(NC)- Making a vegetable garden is more than just creating a planting bed in the ground and then picking up plants or seeds. Starting with the right soil is key to healthy crops and a beautiful garden environment.
Growing vegetables in a raised bed is the easiest way to create this perfect soil, as it is full of nutrients and the healthy microbes that your plants need to grow. However, raised beds may not be practical for your space. Here are a few easy tips to help you create your own backyard plot:
First, pick a sunny spot in the lawn where the grass is healthiest. This is an excellent indicator that the soil and the location are right for vegetables. Next, aggressively turn the soil with a pitchfork, removing the largest clumps of grass and weeds as you go.
Some of this plant material is important to keep in the soil because it will add nutrients as it naturally composts under the ground. To ensure that the weeds don't continue to grow, cover your plant bed with seven layers of newspaper. This will naturally break down in time with the elements, but until then, it acts as a fantastic weed barrier. Cover the newspaper with three inches of compost or manure rich top soil and then follow that up with two inches of chemical-free mulch. By creating this 'layer cake' on top of the existing soil you are effectively preparing the soil for spring planting. Leave your vegetable plot alone for at least three months, preferably during the rainiest part of spring.
Once the warm weather arrives, it's time to cultivate. Most vegetable roots grow 6 to 8 inches deep and this is how deep you need to turn your soil. The mulch, newspaper and compost are all the amendments you're going to need to grow big and healthy plants. You need to remember to keep this soil clean by staying away from chemical pesticides and toxic insecticides. Change your gas and oil power tools for battery-operated alternatives.
One of the most popular gardening tools for this year is a battery-operated cultivator from Black & Decker, the 20V MAX* Lithium option. Not only is it easy to use, but the company offers a recycling program for the batteries. Since plants act as a sponge, absorbing chemicals and toxins as they grow, keeping batteries out of landfill is a no-brainer. Who wants any of that on the dinner table?