Your soil is soil, air, water, earthworms and countless micro-organisms that maintain fertility (availability of nutrients for the roots). Its preparation consists in influencing the proportion of these components to make it more favourable to the growth of the plants you wish to plant. It is from the soil of your garden that plants draw water and food.
When should I prepare the soil in my garden?
It is advisable to prepare the soil before planting trees, shrubs, perennials or annuals, vegetables or seeding a lawn. This is especially important when the soil has been disturbed by the construction of a house, the building of a pool or when the garden has been abandoned for a long time.
Preparation is done when the soil is bare, usually from fall to spring, avoiding periods when the soil is soggy (puddles on the surface). Any repeated trampling would result in compaction, especially in heavy soil. This is exactly the opposite of what we are looking for when we work the soil.
What should I use to prepare the soil in my garden?
1 spade fork
1 claw or hook
For a different kind of soil preparation: 1 “ecological” fork
How do I prepare the soil in my garden?
- Work the soil in rows, if possible backwards, so as not to trample what you have decompacted. Push the iron of the spade vertically, then lever on the handle to extract the clod. Collect the soil from the first row in a wheelbarrow.
For the following rows, there is no need to lift the spade and its clod of earth very high, just tip the spade towards the previous row. You will fill in the last row with the soil from the wheelbarrow.
- In very heavy soils, which stick to the tools, use the spade fork instead. The movement is the same as with the spade: the compacted soil forms a clod that you can lift whole even with a tined tool. Moreover, the tines penetrate the compacted soil more easily than the solid iron of the spade.
- Ecologically speaking, turning over the clods of soil when digging disturbs the useful soil fauna a bit.
Ecological tillage consists of creating cracks in the soil where water and air can penetrate deeply.
Less physical than digging, it is done with specific tools (grelinette, air spade, ecological fork…), with tines and double handle. The tines are inserted vertically into the soil, the tool is swung back and forth by pulling and pushing on the two handles, then the tines are extracted from the soil by bringing the tool back to you to plant it about one step further.
When the soil is light, stony or regularly worked, this is sufficient.
- If you don’t want to plant immediately, let wildlife and weather break up the clumps. You will only have to rake the soil when it is time to plant or sow.
- If planting and seeding are to be done immediately after digging, scratch the digged area to break up large clumps and refine the soil. Finish with a rake to level off.
Take it easy!
Working the soil requires a significant physical effort. It is not necessary to work the soil of your entire garden at the same time, or even the same year. You can do it gradually, as you plant. Depending on the size of your vegetable garden or flower beds, you don’t have to do everything on the same day. You can spread the effort over several weekends.
Earthworms and other soil microorganisms also work the soil and sometimes better than you! Rather than working yourself to death, it’s better to encourage increased colonization by these discreet and hard-working helpers. Thus, after spading, cover the soil with a thick layer of organic mulch to stimulate these underground activities.