It’s the beginning of fall, and it’s not even time for the full harvest in the ground. But you can’t believe that the time has come to start preparing the soil for future seedbeds in order to ensure next season’s harvest. This is not a joke, the soil must be prepared properly, not haphazardly, in order not to be disappointed in next year’s harvest.
How to prepare a seedbed and how to properly dig and fertilize the most common vegetable crops nowadays, we’ll tell you today.
It is clear that the formation of the groundmass, i.e. the formation of the crops we collect, consume, or store, leads to the removal of various elements from the soil. First of all, it is well known for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Therefore, after the harvest, when preparing the beds for the new season, it is advisable to compensate for the lack of these elements in the soil, although it is not visible to the naked eye.
Fall is almost the ideal time to apply various fertilizers that will “arrive” in the soil during the winter and the plants sown or planted in our seedbeds will begin to consume them in a usable form, rather than waiting until they become so, losing valuable development time and making us wait longer for the harvest.
For example, organic matter and various minerals: in fact, all vegetable crops can sense and respond positively to them. But in order for the root system to accept an element, it must already be in an accessible, dissolved form, and that takes time. And this time of year is winter.
Of course, when choosing a fertilizer, it is necessary to take into account a number of factors – the culture of this biology, which will grow in this place in the future, and the type of soil (heavy, sandy, black, etc.), and even the weather conditions at a given time, which determine, including the state of the soil.
So, enough reasoning, let’s go straight to the rules of preparing seedbeds for the next season in autumn.
WHY DO I NEED TO PREPARE SEEDBEDS IN ADVANCE?
Often people ask the question: With spring, you can prepare the seedbed, sow seeds and plant young plants. Yes, exactly right, but, first of all, not all fertilizers have time to become available in a form that plants can use, as we said above, and secondly, spring is such a short period that in fact there is not enough time to do everything it should do.
Moreover, if we prepare the seedbeds for the winter, imagine how much easier we will make the care of the spring: all we have to do is to loosen the ready-made beds, make wells or furrows for seedling planting, and start performing the routine procedures related to seedlings or young shoots without having to rush anywhere and without being late.
IN WHAT ORDER SHOULD THE BEDS BE PREPARED?
The first thing to do is to clean the area of future flower beds of weeds and plant remains and burn them outside the plot. Of course, if they show no signs of disease, it is perfectly acceptable to put them in a compost pile and apply them as fertilizer under the excavated soil, adding chalk or lime with the fertilizer if necessary to bring the pH level to normal.
Weeds should be removed as thoroughly as possible, all creeping weeds, couch grass with partial root systems, and dandelions should be simply excluded from the garden in various ways (uprooted), they should not be there, no matter how much effort you put in.
When the soil is free of weeds and plant debris, that is, in a clean state, you can enrich it with the elements required by each plant, which are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Since these beds will not grow much in the current season, you can add urea (20-25 grams per square meter), calcium superphosphate (18-20 grams per square meter), and potassium chloride (15-20 grams per square meter). In this case, you don’t have to worry about potassium chloride because the chlorine will be neutralized in spring and is safe for the plants. In addition, it is better to add 11-13lb (5-6 kg) per square meter of fully decomposed manure, or humus – 6-9lb (3-4 kg) per square meter and 250-300 g per square meter of wood ash (stove or soot).
If the soil of your plot is heavy and clayey, it is necessary to introduce a bucket of river sand per square meter, preferably mixed with the same amount of compost, which will increase the plasticity of the soil and improve its fertility.
Sandy soils do not retain water and nutrients well; here it is necessary to add a bucket of clay, well-prepared compost (11-13lb per square meter), leaf litter (6-9lb per square meter), and sawdust (one bucket per square meter) per square meter. Be careful with sawdust – it can acidify the soil, so you should use as much grey, i.e. almost digested, sawdust as possible.
Acidic soils with a pH balance (pH) below 6.0 should be limed or pulverized. If the pH is below 4.5 you should use 200-250 grams of lime per square meter and if the pH is between 5.5 and 4.6 you should chalk it up by introducing 250-300 grams of chalk per square meter.
Of course, whether it’s fertilizer, chalk, or lime – all of these are applied in the fall when preparing the bed under digging, initially spreading over the surface and then digging over the whole bayonet of the shovel to embed it.
HOW DO I DIG OVER THE TOP OF THE BED?
Typically, there are two main options for digging – the shaftless method and the formwork method. Let’s start with the shaftless shovel method. If you use the shoeless excavation method, try to keep the soil unbroken and unturned. The purpose of this excavation is to retain as much useful microflora as possible in the lower and upper layers of the soil. The soil clods are also not broken up.
In the moldboard method, the soil clods are turned and broken up. In most cases, the second method is used for bed preparation in autumn. In this way, we bring fertilizer and, if necessary, chalk or lime into the soil and pull the overwintering period of pests and diseases to the surface.
At the same time, breaking up the soil is not advisable, because in this case the soil will freeze deeper and sterilize as much as possible. But if you have decided to prepare a full bed with clear edges and don’t care to break the clods in the spring, it is better to get the digging going: break the clods, level the bed, and make the bed about 1 inch above soil level by mounding the soil when digging with each other), so that eventually the soil above it will warm up faster than the rest of the plot.
PREPARING BEDS FOR CERTAIN CROPS
So, we have described how to prepare a bed in general. It is not complicated: we release the plot, apply fertilizer during excavation, try to excavate the bed at a raised soil level, and thus outline the edges of the future bed, but this is – in general. In our opinion, it is necessary to talk more about how to properly prepare the beds for the main crops, which of course every vegetable garden has, and the beds under them will most likely be prepared from the fall.
Raised beds for beet
So that the table beets can get the glory, you need to choose the place with the lightest, where the soil is well-lit and well-drained. Ideally, of course, the seedbed for beetroot should be prepared from autumn on top of a loess soil which must have a neutral acidity. For example, on heavy, clayey soil, beetroot will grow poorly even with sufficient nutrients. You should also avoid places where melting, irrigation and rainwater accumulate for a long time; and, of course, acidic soils.
The best predecessors for eating beetroot are those crops that leave the plot early, such as cucumbers, zucchini, early potatoes, early varieties of bell peppers and eggplants, and early tomatoes. Do not sow edible beets after spinach, rape, carrots, mustard, and cabbage.
In the fall, when preparing the soil for beetroots, it is best to make organic fertilizer such as compost or humus at the rate of half a bucket per square meter of the future bed surface. Potassium chloride at 12-14 grams per square meter and ammonium nitrate and calcium superphosphate at 22-25 grams per square meter can be used as fertilizers.
The only thing not recommended to apply to the soil when preparing a seedbed for sugar beets, even in the fall, is fresh manure because of the risk of increasing nitrates in the next year’s crop.
Raised beds for squash and baby carrots
You should know that these crops are generally unpretentious and just respond well to the various fertilizers contained in the soil. Under them, you can apply manure, but it should be carefully prepared in the amount of 6-9lb per square meter of bed, and certainly not more – under re-tillage.
As for the choice of place, the soil must be neutral, so if it is acidic, then you should also do chalk or lime under the plow.
The best predecessors for squash and zucchini are considered: potatoes, onions, cabbage, root crops, and beans, but the worst is considered to be cucumbers, chard, and partizans.
In particular, it is necessary to carefully consider the soil, so if the soil is clay, then as in general bed preparation, under the cultivation of squash and zucchini you need to make half a bucket of humus and a bucket of river sand per square meter. As for mineral fertilizers, 10-15 grams of calcium superphosphate, 250 grams of grass ash and 15 grams of potassium sulfate will be enough.
On the sandy soil where you decided to grow zucchini and squash, introduce one bucket of clay and half a bucket of humus per square meter.
Raised beds for dill and other vegetables
In order to get a good yield of dill and other herbs, you need to first sort out the predecessors. Good predecessors for green crops are considered: cabbage, tomatoes, and onions, and the bad ones – anemones, celery, and carrots.
Next, try to choose the bed with the most light, and therefore the warmest, from autumn. Ideally, make the soil as fertile as possible and try to sprinkle spruce boughs on it to keep the snow. Remember to pay attention to the acidity of the future beds. Green crops do not grow well on acidic soils, so lime and the application of chalk are necessary at the time of digging, subject to increased acidity.
For green cultivation it is not difficult to prepare beds from autumn, the depth of recultivation should not be very large, only 8.5-9inch (22-23 cm). Be sure to make 5-7lb of fully digested manure per square meter and 15-20g of ammonium nitrate, 8-10g of potassium sulfate, and 10-12g of calcium superphosphate in the same area. In spring, you just need to loosen the ready-made bed, open the furrow for sowing, be sure to water – every 40inch (0.5-0.8gal) and compact slightly before sowing to prevent the seeds from being buried (about 1 inch of depth is enough).
Raised beds for tomatoes
Tomatoes – their best predecessors are: table beets, cucumbers, onions, beans, carrots, various vegetables, peas, corn, and zucchini, and the bad ones are: potatoes, late cabbage, peppers, and eggplant.
Having solved this problem, now let’s choose a place for tomatoes before the weather turns cold. It is better to have fertile soil, which is dug over, and if it is acidic, use lime (150-200 grams per square meter), but for fertilizers, especially calcium superphosphate, which tomatoes like, you can not be in a hurry and spread on the ground without digging. By the way, tomatoes are very sensitive to the level of acidity and the doses we have indicated, and may not work on different types of soil. For example, if you have loamy or loamy soils on your plot, it is best to apply 250 grams of lime under tillage, or 350 grams of lime if you have medium loamy and heavy loam soils, also under tillage.
Don’t make too high beds for tomatoes, don’t forget that they are tall plants themselves, so 8.5-9inch (22-23cm) is quite enough and about 40inch (1m) wide, more is not necessary.
Raised beds for cucumbers
Well, there are cucumbers, because you will hardly find a field where cucumbers do not grow, but only tomatoes or cabbage. The best predecessors of cucumbers are tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, onions, beans, spinach, rhubarb, early and cauliflower, beets, carrots, and greens, but the worst are considered: cucumbers, zucchini, squash, patissians, melons, and watermelons.
Ideally, you should make a bed from the fall so that it is well lit, preferably with yellow or sandy soil. If there is only clay and heavy soil, then make a bucket of river sand per square meter under the tilled ground. By the way, cucumbers grow well on slightly acidic soil, so you shouldn’t worry if you have this kind of soil.
The bed of cucumbers should be sure to dig a full spade of the bayonet and introduce 11-13lb (5-6kg) of fully digested manure.
ADJUSTMENT OF A WARM BED IN AUTUMN
A warm bed can be built in autumn, first, you need to knock down a box with wooden boards, usually, 40inch (1m) wide and 80inch (2m) long, lay a layer of drainage material on the base, in fact, it can be any large debris such as various tree branches, pieces of boards, stumps, plant tracts. All these can be covered with river sand, sawdust, wood chips, weeds, potato peels, and other vegetable peels, on top of which fallen leaves, humus, and scattered wood ashes need to be placed. Of course, this layer should look like this: the top is placed with 8-12inch (20-30 cm) of fertile garden soil in which vegetable crops will grow the next season.
ABOUT CROP COVER FILM
The question arises whether it is necessary to cover the seedbed prepared since autumn with mulch, and the answer is yes. In principle, the mulch, if it is made of natural components (the same fallen leaves, pressed spruce branches), then will not affect the process of life activity of useful microorganisms in the beds you have built. Therefore, in spring, the beds will look fresher after the mulch is removed. The main thing is to remove the mulch earlier so that the soil warms up faster.