The Q&A Archives: soil preparation

Question: This year I want to prep my soil as best I can before planting anything. I plan to grow vegetables, roses, flowers and avocado trees.

Answer: You have a good plan and I know if you follow through you'll have a beautiful and productive garden. Building good garden soil takes a few years but if you keep at it, you'll eventually have garden loam instead of plain soil. Your new flower, vegetable and rose gardens will be most productive if you site them in the sunniest spots available and amend the soil with organic matter before planting or seeding. Start by spreading a 4-5" layer of organic matter (compost, shredded leaves, etc.) over the top of the soil and digging it in to a depth of 8-10". Plant the tallest growing veggies or flowers at the back of the garden and the shortest growing veggies or flowers in the front so the taller ones won't cast too much shade on the smaller plants. Flower gardens, rose beds and veggie gardens will need a deep soaking once or twice a week, depending upon weather. To continually improve your soil, place a 2-3" layer of organic mulch over the bare soil after you've finished planting. At the end of the growing season, dig the mulch into the soil and place a fresh layer of organic matter in its place. A few years of incorporating organic matter into your soil will result in rich garden loam.

Avocado trees (and most trees, for that matter) will not need amended soil in order to grow well. They adapt to most soils without any effort on your part. Deep watering once a week is about all your new trees will need. When planting, dig a hole slightly deeper and wider than the nursery container or root system (if you're purchasing bare-root trees). Set the tree in the planting hole and make sure that it will be growing at the same soil level as it was before. If the hole is too deep, add some soil, if it's not deep enough, dig a little more soil out. Once you're sure the tree is sitting at the right soil level, backfill over the roots with the soil you took out of the hole and tamp the whole thing down. Then water deeply to help settle the soil.

Enjoy your new landscape!

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