Preparing Your Soil To Plant

digging

Rocky Soil

A lot of soils in our area have 25%, 50% or even more rocks and gravel. This makes it hard to work your soil and it reduces the amount of water and nutrients the soil can hold.

You can either remove rocks by hand, which can be a lot of work, or make raised beds and bring in top soil.

Sandy Soil

Sandy soils dry out very fast and when it rains plant nutrients can easily leach away from the plant and may end up in our groundwater and rivers and streams.

Add lots of organic matter to your sandy soil each year (peat moss, compost, hardwood leaves, grass clippings, vegetable food waste, etc.). During hot dry weather you will likely have to provide light irrigation every day or two.

Clayey Soil

Soils with lots of clay can be very hard to work. Sprouting seeds sometimes cannot break through the surface.

Like with sandy soils, add lots of organic matter to your soil each year to make it more friable.

Poor Drainage

Some soils are wet a lot because of a high water table or because water tends to pond on them.

If it is not practical to provide drainage through ditches or drain pipes, raised beds are the best way to overcome this problem.

NEXT: Protecting Your Plants From Pests
PREVIOUS: Vegetable Gardening In Northern Virginia

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LOCAL GARDENING RESOURCE: Prince William County Master Gardeners
In this video the Prince William County Master Gardeners demonstate the French intensive method for new garden preparation.

Also known as “Double Digging” it’s pretty labor intensive. But it’s the best way to loosen up compacted garden soil for a new organic garden while protecting earthworms and their tunnels and preserving the soil layers. And you only have to do it once.

—Video by the Prince William County Master Gardeners
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Paul Benedict

Paul Benedict

Paul Benedict is a Manassas gardener and retired USDA-NRCS soil scientist. He has been vegetable gardening since he was a small child and some of his earliest memories are of being in the garden with his dad when he was 4 or 5 years old picking peas and pulling weeds. Now some 50 years later Paul still enjoys vegetable gardening. "I still don’t consider myself an expert, but more of an experienced trainee. I keep learning something new every year. I took my interest with gardening and soils and studied soils and crops in college. As a result I spent over 35 years as a soil scientist working for USDA in many places across the country. Everywhere I lived I found new challenges to gardening.”
Paul Benedict

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