Homestead Backyard

How To Start Vegetable Garden From Scratch

Is your soil acid or alkaline?

Many people don’t stop to consider the soil quality as all we expect is a great harvest of vegetables and an array of colourful flowers. Most would not admit to even knowing the quality of their garden soil! However, it’s important to find out as your garden’s growth depends fully on the health of your soil.

The best way to answer your soil question is to buy a home soil testing kit which is very useful and costs around $20. You’ll need to take random samples from different areas of your property, so here’s a quick 4 step guide of how to do this.

1. In the top one-inch of the soil, remove any loose organic matter
2. Take samples 6-7 inches deep, using a spade or hand trowel,
3. Repeat this in six locations for every 1000 to 2000 sq. ft.
4. In a bucket mix the various samples and use about 1-2 cups for testing.

The kits generally consist of a test tube, some testing solution, and a colour chart. You put a sample in the tube, add a few drops of test solution, shake it up, and leave it for an hour or so to settle.

The solution changes colour according to the pH of your soil. Simply compare the colour of the sample with the colour chart that came with the kit to determine the pH range of your sample.

Soil Amendment

After this treatment you’ll have a fairly good idea of what the pH level is, and you can begin to amend the soil to suit your planting needs. If your soil’s acidity is too high, adding dolomite or lime will bring it back into a more alkaline state and it will then be workable.

To acidify alkaline soil will require adding garden sulphur to sour down the soil. Many plants thrive in an acidic environment including gardenias, azaleas, rhododendrons, pines, raspberries, and many tropical varieties. They may also benefit by feeding with an acidifier like Miracid, at least once a month.

Sandy Soil

Sand is a real nuisance for gardens and can be even more troublesome to plants. Soil that is too loose drains so fast that water never reaches the roots. As a result, the plants die off very quickly.

One way to tell if your soil is too sandy is by feel; it won’t hold together properly and immediately falls apart. It will have a gritty texture unlike normal soil.

The recipe below will give you a firm, healthy soil that will continue to improve over the next two to three years. For every 100 sq. feet of garden, add the following:

2 lbs of bat or seabird guano
2 lbs of rock or superphosphate
10 lbs of gypsum or lime
2 lbs of Greensand
2 lbs of kelp meal

This mixture should be evenly spread over the planting areas and tilled in 6″ to 8.” Once this is done, the garden is then ready to plant.

Leave for around two to three months, and then add 3lbs of alfalfa meal, digging it in to the first 6 inches of topsoil. By now you should begin to notice earthworms tunnelling through the dirt which is a good sign. If not, buy them and release them in order to work their garden wonders.

You should see an improvement in your soil within the first year. Certainly, by the third year you will have the right garden soil, which will be rich in texture, dark in colour and will hold moisture. Your gardening journey can then begin!

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