Answer: To prepare the soil you should start by running some basic soil tests; the test results will tell you how much you need to fertilize and also if you need to add lime to adjust the pH. FOr a vegetable garden you should first remove any weeds, then loosen the soil and add organic matter such as compost or well rotted leaves, or well aged stable manure/bedding. Level the area and rake it smooth. Now you are ready to plant.
For roses and flowers, follow the above steps also. When you plant a rose bush, dig the planting hole as deep as the roots on the plant, and two to three feet across. This will encourage strong roots growing out into the soil. After planting, water deeply to settle any air pockets and then mulch over the root area with two to three inches of organic mulch.
Using mulch in your garden will help keep down weeds, reduce the need for watering, and also help feed the soil as it rots down slowly over time.
With all your plants, water as needed to keep the soil evenly moist, meaning damp like a wrung out sponge. It should not be sopping wet or dried out. Use your finger to dig into the soil and see if you need to water. If it is still damp, do not water yet. When you do water, water slowly and deeply so it soaks down through the root area.
The best way to keep insects away is to prepare the soil and water properly so the plants are healthy. Then keep an eye on them and watch for pest problems. If a problem starts, you need to identify the specific pest and then treat accordingly if the problem is a severe one. Preventive spraying is not recommended.
Your local county extension should be able to help you with the soil tests and with any pest problems should they occur. Good luck with your gardening this summer!
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