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I don't really know much about plants and soils, I'm trying to make a vegetable garden and since the soil is a little ugly:
enter image description here

I was thinking about sifting it
enter image description here

The soil feels very nice after doing it but I don't know how good it would be for the plants. I want to use some fertilizer after doing it. Those little stones would still, of course, remain there a few centimeters deep down below the surface. Is it a good idea?

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    Can you go back at least far enough to explain what you hope to achieve.? – Robbie Goodwin Mar 20 at 22:39
  • @Robbie Goodwin I would like to plant some vegetables like the ones I mentioned above, and I wanted to sift the soils to make it look better, since with all the little stones in looks "dirty" and since that place is next to a garage, sometimes I can find screws and little metal object in the soil, which I don't like at all. Since I don't know almost anything about plants and soils I was asking if removing all the little stones is bad for the plants for some reason – Andrea Mar 21 at 10:16
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That soil sure does look to be a tough place to grow plants in...

To start, have you had a soil test done? If not, I strongly recommend that you do so before adding any fertilizer, because the results of the test will help you in choosing the correct fertilizer for your garden. Given that you used "centimeters" in your post, I'm assuming that you aren't in the US (where I'm located), so I'm not able to recommend where you can get the soil tests done in your country.

I would also be curious about the soil's composition (sand, silt, clay, or loam). The "jar test" can give you that information quickly and easily. [Note - this link taken from a random web search; using "soil test composition" as search terms will give you many more options, some with much better explanations of the results]

Once you have this information in hand, you can decide on whether you want to sift or not. Be aware that the pebbles lower in the soil profile will rise over time, so your sifted soil may look like it does now after only a few years. My own inclination, if I were in your garden, would be to not sift. Unless you grow root crops (especially carrots), the pebbles will not adversely affect your plants by themselves.

Whether or not you decide to sift the soil, I strongly recommend that you add compost and/or other organic matter yearly, in order to build soil tilth. This will help with water retention, drainage (slowing it down if the soil is sandy and speeding it up if the soil is clay), and general plant health. Compost is itself a mild fertilizer as well. I also recommend an organic mulch: something like pine needles, cocoa bean hulls, rice hulls, even leaf mould all are good mulches, helping the garden retain moisture and adding organic matter to the soil (and improving its tilth) as they decay (if you were creating a landscape garden, I would strongly recommend that you use arborist wood chips as your mulch). The type of mulch you can use depends upon what's available locally. You will have to add new mulch every spring, after planting (I add my mulch after the seedlings have two or three sets of leaves).

Another option would be to build bottomless raised beds and grow your vegetables in them. Because differences between soil pore sizes can negatively affect drainage, I would gently mix (just a bit) the bottom 5cm of good soil in the raised bed with the top 5cm of soil beneath it. The advice about compost and mulch still applies with raised beds.

As you can see, your question is more complex than "should I sift or not" :) You are definitely correct in being concerned about your soil, as that it is arguably the most important part of any garden. Best of luck with your new garden!

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  • It looks like it needs the addition of compost , not the removal of pebbles. – blacksmith37 Mar 20 at 14:31
  • Thank you so much! I live in central italy, right in front of the beach, like 50m away, so I would say the soil is sandy (not sure if it makes sense..). Last year I planted some tomatoes, eggplants, chillies, lattuce, chard, celery and a few more things and everything grew pretty well (I'm not looking for the best vegetables ever, I just do it for fun) and I didn't use anything at all, no fertilizer, organic compost, etc I didn't even rake the soil. So I guess the soil "is alright", I wanted to sift it only for the look, but at the same time I don't want to make things worse for the plants.. – Andrea Mar 20 at 14:50
  • You're welcome! If you were to use at least some form of mulch, then you'd both improve the look by hiding the pebbles AND help the soil in the long run :) For example, I was once able to create 5cm of topsoil in six years simply by using wood chips as a mulch; in another garden, I created about 2-3 cm of topsoil in five years with a different type of organic mulch. In both cases, I practiced no-till gardening, which worked great for weed suppression. – Jurp Mar 20 at 15:01
  • Oh il will try to put some mulch then! It shouldn't be so expensive since our vegetable garden is very small, 4m x 2.5m, on question though, when you want to plant a new plant, isn't it a little uncomfortable with all the mulch around? – Andrea Mar 20 at 15:07
  • Put the mulch on only after you plant (assuming you are not using wood chips or bark, then you'll need to mulch each spring as it will decompose over the season/winter). It's okay to partially mulch - for example, let's say you plant peas and spinach/lettuce/other greens first. You mulch those rows only after those seeds are showing 2-3 true leaves, leaving the res un-mulched. Then, when you plant tomatoes/pepper//cucumber/squash transplants, you mulch that area. Only after you have planted all transplants and after all of your seeds have been mulched, will your entire garden will be mulched. – Jurp Mar 20 at 16:19
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I would first look at what already grows in this soil, especially weeds. That will give an indication of what plants you can grow.

If you show a photo of the plants already growing, maybe one of us will be able to help further.

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  • Thanks for the answer! I can't show any plant because there isn't any! The weeds (I don't know if they can be considered weeds..) are nettles, there are so many and they're very stubborn – Andrea Mar 21 at 10:11
  • Nettles, that’s good. Were there chickens around before? – Polypipe Wrangler Mar 23 at 5:38
  • mm yeah.. When I was little there were chickens but not exacly there, they were a few meters away. I don't know if my grandma had some animals there before I was born 🤷‍♂️ I know that my grandfather used to plant vegetables in there and he was pretty successful as well – Andrea Mar 23 at 8:45

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