WARSAW — I have historically waited until spring to prepare my garden soil for planting. Tilling is messy and difficult in the spring mud and semi-frozen ground. Compost doesn’t have much time to break down in the soil. It honestly isn’t the most effective means of enriching my garden bed soil.
This year I’m planning to prep my soil in the fall. The soil is still warm and workable, and microorganisms have a chance to get to work before the heavy freeze of winter comes. Now is a great time to begin preparing your garden soil, which will make spring vegetable gardening a much easier chore.
Start by clearing out your garden bed. Remove vines and plants that have stopped bearing produce.
While some sites suggest you can leave organic matter to enrich the soil, do so only if you are certain your plants are disease free and insect free. I’m often uncertain, so I remove everything. You can add compost, peat, well-rotted manure or leaves. I always have lots of leaves, so I usually add that along with some compost.
This is a great time of year to have your soil tested to see what nutrients may be missing from your soil. Contact your county Purdue Extension Office to find out about their soil testing options. Your results through the extension office will be much more reliable than anything off the shelf. You may want to send in multiple samples, as your soil quality can vary across your yard.
A good amendment option is ammonium sulfate — a fertilizer labeled 20-0-0. You’ll want to add one pound per every 1,000 square feet of garden. Also consider adding bone meal or rock phosphate.
Once you’ve added your selected amendments, you’ll want to till your space well. Work amendments in eight to twelve inches deep. A rough till is suggested, as this is to work in nutrients. Till in two directions, to make sure the soil is well worked. The large chunks of earth will breakdown over the winter and leave your garden ready to work easily in the spring.
There are still some cool, sunny days left this fall. It’s a great time to start thinking about next spring’s garden!
Amanda Zambrano is the director of advancement at Grace Village Retirement Community. She is a master gardener intern, just learning the ins and outs of successful gardening.
Along with her master gardener volunteering, Amanda serves on the board of directors for the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts, the Symphony of the Lakes committee and a Kosciusko County Community Foundation scholarship committee. She plays flute for the Symphony of the Lakes and enjoys hand-quilting, baking and reading. She is also an occasional blogger. Amanda lives in Warsaw with her husband Dan and her son Alexander.