How do you prepare soil for organic gardening?
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Organic soil is rich in humus, the end result of decaying materials such as leaves, grass clippings and compost. It holds moisture, but drains well. Good organic garden soil is loose and fluffy — filled with air that plant roots need — and it has plenty of minerals essential for vigorous plant growth. It is alive with living organisms — from earthworms to fungi and bacteria — that help maintain the quality of the soil. Proper pH is also an essential characteristic of healthy soil.
Adding organic matter in the form of compost and aged manure, or using mulch or growing cover crops (green manures), is the best way to prepare soil for planting. Adding chemical fertilizers will replenish only certain nutrients and do nothing for maintaining good, friable soil.
Add organic matter each year during soil preparation to build and maintain the soil. Be sure all plant material is turned under the soil. If organic material is added before planting a fall garden, it should be well-rotted, such as compost. Before planting, rake the soil clean and level it.
Work in 3 to 4 inches of organic matter such as well-rotted manure or finished compost. Mulch around your plants with leaves, wood chips, bark, hay or straw. Mulch retains moisture and cools the soil. Add at least 2 inches of organic matter each year.