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Before Starting

  • Getting the soil pH right - Acidity and Alkalinity
  • It is important to establish the pH (acidity or alkalinity) of your soil prior to planting.
  • The pH, or acidity level, of soil plays a significant role in how well plants grow.
  • Soil pH for Vegetables
    • In general the soil in a vegetable garden should fall somewhere be 6 and 7.
    • Vegetable gardens testing significantly above level will require amendments to lower the pH.
    • Acidifying fertilizers can also be used to help raise acidity levels.
  • Apply fertilizer containing ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate like Earthworks 8-2-2 or Earthworks 5-4-5.
  • In some instances, applying elemental sulfur is effective.
  • Beware sulfur is slow acting, taking several months.
  • Granular sulfur such as Solu-Cal's Sulfur MAX is deemed safe and cost effective for smaller garden areas.
  • If the soil tests significantly lower than 6 the pH level will have to be raised by using a calcitic lime like Solu-Cal's Plant's Choice Rapid Lime.

Soil Prep

  • The soil should be loose so that the roots grown and penetrate beyond the topsoil.
  • Loosen the topsoil by tilling making it easier to plant.
  • Plants will have difficulty growing when they still have to penetrate through compacted  ground.



Soil Improvement

  • Add organic matter plus either sand or pea gravel and mix into the top 6-8 inches of soil.
  • If using unfinished organic matter, like leaves or undecomposed manure, add it to soil at least one month before planting.
  • Plant in warm soil BUT avoid direct sun.
  • Many plants do not tolerate the cold. Planting should be started when the environment is warm.
  • Check the ground temperature before planting.
  • Do not plant under the scorching heat of the sun.
  • Seedlings are delicate and could die before even beginning to grow.
  • Plant on a cloudy day or under a slight drizzle or during the evening.


  • Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium - these three nutrients are the basic nutrients that all plants need.
  • While organic material does provide these nutrients, you may have to adjust them individually depending on your individual soil.
  • This can be done with chemical fertilizers or organically.
  • To add nitrogen (N) use a chemical fertilizer with a higher first number  or an organic amendment like Earthworks 3-4-3.
  • To add phosphorus use either a chemical fertilizer with a high second number 10-20-10 or 14-20-14 Slow Release or an organic amendment like Natural Guard Bone Meal or rock phosphate.
  • To add potassium use a chemical fertilizer that has a high last number or an organic amendment like Greensand.
  • Vegetables also need a wide variety of trace minerals and nutrients to grow well. These include: Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Calcium and Zinc all of which can be found in Essential Micro-Nutrient Granular Package.


  • Water is the most important thing for your garden and it required for proper cell structure, stability and growth.
  • Too little water will drastically reduce productivity and could kill the plant if withheld for prolonged periods.
  • Too much water is equally damaging and could result in leaf diseases or root rot.
  • Too wet an area attracts snails and slugs as well as causing needed nutrients leach out of the soil.
  • Irregular watering can stress your plants leading to low productivity or bolting.

When to Water

  • The best time to water your garden is in the early morning hours to provide the soil and roots time to absorb the water fully before the heavy afternoon evaporative processes begin.
  • Watering in the evening can lead to mildews, rusts and other diseases as the water sits over night on your plants.

How Much?

  • Rule of Thumb - water thoroughly and deeply. A shallow watering drives the roots up instead of down resulting in a shallow root system leaves.
  • Tip - quality soil is an important consideration to the watering program.
  • Veggies grown in sandy soil the water will run out of the soil profile leaving the plants wanting water.
  • If growing in water-retaining clay the soil may become water logged causing other sorts of growth issues. Get that soil healthy with a generous amount of organic matter and mulch it thickly to conserve water in the garden.