We began planning for vegetable and fruit gardening by making soil health goals in January 2010. Multiple soil tests were taken, and as many natural amendments as were available from our land were used. We gathered and spread leaf mold, wood chips from fallen limbs in our woods, and our livestock manure. We are very happy with our continued use of the “Rapitest” soil testing kit made by Luster Leaf. This was purchased to follow up with frequent testings AFTER the initial soil tests from the county extension office. The Luster Leaf company is very nice and provides refills for their testing kit. One year we followed the county extension soil test with the Lusterleaf test and found that our home soil testing kit was very accurate.
They were some beds that were already built up and maintained from our initial move on the property in November 2009. Those few beds were planted into in 2012 and harvested at the end of that year.
During the year of 2013, we converted many lawn areas with good south-facing locations into garden beds. Our conversion method combined three steps:
- For two weeks to a month only, lay a thick layer of clear plastic to weaken the grass growth, then hoe or dig out the sod. Be careful to shake out the sod pieces to return the dirt and worms to their original spot
- lay red worms, food scraps, and rabbit manure in the middle layer, and
- topping it all off with a layer of decomposed straw and leaves from our woods ( mostly oak leaves)
Except for feeding the worms, we didn’t plant into these conversion areas of lawn-to-bed for six months. Regular weeding was necessary (great exercise!).
When the 6 months have passed, take another soil test. Now you are ready to work with the soil to provide whatever amendments are necessary for the plants destined for that area.