Lawn and Garden
04/01/2009 - Garden Preparation
By Andy Jozwik
Judging by the nice weather we have been enjoying lately, I think it is safe to say that spring has arrived in Casper, but having lived here all my life, I am sure we will still have a few more frosty nights this month. In the garden April is a month of hard work preparing things for the growing season ahead. But, as with many things, the time a person spends preparing now will be made up two fold later in the season both in garden performance and in time saved.
Whether you grow in the sands of Bar Nunn or in the heavy clays found around much of the rest of Casper, tilling in some sort of organic matter can do nothing but help your garden. In Wyoming there are not large natural sources of organic matter such as deciduous forests covering the landscape, so the soil in most places does not contain much. Every time you add organic matter to your soil it will not only increase water/nutrient holding capacity, but it will also make the soil more workable for the next season.
Organic matter can come from a variety of sources. Your own compost pile is a great source, but it is often difficult to build your compost pile to a level sufficient to supply the amount of organic matter your garden will need. Peat moss is also a great source, and it is easy to handle and apply. Three inches tilled into the entire surface of the planting area will do wonders for your garden. Manure is also great, but it needs to be aged at least over the winter to make sure it is not too "hot" for the garden, if it smells fresh, it's probably not ready yet. In addition the dump has a trade program for compost, and we even have used soil at the greenhouse. No matter where you get it, organic matter is very important to the vitality of your garden.
Once the soil in your garden has been prepared you can move on to other things. If you plan to plant a vegetable garden or flowerbed, and you lay out where each plant is going to be placed, you can lay out a weed barrier fabric, and cut holes for each of the plants. The weed barrier needs to be water permeable so that it does not stop water from passing through. Do not use sheet plastic as a weed barrier in the garden. Weed barriers can be found at almost any hardware store or greenhouse, but beware that some of the very inexpensive ones are not strong enough to last the season. We even have a biodegradable, one season, weed barrier at the greenhouse this year. By laying weed fabric between your plants you will not only reduce the amount of weeds you have to pull later in the season, but you will also reduce the likelihood of insect infestations, because the insects will not have as many places to live or reproduce. Controlling weeds and bugs now will make the rest of the season much more enjoyable, and will strengthen your garden crops because they will not have to compete for nutrients. I hope these tips help you prepare for the best season ever.