For those struggling with rock hard soil every spring, the secret to perfect, easy to work with garden soil is much easier than you think. With this trick you’ll be able to make garden soil that is soft, workable and weed-free as soon as you’re ready to plant.
OK, all of you seasoned gardeners, it’s time to look away. 🙂 This secret to perfect, easy to work with garden soil is probably something that you’ve known for a long time. It’s probably something that seems obvious and like something you assume everyone knows. It’s probably something you were taught at a young age growing up, or figured out on your own just from a lot of time spent out in the garden. Let me tell you though, this is definitely not something that everyone knows about, even though it’s one of the simplest, easiest, most basic and fundamental parts of preparing for a garden. So this super easy way to make garden soil unbelievably workable goes out to all the new and new-ish gardeners out there!
The world of gardening looks so fun and enticing when you’re a new gardener. It looks so easy and so fulfilling, doesn’t it? All of those gardening magazines and shows on TV make it look like you just sow a few seeds at the proper depth, give them some water, maybe a little fertilizer and poof, there you are, growing your own food, clipping flowers for your house, and basically living off the land. Once you manage to get all of those weeds that keep popping up constantly, of course. But you knew about the weeds. No surprise there.
So you head out to the garden center, grab your seeds, or your little already-growing plants and get set for a lovely day of planting. Everything is going just fine until you go to dig in to make your first hole and quickly discover that your garden dirt is mysteriously different from the stuff on TV. It’s probably rock hard, clumpy, lumpy, full of roots from weeds old and new, and just generally difficult to deal with. So you put in the time, dig up all that soil, and get it nice and workable. Sure, it almost kills you because it’s almost like digging into solid rock, but you get it done. You’re good to go. You plant your plants and enjoy a decently fruitful little gardening season. Everything is great!…until the next spring when you go to dig in and again BAM you hit that same rock hard soil. You’re probably pretty sure that this is just what garden soil is like in real non-TV, non-magazine life and this is something you’re going to have to deal with every year. It’s a little discouraging and takes the shine off of the whole gardening experience just a little, doesn’t it?
Well, let me tell you, it doesn’t have to be this way! In fact, once you figure this little secret out, preparing your soil for planting in the spring is going to be one of the easiest things you do all gardening season. It’s downright relaxing!
So here’s the secret. Are you ready?
Grab a shovel. Dig. Repeat.
I know you’ve been doing exactly that every year and you’ve always ended up with that same impossible to deal with soil, but this is different.
Well, no, it’s the same, only more of the same.
How to Make Garden Soil Unbelievably Easy to Work With
Here’s what we do for this luxurious, soft, fluffy soil in our garden:
In the early spring when the ground is soft from the thaw, usually late February or early March around here, we go out with a couple of big shovels and dig up the soil in all of our garden beds. We dig around any plants that stay in year round like the berry plants, rhubarb, and some of the herbs. We also remove any big weeds that are starting to grow, any roots we come across, and any rocks that may have mysteriously made their way into the garden. But, you know, super casually. We don’t aim to get everything perfect, we just move things around and clear a few things away that are like right there in front of our faces and, most importantly, aerate the soil before the warm suns of spring bake it into near concrete.
Then, in early April, we do the same thing. And we may plant a few cold weather loving plants at that point, but most of the soil is still bare.
Make Garden Soil That’s Ready When You Are
So in May, when it’s “go time” for planting, we get in there with our rakes and our trowels, all ready to get all those final weeds out and make the soil beautiful and perfect for planting. But, of course, there aren’t really any weeds to speak of at that point, and the soil is already beautiful and perfect. So we get to just dive into planting! Just like in the magazines!
Keep it up
Here’s the final piece: In the fall, when we take most of the old plants out, we turn the soil again as we go. By this time, the job is just super super easy because the soil has already been turned so many times in the course of that one year. And then we forget about it for the winter and don’t think about it again until the next spring.
You’d think that the soil would once again be all hard and packed-down after so many months of being covered in heavy snow, and from all the freezing and thawing, and from the more than occasional toy tractor that gets driven over it, but when we go to turn the soil again for the first time that year, it’s light, fluffy, and soft, just like how we left it!
It’s amazing how little effort it takes to turn your soil once you’ve done it a few times in one year. It really does get to be relaxing!
So that’s the key, just keep relaxing your way through your soil turning duties a few times a year and you’re all set!
We have a pretty large garden, but it only takes us maybe less than an hour to do this task. This includes lots of breaks for when Jack stops whatever he’s working on to show us something, or whenever one of us gets a brilliant idea for the next year’s garden that just must be discussed right that instant.
If you’re a newer gardener struggling to make garden soil that’s easy to work and not a struggle to get through the task of prepping for planting every spring, I hope this came in handy! I definitely wish someone would have told me about this little “secret” a long time ago, so I’m passing it on to you!
Do you have any gardening tips to share? What do you do to make garden soil that it soft and workable?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.