Garden preparation before planting is one of the biggest keys to a successful growing season. If plants are happy and growing in the right location, then your maintenance and the potential for problems decreases.
Planting a new garden starts with locating the site for the plants that you are growing. If you are growing vegetables, for instance, place this in an area that will get the maximum possible sunlight all day. Vegetables need at least eight hours of direct sun, and even more is better.
A flower garden can go in sun or shade because you have choices of sun or shade plants to use in the garden.
Once you have selected the site, make sure the drainage is good. You can do a very simple drainage test by digging a hole that is a square foot (12 by 12 by 12 inches) and filling it with water. Ideally it drains about 2 inches per hour and should be empty within 24 hours.
If the hole is still holding water the next day, then you have to either fix the drainage situation or move the location. If you can’t fix the drainage problem, consider using a raised bed garden that won’t be affected by the drainage. Make sure the bed is tall enough that the roots won’t sit in the wet area, however.
Next remove all of the existing vegetation, whether grass or weeds. This can be done several different ways. The most important factor is to make sure that it’s dead, or you will have continual challenges with weeds such as grass, thistles, dandelions or any other tough perennial weeds.
Chemical removal of vegetation can be done by using a product that contains glyphosate (e.g. Round-up, Killzall, Bonide Ground Force Vegetation Killer, etc.). This is a broad-spectrum systemic (taken into the roots) herbicide that is effective on perennials.
Just make sure that the product you select doesn’t have any additional active ingredients that keep weeds from coming back. This will also prevent your garden seeds from growing.
It’s safe to plant 7-10 days after application, but make sure that the vegetation is dead before you till up the area.
Other methods to remove vegetation include smothering it with plastic, newspaper or other materials. Some even go with the lasagna method of bed preparation and use newspaper layered with compost (several layers) and plant directly into this bed.
After vegetation is dead, add organic matter. This is one of the best things to do to your new garden beds (and established beds) to improve soil structure and make clay soils “livable.”
Organic matter includes compost, composted manures, pine fines and peat moss. The rule of thumb is one-third organic matter by volume or 4 inches of organic matter in 12 inches of soil. Work this into the new bed, and you are ready to plant.