Garden Soil: Learning How To Cultivate

Improving garden soil starts with proper cultivation, I can help.

You have your garden all planted, but you're not finished yet as it's time to move on to cultivating what you've planted. It isn't hard: if you do a little bit at a time and spread out your work, you will avoid the strain of always rushing to get work done.

Actually, we can apply the word cultivation to two different phases of gardening. The correct description of cultivation would apply to the tilling of the soil: this would include plowing, harrowing or deep digging by hand, before the growing season. Also, in a smaller sense, it is just the shallow stirring of the soil to keep down weeds and to conserve moisture.

The average garden doesn't need to be plowed or harrowed: leave that to the big farmers. Of course thorough and proper digging is important to keep the soil in good condition, and deep digging is done when beds are made over either for yearly planting or for renovating the garden.

After you dig the soil it should be free from any hard clods and loose. You can add additional organic matter or chemical fertilizers to the soil you choose, but I personally only add organic matter. When you turn over the soil before planting to the depth of a fork you are using the simplest method, but if the top soil is shallow the lower layers can be improved by double digging, which means nothing more than a deep digging of the soil. Don't forget that when you walk on or dig wet soil it packs it down so that the tiny soil particles are cemented together and when they become dry the soil is very difficult and hard to work up.

You should really stir up the top layer of the soil throughout the growing season as I always make it a practice of mine. What you want to achieve is to keep the top layer loose and friable to the depth of one to two inches. When you tend to grow plants in rows, as you might in a vegetable garden, you will use a hoe or a fairly large cultivating tool, and you will find these at your local nursery, your lumberyard or most any store that sells gardening tools. Sometimes you will use a hoe and sometimes a fork, depending on where you want to loosen the soil.

I use both in my tilling and loosening of the soil.

Sometimes, if you are working in a very small space, you might want to choose a narrow, three-pronged cultivator or a small digging fork as I do. When forks are used, please just pulverize the top layer of soil only.

The cultivation process should be shallow for two very important reasons: when you loosen the top layer of the soil it dries out and becomes what is called a dry mulch.

If you dig deeper you are going to lose a lot of moisture so be very careful. Also, you could destroy roots if you

cultivate deep.

This will also destroy many weeds that won't get to the stage where you have to be really working hard to rid the garden of them.

Most of all my suggestion to you would be to walk around and take a look at your garden and tend to the weeds and the loosening of the soil as you think it is necessary: when you enjoy those delicious garden crops you will be glad you did.

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