The Q&A Archives: Starting a garden

Question: I'm starting my first garden. I tilled up the dirt, which is very red, about 6" deep and removed all of it. I was told to get nice, rich soil to put in. Am I doing this correctly? Should I till deeper then add the soil? The ground below the layerI tilled is pretty hard and red.

Answer: So you have joined the garden crowd. There is nothing I<br>enjoy more than gardening. Wish I could be there to help<br>you with your first garden.<br><br>The first thing that should be done is to take a sample<br>of your soil to your County Extension Service. The<br>Escambia county Extension Office telephone number is<br>(850)477-0953. The address is 3740 Stefani Road, Cantonment, FL 32533-7792.<br><br>Go to several spots in your plot and with a trowel take<br>a sample of your soil from each spot. Dig down 4-6 inches.<br>Place the soil in a bucket and after you have collected<br>soil from several spots, mix the soil well. Take a<br>one pint sample of the mixed soil to the Extension Office. <br>Tell them what you plan to grow. I usually carry my sample<br>in a clean plastic bag. The Extension Service will test your soil and the charge is minimal.<br><br>I hesitate to tell you to add top soil to the area where<br>you have removed the soil because there usually is a lot of<br>weed seeds in top soil--and it can get quite expensive. You didn't say what size your garden is. The best thing to do is to add all the organic matter you can to your soil and apply the amendments to your area that the Extension Service recommends. Turn your soil with ashovel. Year after year keep adding organic matter. With the addition of organic matter you can make a poor soil a good soil. By adding plenty of organic matter the soil will become easier to till.<br><br>Organic matter is manure (horse, cow, and chicken), leaves,<br>compost, and green manure (rye, clover, and even weeds worked into the soil before they go to seed). Mulch your plants well and this mulch will rot and improve the soil. Start a compost pile and make your own compost. Add all of your non-meat kitchen scraps, especially vegetable trimmings, to your pile.<br> <br>In order to soften up the soil, you need to work it deeper<br>than six inches. I wouldn't suggest that you dispose of <br>the red hard soil, rather build it up as I have suggested<br>above.<br> <br>Good luck with your first efforts. We are always here to<br>give you a hand.<br>

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