Preparing the Garden

Good soil is the key to a bountiful harvest. Soil conditioning can be done in spring, just before planting. Autumn is a better time, however, as it allows the added ingredients a chance to work their way into the soil for maximum results.

Start the planting process by digging out the garden bed to a depth of eight to 12 inches. Break up clumps of dirt and remove rocks, weeds and other debris.

Scoop up a handful of soil and study it to determine its texture. If it's thick and lumpy and clings together in a ball, it is clay. Plant roots have a hard time penetrating clay and will starve due to lack of air and water. If. however, the soil runs through your fingers, it's light and sandy. Water and nutrients will drain away too quickly to benefit plants. Vegetables require soil that has a substantial amount of organic matter, so mix in a ratio of one-third moistened Canadian Peat.

Using a water-retentive soil amendment, such as peat moss, reduces the need for frequent watering. When insufficient rainfall leaves the ground dry to the touch, give the garden a deep, penetrating soaking. Most vegetable gardens should receive at least one inch of water a week. Additional watering may be needed during a heat wave.

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