Grow Your Own: Preparing Garden Soil

Jeanie Darlington shares information about how to prepare your garden soil from her organic gardening book.

| September/October 1970

Reprinted by permission from Grow Your Own. 

Here's yet another selection from Jeanie Darlington's new book on organic gardening. If you enjoy the following as much as most folks enjoyed the six pages we ran in MOTHER EARTH NEWS Issue 3, 1970, and the four pages that MOTHER EARTH NEWS Issue 4, 1970, carried, you'll want to own a personal copy of her book Grow Your Own. 

It feels really good to run your hands through good rich soil, to smell it, and to watch things grow in it. The months of October and November are the best time to start preparing garden soil for next year's vegetable garden. This applies both to established garden plots and to new areas. Make sure the plot has all-day sun exposure, because most vegetables really need sun.

Preparing Garden Soil

California soil has a high clay content and needs a lot of organic matter (leaves, manure, compost) added to it to break it down and lighten it up. This helps in the release of soil nutrients and allows good root growth.

If you're working on an area of hard sun-baked clay, it might be best to wait until the rains have softened it up a bit. But don't ever work with soggy, muddy soil, because if you do, you will end up with big clods of clay that are very hard to break up into small pieces. If the soil crumbles in your hand rather than forming a mud ball, it is in ideal condition to be worked.

A spading fork is a little easier to handle than a spade, because it's lighter and breaks up lumps with less work. But a spade will do. Loosen the soil to a depth of 6 inches by lifting forkfuls of soil, overturning them and letting them shatter into small pieces. If there was a mulch or grass growing on the plot, just turn that under. And if you have some compost, work that in now.

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