The Q&A Archives: Vegetable Garden Soil Preparation

Question: I have a grassy, weedy area in my yard that I would like to have as a vegetable garden. How do I prepare this area? I have a mantis tiller. Do I need to do soil testing and amending? If so how do I do this? Can I use a herbicide like Round Up to kill everything first?

Answer: You can kill the existing vegetation with Round Up or you can rototill the entire area and rake out the grass and roots. While soil testing is often recommended you can usually get by with simply adding some organic matter to improve the soil's texture. You can enrich your soil over a period of years and end up with rich garden loam if you add organic matter on an annual basis. Start now by removing all vegetation from the area and spreading 4-5 inches of organic matter over the vegetable bed. You can use compost, aged manure (fresh manure can be too hot and might contain weed seeds), shredded leaves or whatever organic matter is readily available in your local area. Dig or till this organic matter into the soil - 8-10 inches deep. Plant your veggies and mulch over the bare soil between the plants with additional organic matter. A 2-3 inch layer will help suppress weeds and slow water evaporation. At the end of the season dig the organic matter into the soil and add a fresh layer. Repeat this process annually and you'll end up with rich garden loam - and a spectacular vegetable garden. Hope you have a bountiful harvest!

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