getting ready for fall planting - Knowledgebase Question

california City, Ca
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Question by iamjanedodge
August 2, 2010
I am preparing a 4 x 16 garden plot. I live in the Mojave Dessert in Ca. What are the steps needed to prepare the soil, it is clay, plot is in the shade so sun will not scorch plants. Where do I go to have soil tested? I will put chicken wire around plot, I have wild rabbits. Do I need a covering for birds? How late may I plant?

Answer from NGA
August 2, 2010
You can start planting in late August so I think you are right on schedule for getting the garden soil ready. Most plants are happy in a nearly neutral soil pH - from 6.5 to 7. Your soil is alkaline (because of your lack of rainfall) and because it is clay it will need to be amended with compost or other organic matter to help loosen it and help it drain well. You can enrich your soil over a period of years and end up with rich garden loam if you add organic matter. Start by 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.

I'm glad you've fenced your garden to keep rabbits at bay. You may or may not have problems with birds. If they become nuisances you can drive stakes into the soil and drape birdnetting over the stakes. This simple barrier should keep birds out of the garden. Hope you have a bountiful harvest!

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