How to Prepare your Soil for Spring Planting
Good Garden soil is at the root of a plant’s health therefore care should be taken when choosing the right soil type, there are billions of soil microbes that are busy at work breaking down organic matter for example, leaves that have fallen on the soil’s surface, branches, tree limbs, dead plant roots, the dead bodies of insects. Anything that was once alive but is dead and laying on the soil’s surface is considered organic matter and will be broken down by soil microbes and converted into nutrients that are taken up by the roots of trees and plants.
Many plant diseases can be traced back to poor soils therefore it’s important that we pay close attention when choosing and preparing our garden soils to meet our garden plant’s requirements.
Springtime presents the opportunity for us not only to connect with nature but to work in our gardens growing plants that will bring balance to our ecosystem and create a garden oasis (flowering plants) and also reap a good harvest (edible plants).
However, as the winter months come to a close we may still have to wait a while before the soils warm so we can sow seeds or plant seedlings. A great way to get a jump start is by giving our garden soils a head start by helping to warm the soil, how is this done? Below we will be looking at such methods that have proven to be effective in warming garden soils in order to get those seeds/seedlings in the ground.
Warming Garden Soil In Spring
The weather plays an important part in this process it’s good to wait a while for most of the chill period to pass before heading into our gardens. As the weather begins to warm up we will have success with these methods.
1. Mulches are plant-based materials that have proven to be beneficial, mulches not only beautify giving a garden design that detailed finish but will help to suppress weeds, retain moisture for garden plants, help to adjust the soil’s ph, and will add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.
Another popular use of mulches is placing around plants before the cold season sets in, placing a 2-3 inch layer of mulch around garden plants will act as an insulator protecting garden plant roots from freezing temperatures as the ground freezes. Plants that are not insulated with mulch will be winter damage.
We discussed earlier the benefits of soil microbes, these microbes are also protected during the freezing months including beneficial insects that overwinter. During the springtime, these insects will emerge and show you their gratitude by policing or protecting your garden from insect pests.
Applying a 2-3 inch layer of mulch over the ground will cause garden soil to warm up faster as you prepare your garden for spring planting. When the weather really begins to warm up mulches can be removed so your garden soil can take advantage of the warm sun rays. Mulches can also be reused by replacing them back around your plants.
2. Covering the soil with a plastic sheet will help in warming the soil, in preparation for spring planting, before placing plastic material ensure there is no debris on the ground, next level the soil and add your plastic sheeting this sheeting should be leveled with the ground. To ensure the plastic sheeting does not move place clips or stones at the edges to hold it firmly in place.
Black polyethylene plastic sheeting is a heavy-duty material that will give good results, this plastic is manufactured from reprocessed and recycled products that are environmentally friendly. This process is known as solarization a natural way of killing weeds and soil-borne insects.
As the temperature rise, the plastic will capture the sun’s heat which will cause the soil temperature to rise with boiling heat. Once the warm season arrives leave, the plastic sheet in place for about 3-4 weeks, the longer the sheet is left in place the better the results. After several weeks remove the plastic, what you’re left with is garden soil that’s warmed up, free of weeds and insects that inhabits the soil.
Growing Seeds Indoors
3. A great way to get a jump start on the season is to start seeds indoors, so when your garden warms up your seeds should have already germinated. In seed trays or small plastic containers add a good potting mix the seed trays or plastic containers should have drain holes for water drainage. Next, add your seeds, and plant them at the proper depth giving the proper spacing.
Planting instructions should be on the seed package or have a talk with your plant nurseryman. Place the seed trays/plastic containers in a warm area keeping the soil mix moist not waterlogged which will encourage root rot. When your seedlings germinate place them in an area that gets bright light. Once the weather completely warms up transfer seedlings outdoors.
4. Creating a raised bed has so many advantages because these gardens are structured in such a way will allow for better water drainage, a raised bed garden that’s constructed above the ground will cause soils to warm up much faster than soils that are leveled. The soils of raised beds are easier to work with example, soils are not compacted, do not need to till and weed is kept at an all-time low.
These gardens can be whatever size you want along with style but most raised bed gardens are of a square or rectangular shape. Raised bed gardens also bring a certain flavor which I think is pretty cool.
Cold Frame Garden
5. The use of cold frame gardens has become s0 popular, these gardens can be of any size or shape depending on your needs from simple to complex. Cold frame gardens are a winner as your garden soil and plants are housed in an enclosed box or frame with ventilation that keeps the soil warm while protecting your plants from the cold weather. For more on these garden, types refer to this link extending the season with cold frame gardens.
The Use of a Wall
6. Walls can also be used to provide the warmth that your garden soil needs, providing an area near your south-oriented wall will help in protecting plants from the chilly winds of winter.
Seed Heating Mats
7. Seed heating mats are a sure way to heat garden soils that will promote seed germination, check the seed package for light exposure and temperature. The heating mat should be placed in an area that matches the light requirements and on a surface that is dry and flat. Plug in the heating mat and set the temperature range with the thermostat.
Next place the seed flat on top of the mat, note check the heating mat each day to ensure the heat is continuously at the right range or temperature. The soil should be checked each day to ensure that it does not dry out. If the soil doesn’t retain the right of moisture seeds may be lost.
Once the seeds have germinated remove them from the heating mat because if seedlings are allowed to remain on the heating mat after germination seedlings will continue to grow which can lead to plants that are leggy and weak. The seedlings can be moved to another area that gets bright sunlight or installing grow lights and placing seedlings in the area until the soil warms up completely where they can be transferred outdoors will help your seedlings to thrive.
Removing Seedlings Outdoors
Now that you’re seedlings are ready to transfer outdoors because the soil has warmed here is what to do to ensure success.
1. Ensure the area you’re installing your seedlings meet the requirements as far as soil and lighting are concerned.
2. Removing seedlings from the seed tray can be tricky, remove seedlings by scooping from the bottom if you attempt to remove seedlings by pulling from the stalk can pop causing damage to the root system, remember to be very gentle.
3. The seedlings should be removed individually to avoid damaging leaves and roots.
4. Plant seedlings at the proper depth, the top of the root ball where the stalk is joined should be below ground all other plant parts should be above ground. Planting too deeply can cause the stalk of seedlings to rot.
5. The soil should be kept somewhat moist and not waterlogged.
6. Keep an eye out for weeds and remove them immediately because weeds will compete with your seedlings for water, sunlight, and nutrients.
Edible Plants to Grow in Soils that are Pre-warmed
The final word
Warming garden soils with these methods is a sure way to prepare for the spring months, putting these methods in place is so important and will help in getting a jump start on the season. Springtime is an amazing time when nature awakens from that nice long winter nap painting our landscapes and gardens with an array of colors as we take pride in our garden oasis or growing edible food crops that are harvested and used to prepare our favorite dishes that delight our taste buds. Get a jump start on the season by warming your garden soil as you connect with nature outdoors.
About the author
Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.