March is the month to build the best foundation possible for your garden as you enter the busy growing season. We at Organic Mechanics know that attention to the garden bed is fundamental to a productive garden. Whether you’re growing veggies or ornamental plants, beautiful blooms and bountiful harvests result from what those plants are growing in. We have rounded up a few tips to help you prepare your garden for a successful season ahead.
Rake Your Garden Bed
I always say the first crop in my garden are the small stones that the winter’s freezing and thawing cycles push up to the surface. Run a garden over the soil to remove these rocks. It’ll also pull away any old weeds, leaves and other debris that gathered during the winter. You can compost this old material from the garden, just keep it a distance from the garden so any overwintering pests don’t make their way back.
Some weeds are super hardy and may have already gotten a pretty good jump on growing. Pull these weeds by hand or loosen with a trowel or shovel at their base. I like to use a hand tool that pulls roots out just below the surface with a scraping action. We love using a tool called the CobraHead Weeder (it literally looks like a cobra!). It’s awesome for those early-season, low-growing weeds such as sorels. You can compost these weeds as long as they haven’t already gone to seed.
Add Compost to the Garden Bed
Whether you’re a Northerner who is walking the garden’s perimeter to assess supplies and plan for sowing St. Patrick’s Day peas (maybe some hardy greens, too), or a Southern gardener who is acclimating summer-season seedlings, your garden could do with an application of compost. We recommend adding 1 to 2 inches of a compost blend such as Organic Mechanics Planting Mix Compost Blend to the garden’s surface each year. This blend contains compost, pine bark, coir and worm castings that combine to charge the soil with organic matter and increase its moisture retention properties. We like to gently rake it in a few weeks before planting so it begins to incorporate with the native soil.
Disturb Soil Minimally
Notice how the advice above calls for little disturbing of the soil. This is because the soil microbiome, or the network of living things—“good” fungi and bacteria, for example—works best for helping plant roots grow strong when it is kept intact. Digging a hole to insert seeds or a plant is fine as it disturbs just a small portion and can easily reform. Running a tiller or spading and turning over the entire garden disturbs a valuable resource that exists just under the soil’s surface. This “no-till” method of planting is invaluable to your garden—plus, it’s a lot less work.
Do Disturb If Applying Biochar
If you are establishing a completely new garden plot or are revitalizing an old, worn-out garden, use Organic Mechanics’ Biochar Blend. It contains all sorts of minerals—zeolite and azomite, for example—that nourish your soil’s microbiome and plant roots. It’s also packed with compost, worm castings and alfalfa and kelp meals for added nutrients.
The caveat here is that you do have to disturb the soil if applying Biochar Blend. We recommend applying 1 cu.ft. of the Biochar Blend per 24 sq.ft. of garden. Apply a half-inch of biochar and mix it into the top 5 to 6 inches of your garden’s soil. The good news is a biochar application is a one-time deal since it persists in the soil “for a lifetime” if applied at our suggested rates.
What is this stuff called Biochar? You can find more info on the material from the International Biochar Initiative.
A Soil Test Note
One added suggestion here. If you have a soil test of your garden done before you add the Biochar Blend, this allows you the opportunity to add any fertilizers that will provide nutrients your soil may be lacking. As you till your soil, the added biochar and fertilizers will make it’s way further down in the soil profile for easier access by roots and those beneficial microbes.
Whether you are gazing upon a new garden plot or are coaxing those summer seedlings to hardiness, now is a great time to stock up on your soils and amendments to be ready when Mother Nature gives the garden its go-ahead.