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How To: Prepare Your Container Garden

7 steps for preparing nutrient-rich garden beds for your next gardening season.

How To: Prepare Your Container Garden

Growing your own food is not only rewarding but it also helps decrease your carbon footprint and offers the opportunity to become more in-tune with your local ecosystems. With these seven steps, you’ll learn how to prepare your garden bed between each season and ensure your most abundant yield yet.

Preparing Your Container Garden

  1. Test your soil – Whether you’re starting a new bed or planting new crops in an old one, make sure you’re preparing your bed with the proper soil. With the help of an easy at home test kit, you can identify serious imbalances in the major nutrients including Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potash (click here to learn more). If you have larger beds and would prefer to use a soil expert, check with your local nursery for a local garden professional recommendation. Professional soil tests cost around $50 and take roughly 2 weeks to process. Whether you’re planting in the ground or in raised beds, ensuring healthy soil is the first step to growing healthy plants!
  2. Check your foundation – When turning over your garden bed, it’s important to check it’s interior and exterior for wood that needs to be replaced or repaired. Redwood is best for longevity but other types of wood can be used for short term. Make sure to only repair or build your garden bed with untreated wood.
  3. Irrigation – There are a variety of ways to keep your garden bed hydrated. Water your bed by hand with a water bucket or hose, or install drip tape with emitters. Also, consider using rotating sprinkler heads with a timer to ensure your bed is watered when you’re out of town. All of the above can be found at your local hardware store.
  4. Use organic amendments – Especially compost! The decaying remains of plants and animals are vital to maintaining soil fertility. It is especially important for soils high in clay and sand. Three great sources of compost are; manure, homemade compost, and municipal compost. Manure includes chicken manure, worm castings, composted cow, horse, and sheep poop. All of these contain more nutrients than other composts, a little goes a long way! Homemade compost includes rich organic matter and municipal compost includes grass clippings, leaves, and tree prunings which are gathered and then sold or given to local residents (Tip: check your local farmer’s market for worm castings and your local community for compost giveaways through waste management.)
  5. Be generous – When preparing a new planting bed, spread a 3-4 inch layer of amendment over the soil and dig or till it into the top 9-12 inches.
  6. Cover crop – Planting cover crop in your garden bed allows the soil to build and store nutrients that will later be turned into the new soil. Purchase cover crop at your local nursery or online seed company, after planting it will grow into a “lawn of green” when it’s done growing “chop and drop” the clippings to make new soil. It is now time to plant your favorite season offerings!
  7. Keep it covered – After planting, use mulch (organic plant material) to keep in moisture in and ensure that the worms and microorganisms in the fresh living soil can continue to do their job. Shredded bark, tree trimmings, and straw are great, low-cost sources of mulch.

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