For many people, gardening is a favorite pastime in spring and summer. What many people don’t know is that spring gardening starts with preparation in the fall. But where exactly do gardeners begin?
“A soil test of your garden is always the best way to start,” says Rudy Pacumbaba, PhD.
According to Pacumbaba, doing this is the most accurate way to determine the condition of the soil and will also help address any possible problems in nutrient availability in the future. He also says that garden soils in Alabama will require liming every three to five years on average in order to maintain the ideal soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5.
There are seven different classifications of soil types in Alabama alone. This means that soil preparation will vary differently based on location and soil type, even though soils in Alabama have a tendency to be low pH, or acidic, in nature. This is a common condition that occurs in soil in humid climates like that of Alabama. Additionally, each county can have at least three to four different soil types within that region.
If some produce thrives while other produce struggles to prosper, the problem could be in the soil.
“Due to the varied soil types across counties and the entire state, some fruits and vegetables will flourish in some soil types and not others,” Pacumbaba says. “This is due to the soil characteristics which directly affect nutrient availability, water retention and draining capabilities.”
Soil testing kits are available at local county and regional extension offices. The kits include the instructions on how to use them, and regional extension agents are around to help with the test and process it.
“Early soil preparation in the fall makes the process easier because of cooler temperatures,” says Pacumbaba, “and it gives you time to plan the garden and make adjustments to the soil bed if necessary.”
Trying out gardening for the first time? Do not worry if your garden does not bloom the way you were hoping. Pacumbaba suggests starting small, choosing what you like and having fun.
When it comes to the tools to use, Pacumbaba also recommends a good garden spading fork, a garden hoe and a garden rake tools. The size of those tools depends on the size of the garden and whether it is an in-ground garden or a box or container garden.
“Be patient,” says Pacumbaba. “It takes time and commitment.”