The Q&A Archives: Overgrown Garden

Question: I inherited a vegetable garden from the former tenants. They spent a lot of time and effort building raised beds. I did take advantage of the beds last summer and grew vegetables. The soil was actually quite good. However, I didn't do all the removal of the previous plants. I know I need to do the removal as soon as possible but what else do I need to do to get the beds ready for planting? I am really new to gardening and would appreciate any hints I could get.

Answer: The secret to successful gardening is good soil preparation.
Remove all of the old plant debris and put it in the compost bin (in case it's harboring insect eggs or disease pathogens). Then spread a 3"-4" thick layer of aged-compost or other organic matter over the bed and dig it in to a depth of 6"-8". Smooth the soil over, and either sow seeds or plant seedlings. If it's situated in a sunny spot and gets adequate moisture, the garden should provide you with all manner of fresh veggies again this summer.

At the end of the growing season remove all the old plant debris and sow a green-manure covercrop to prevent soil erosion and to help build your soil. You'll have fewer weeds to deal with the following spring because most weeds can't compete with covercrops. After the soil dries and warms a bit in the spring you can rototill or dig the covercrop into the soil. This additional organic matter will increase the tilth of your soil. Rake smooth and plant transplants or sow seeds and you're well on your way to another bumper crop year.

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