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Preparing Soil for the Vegetable Garden
The best crops of Vegetables are raised in deep, rich, friable loam, or deep rich sandy loam. Excellent Summer crops can be grown on low-lying rich, black soils (sometimes swampy in Winter) containing a large percentage of humus. It is not always possible to have such soils, but whatever is available can be improved by judicious treatment. Poor land can gradually be brought into a state of fertility by working it deeply and enriching it with plenty of well-decayed natural manure or other decomposed vegetable matter. Even sand will produce fine Vegetables when it has been given a good dressing of rich soil or strong loam, and when plenty of well-decayed natural manure or other decomposed vegetable matter, such as chopped up seaweed, etc., has been properly and thoroughly worked into it.
Stiff clayey land with an impervious subsoil is the most difficult and expensive to deal with, still it can be made to produce good crops of vegetables. It must be efficiently drained and heavily dressed with sand, half decayed manure and half-decomposed vegetable matter (such as unseeded weeds), wood ashes, crushed bones, etc. Lime will tend to light and clayey soil and will, at the same time, correct acidity. Remember that Lime is not a fertiliser, and cannot be used as a substitute for such, although its use is equally as important in gardening. By correcting acidity, Lime brings about the development of countless soil bacteria which help in releasing plant food from the mineral particles of the soil, and thus makes these substances available for the plants. These helpful organisms do not thrive in acid soils, (which is why you shouldn’t use too many coffee grounds in one area) and without their presence, Vegetables do not grow their best. Stiff clayey soil is much improved by breaking up in the Summer and allowing it to remain exposed for several months, without being planted. The influence of the sun and atmosphere will considerably improve it.
Too much emphasis cannot be laid on the thorough and proper preparation of the ground. A bed of fine tilth, brought to this condition by deep ploughing, careful harrowing and fining of the soil, is the foundation of good gardening, and is essential for the proper germination of seeds and the growth of young plants. The soil must be friable and free from clods. A clod locks up plant food and prevents its utilisation by the plant.
Good soil brought to a fine tilth furnishes good conditions for root development and it is upon the fine, hairy, fibrous feeding roots, possible only in well-worked soil, that the plant depends for its sturdiness, hardiness and growth.
Deep, rich, friable soils, plenty of manure, an abundance of water and shelter from prevailing winds, hot or cold, are four essentials in successful vegetable growing.