How to Prepare Your Raised Beds for Spring Planting
Depending on where you live, you could be dealing with any number of weather conditions in the early days of spring. I, Matthew Davies, am currently in Stockton, CA and the weather in April is quite mild. However, my neighbors to the north are not so lucky. Some days they enjoy temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. Other days they experience more winter-like conditions. Temperature fluctuations like these can pose a challenge when it comes to spring planting. Here are some tips to get your raised beds ready for spring planting, no matter where you live.
There are many different ways to construct your raised beds. I have raised beds that will be here long after Armageddon. More traditional raised beds tend to be made from wood. Regardless of the material, it’s important to check for signs of wear and tear. Start by inspecting every inch of your raised beds. Take note of any damage that might be a problem. Be sure to take a notepad with you and note the parts that need fixing. This will be very important when you go to the hardware store for supplies.
Do not forget to check the corners. When and if a raised bed fails, it generally comes from a failed corner. If you need to reinforce your edges, now would be the time to do it. You likely haven’t had any water in the beds for quite some time, and the dirt inside is less cumbersome. Once you start shoveling, watering, and weeding, your chances of exposing a weak corner go up significantly.
If you don’t make the repairs before you plant your flowers or crops, and one breaks, you will either have to deal with it until next year or take the time to fix it. In either case, it will take you more time than it should. Simple inspections and repairs at the beginning each year will prevent you from having to start all over in the middle of growing season. I am sure you can remember when you put the raised beds in. It may have been fun, but you know in your heart it was a lot of work.
Many experts say that you should remove all remnants of your crops before you put the bed to rest for the winter, though I’ll confess I did not do this last year.
I found there were some benefits to not removing last year’s crops before winter. The first one is that when I pulled them up this year before planting, it aerated my soil. Second, some of the most stubborn root systems were easier to deal with. I’m looking at you, tomatoes and cabbage! Lastly, there is a chance that my kale will take off again. I am going to wait and see.
All that being said, do as I say, not as I do. At the end of each year, make sure you remove all your crops. When you let the plants die out and stay in the ground, you are doing your beds no favors. The only way those dead crops will be of any benefit to you is if they are in a compost. However, if you are like me, make sure you clean out your garden before planting this year’s crop.
You should test your soil each year to make sure you have adequate amounts of the nutrients your crops or plants will need. There are so many people who complain they cannot get their garden to grow. My first question to them is always, “what did your tests look like?” Most of the time, I get a confused look or a question of “what tests?” There are so many things you need in your garden to produce a great crop.
I looked around the internet and found many simple tests online. I found the majority of these on Pinterest. While you can take these tests (something is far better than nothing), they will only tell you about the pH level in your soil. While pH is a vital piece of the puzzle, it is just that – a piece.
There are three main places that you can send your soil samples to, and they will give you a complete breakdown of your soil. Here are the ones I have found to be most reliable.
Before you send your soil sample off to one of them, know that it will cost you about $35. Additionally, keep in mind that you are going to want to prepare your soil samples to get the most accurate reading. To do this, you will need to dig down at least six inches into the area you want to be tested. Do this across all of the beds (provided you don’t have an obscene amount of raised beds). Take small samples from each of them and combine them into one sample. Make sure to allow the dirt to dry completely before shipping. This may require frequent turning and moving air to achieve.
Once you have received your test results back, give them the old once over. Look to see if there are any nutrients that you are in dire need of. Write your list and head off to your local nursery. Pick up all your needed supplies and return to your garden. Add all the nutrients you need and turn the soil. Remember, you are going to want to turn all the beds to the bottom. Think of your beds as a bowl of food. To incorporate all the ingredients in your recipe, you must scrape the bottom. The same is true for your raised beds. Make sure all your soil gets a little bit of what it needs.
Completing this list that I, Matthew Davies, have provided you will allow you to be ready for your spring planting. While this may be a lot of work, your patients will soon be rewarded. In just a few short weeks, you will have all the vegetables you could ever want. In these uncertain times, it is good to know you can provide food to your family. I wish you the best of luck on and in your garden this year.