The Q&A Archives: When should I start?

Question: I'm planning on having a vegetable garden next year. Should I prepare the garden bed now or before planting?

Answer: You can start now and when spring weather arrives you'll be all ready to sow your seeds or install your transplants. You can enrich your soil over a period of years and end up with rich garden loam if you add organic matter. 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. You can actually plant cool season veggies in mid-August. Plant leaf lettuces, radishes, spinach, beans and peas. After planting (if you decide to do so) 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. If you choose not to plant in mid-August, just spread the 2-3 inches of organic matter over the bed to help suppress weeds. Next spring dig the mulch into the soil and plant as above. Hope you have a bountiful harvest!

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