How to Prep Your Soil for Planting

Good soil is one of the most important requirements for a successful organic vegetable garden. In fact, it’s just as crucial as high-quality seeds and plenty of water and sunlight. Here are some tips to make your soil as rich and nutrient dense as possible.

Clear the area of everything you don’t need.

After you’ve decided where to put your garden, it’s time to dig in. Remove any visible rocks, brush, and debris. Rent or borrow a rototiller to turn the soil and outline the general area of the garden. Take your time if you have rocky soil or if it’s the first time you’ve tilled this area—you want to remove all the rocks and buried “stuff” the rototiller turns up. If you’re reawakening an existing garden plot, turn compost into the area using the rototiller.

Test your soil.

Your state or county’s agriculture extension service should provide soil-testing kits. You’ll discover the pH and nutrient levels of your soil so you can use organic soil amendments as necessary. The more nutrient rich your soil is, the more nutrient rich your vegetables will be.

You’ll also want to know how much sand or clay your soil has and how well it drains. Fill a quart glass jar with 1” of soil (about a cup) and 1/4 teaspoon of powdered dishwasher detergent. Fill the jar with water until it is about 2/3 full, and then shake for a minute or two, turning it over to get all the soil off the bottom. Turn it upright, set it on the counter, and start timing:

  • After one minute, mark how much has settled at the bottom. This is sand.
  • After five minutes, mark how much more has settled. This is silt.
  • After an hour, the additional amount that has settled is clay. Mark this so you can see the relative percentages of sand, silt, and clay.

Depending on what the soil tests say, sandy soil will need more organic compost and water, as it tends to be drier and may retain fewer nutrients. Clay-heavy soil will need organic gardening compost to increase aeration but won’t need to be watered often.

To test drainage, dig a hole in dry soil and fill with water. See how long it takes the soil to absorb the water. If the water disappears quickly, you’ll need to water more, and if it sits for quite a while, you won’t have to water as often.

Use the test results to amend your soil.

Based on the tests you’ve performed above, you now know which organic soil amendments are the best choices for your soil. Organic compost such as MOO DOO® or MOO PLUS® will add nutrients to sandy or nutrient-poor soil, while organic topsoil such as MOO DIRT® will help break up the clay in your soil.

Don’t skimp on the amounts compost—you want to treat at least six inches of soil, so you’ll need plenty. Work the soil amendments in by hand or with garden tools, but be careful to do it evenly and go as deeply as you need to.

What are your best tips for preparing soil for an organic vegetable garden?

Organic Vegetable Gardening Basics

Whether you have been gardening for years or this will be your first organic vegetable garden, here are a few simple tips to help you enjoy yourself and grow a bumper crop of delicious, healthy food you’ll be proud of.

First, know what grows best in your area and in your soil. You can improve the quality of your soil greatly with an organic soil amendment such as MOO DOO® composted cow manure. However, you still need to understand whether your soil is sandy or contains clay, as this will influence what you plant. Take a sample of soil to your local garden shop and ask for guidance in which plants are best suited for your organic vegetable garden.

Once you find out what your soil will easily support, it’s time to consider your personal preferences. For example, if peas would do well in your garden but you don’t like them, perhaps they aren’t the best choice. You want to be able to eat (or give away) what you grow.

Now think about your climate. Gardening websites or seed catalogs will have a map that shows garden zones or hardiness zones. These take into account your climate and the length of your growing season to help you choose the best plants for your area. Following their planting recommendations will help you have a more successful garden.

Second, decide how you will control pests. When you have an organic garden, you’re limited in what you can use because many pest control items are full of harmful chemicals. One way to control pests is to introduce their natural predators into your organic garden. For example, if your area is prone to aphids, buy some ladybugs or green lacewing larvae to keep the pests under control.

Some plants, such as tomatoes, are prone to disease and fungus. For best results, buy varieties that are resistant to disease. Organic garden compost such as MOO DOO® aids in maintaining the ecological balance of your garden to help your plants resist pests and disease.

Third, never grow plants in the same place two years in a row. Certainly, you may be limited in the area you have, but rotate plant families so that you grow them in different parts of the garden each year, even if it’s just a few yards from last year’s site. This rotation will help protect against disease.

Fourth, thin out your crop on time. When it comes to having a successful organic vegetable garden, timing is crucial. If you’re a beginning gardener, pulling up extra plants may be counterintuitive, but trust us on this one: thinning the garden properly will enhance the quality and the quantity of your vegetables.

Overcrowded plants cannot thrive because they don’t receive enough water, fertilizer, and light. Disease and pests love crowded gardens. When you thin out your plants, the strongest ones survive and flourish.

Finally—and not all gardeners know this—companion planting helps you have a strong and healthy organic vegetable garden. Companion planting is carefully choosing plants that help each other grow or that protect each other from pests. For example, plants from the squash family grow well with beans and corn, and basil can help prevent pests from bothering tomatoes.

Organic vegetable gardening is simple, but like anything else, you need to know what you’re doing—do you have any tips to grow an amazing garden?

How to Plan Your Organic Garden

Taking the time to plan your organic garden will make it easier for you to plant, water, and weed, and you’ll maximize the space you have. Gardeners who plant randomly and don’t think through their decisions later realize they could have grown more plants or enjoyed a larger variety of crops. What could have been a lovely garden turns out to be a mess, and a few minutes of careful planning would have avoided the problem.

Here are a few ways to plan a successful organic garden.

Where should you put your garden?

When you plan your organic garden, the first thing you should do is think about your garden area and what it will support. Ideally, you’ll use space that receives sunlight most of the day, so a north-facing area may not be the best place for a garden. A smaller garden in a sunny area will produce more than a larger garden in shade.

Begin thinking about what you’d like to plant so you plan for enough space and proper sunlight and shade. You don’t have to make any firm decisions yet, but keep your desired plants in the back of your mind.

Know the limitations of your soil.

While you’re determining the best location for your garden, don’t forget a prime consideration: the soil. Is it dark and rich, or does it contain sand or clay? While you may have the same type of soil throughout your yard, it doesn’t hurt to dig in several areas and look at the soil quality. You want a combination of the best soil and the sunniest areas for your garden.

Your county’s agriculture extension office can help you test your soil, and you can greatly improve its quality by using organic composted cow manure such as MOO DOO®. Working organic fertilizer into the soil will ensure that you’ve added nutrients, such as nitrogen, that will help you grow large, delicious vegetables or lovely, aromatic flowers. Organic top soil such as MOO DIRT® will improve the quality of sandy or clay-based soil and give you more options in locating your garden.

What to plant?

Keep thinking about what you’d like to plant. If you’re growing an organic vegetable garden, you’ll want a variety of plants, as you probably want to eat some and store some. Depending on where you live, you may be able to harvest year-round, so the planning you’re doing now is especially important. If you group plants by harvest date, it will be much easier to do the harvesting and prepping of each garden area.

Keep critters out with a fence.

Consider putting a fence around your garden to discourage animals from nibbling at your garden or digging in it. You don’t want the neighbor’s dog to undo all your hard work, and you don’t want a rabbit eating tomorrow night’s salad.

Rotate planting each year to discourage disease and circulate nutrients through the soil. If you’ve carefully planned your organic garden, you’ll remember where everything grew last year so you can easily rotate them to a new area.

Do you have any organic garden planning tips?

Organic Gardening for Beginners

Even for beginners, organic gardening is simple, fun, and good exercise—plus you can eat the fruits (and vegetables) of your labors. When you garden naturally, you have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve used only organic fertilizer and natural pest control. You’ll have fresh, homegrown food without the worry of added chemicals and preservatives.


What do you want to grow?

If this is your first organic garden, you’ll wonder what you should grow. Choose something you’ll enjoy eating, because if you use composted manure or organic fertilizer, you may end up with quite a bit of food. Lettuce, strawberries, onions, and peppers are some of the easiest plants to grow and don’t take up a lot of room in your organic garden. In fact, you can plant them in pots and place them anywhere you have room.


Prep the soil.

As long as you have enough sunlight, it doesn’t matter where you grow your garden; the most important thing is to prepare the soil correctly before you plant. Over the years, the soil in most places has been depleted of nutrients, so you may need to add garden compost to your soil for best results. We always suggest you contact your local agriculture extension office for a soil test kit so you know exactly what you need to add to your soil.

MOO DOO® is a nearly odor free, composted cow manure that adds the right combination of nitrogen, microbes, and organic matter to help you grow a garden of nutritious food.


Don’t forget organic seeds.

After you’ve worked organic fertilizer into your soil, it’s time to plant. To have a true organic garden, you’ll want to use organic seeds. Be sure you know which zone you live in so you can choose plants that will thrive. Knowing your zone will also tell you the approximate best time for planting and how long your growing season is.

Be sure to follow the directions that come with the organic plants or seeds—and don’t plant them too close together. If you plant a large garden or have plants in several places, you can buy or make garden markers to help you keep track. Plant seeds at the correct depth, and ensure they receive enough water and sun.


Know your weeds.

One of the less-fun aspects of gardening is weeding. Since you may not know which plants are weeds, try pulling up photos of weeds on your laptop, and then take it outside for easy comparison. If you’re unsure, it won’t hurt to let the weed grow for a week or two to better identify it—or ask a friend who gardens to help. Occasionally, a rogue plant turns out to be a pleasant surprise!

Nothing beats organic gardening when it comes to having fresh food you can enjoy all summer long. Not only will you reap a bountiful harvest, but you’ll also stay fit and become one with nature. Your first garden will be a rewarding learning experience, and hopefully you’ll find a fulfilling new hobby. An organic compost such as MOO DOO® will help you grow bigger and better-tasting fruits and vegetables.


What do you wish you’d known when you started organic gardening?