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Woo-hoo! Starting to get excited... it will soon be spring again and looking ready to growing some good food.

Our spring begins in September which is about 5 weeks away so I am interested in finding out what I should be doing to my vegetable beds to prepare for planting in spring?

We have quite mild winters and I am in Zone 4. I can pretty much clear out the beds completely if necessary as I only have a minimal amount of carrots / radishes occupying beds and some beans which will need to be left, but won't be in the way.

  • Do I need to do anything to aerate the soil?
  • What type (organic only) and how much fertiliser should I be adding?
  • Should I start occasionally watering the beds? As the beds are getting dried out as we have relatively low rainfall.
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2 Answers

If you have acidic soil, now is a good time to add lime. Or if you have acidic soil and deficits of phosphate and potash, you could add wood ash.

If you wanted to warm up the soil, now is a good time to put out plastic mulch. But it sounds like you don't have to worry about warming up the soil.

My winters are more severe (in a normal winter I'd have snow on the ground until 1-4 weeks past the official start of spring), but about four weeks before planting is when I would add manure. I use horse manure because I have a large supply handy, but you could use whatever you have available nearby (e.g. if there are sheep, dairy, or horse farms anywhere near you). Unfortunately I can't say how much you should add, because I don't know how fertile your soil is. I have beds that I didn't add any manure to this year, but others (especially where the corn and squash are growing) got a whole bunch.

I wouldn't bother watering if you don't have anything planted, this seems like a waste of water.

This is about the time that I would fork my beds for aeration -- I generally don't turn them over, just move the fork back and forth to loosen the soil a bit.

This is also the time that I'd plant early crops: spinach, spring onions, peas, oat cover crop, etc. (I also would be starting stuff inside now, but you didn't ask about that.)

About 3 weeks before planting is when I would till cover crops like winter rye, and then repeat a week later. (Crops that are easier to kill I'd only till once, but winter rye is pretty vigorous.)

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It depends what you're going to grow whether you add manure at this time or not - root crops such as carrots will not appreciate it. Manure for those should be carried out one year before. Different crops need different nutrients and soil conditions, so deciding what you want to grow and then working out what you need to add to the ground, if anything, is the way to go.

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