The Q&A Archives: Soil Depth

Question: I am in the process of starting my very first vegetable garden. My soil is extremely rocky and I am wondering if I should add new soil to the top instead of trying to till the soil. How deep does the soil have to be for planting vegetables like snap beans, cauliflower, peppers, onions and squash.

Answer: All vegetables do better on a deeply prepared soil with ample quantities of organic matter worked into it so that it is evenly moist yet well drained and fairly rich. Rocky soil in and of itself is not necessarily bad; the only way to tell about the soil you have is to run some basic soil tests and find out for sure. Your County Extension (263-9226) should be able to help you with the tests and interpreting the results.

When the existing soil is inadequate, on option is to loosen the surface as best you can and then build raised beds on top of it; a twelve inch depth is good if your underlying soil is truly awful but even six inches can help. The beds do not have to have edges although they can help keep things tidy; you can use wood, cinder blocks, rocks or whatever is at hand.

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