out your plants or plant your seeds, then mulch with about 3 inches of loose organic mulch, such as shredded hardwood bark or composted sawdust. Keep the mulch back a little bit from the seed row or transplant. The mulch will keep weeds from sprouting, insulate the soil against temperature extremes, and add to the organic matter in the soil as it decomposes.