Easy gardening – soil preparation

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Fannin County, Texas — Soil is a storehouse for growing plants containing minerals, organic matter, air and water. Soil provides nutrients, moisture and support to plants. When properly prepared and maintained, the soil will improve every year. In Fannin County, gardeners work with a wide variety of soils: sandy, sticky clay and shallow rocky soil. Sandy soil does not retain water; clay soil retains too much water and limits the entry of air into the soil; and shallow rocky soil severely limits root growth.


It is important to add organic matter every year. Vegetables and flowers need deep, well-drained soil with enough organic matter. Good garden soil with adequate moisture will not form a hard ball when pressed in the hand. It crumbles easily when forced between the fingers. It shouldn’t crack or scab when dry. Adding organic matter improves most soil types. Organic matter loosens compacted clay, helps sand hold more water, makes soil digging easier and adds nutrients.

Common organic matter additives are:

Plant material: This includes leaves, straw and grass clippings. Months before planting, work the material into the soil give it enough time to decompose. Most gardeners do this during the winter.

Manure: Use composted manure and incorporate it into the soil well before planting. Do not use fresh manure, as it can damage plants and introduce disease. Apply 30 to 40 pounds of composted manure for every 100 square feet.

Compost: Compost is made from decaying plant matter. Work the compost into the soil before planting.

Before planting, dig as deep as possible, at least 8 to 10 inches. Deep plowing loosens the soil and allows roots to grow deeper. This is especially important before the first planting in a specific area. Turn each shovelful of soil completely. Plow the soil when it is moist but not soggy. Working the soil when it is too wet can make it rough. Dig the soil in the winter when temperatures and humidity help soften the soil and prepare for spring planting. Work all plant material into the soil. Before planting, rake the ground and level it. Remove sticks, stones and other materials. Raised beds are another way to plant vegetables and flowers. Raised beds allow water to drain away from plant roots, provide furrows for irrigation, allow air to penetrate the soil and to help plants during periods of heavy rainfall.

After completing the necessary steps to properly prepare the soil for planting, gardening can seem anything but “easy.” But with proper soil preparation, gardening will get “easier” every year.

Information taken from AgriLife Extension E-284. For more information, contact the AgriLife Extension office. The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service office in Fannin County is located at 2505 N. Center St., Bonham. Phone – (903) 583-7453. E-mail: [email protected]

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