5 Steps to Prepare Your Soil for Planting

Spring and Summer are by far the most productive seasons in my balcony garden, so I love this time of year. If you follow these 5 simple steps to prepare your soil for planting then it can be the same for you! I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments as well.

5 Steps to Prepare Your Soil for Planting | I Spy Plum Pie

1. Clean things out

Before you get started on planting anything new it’s important to clear out the old. This means pulling out any spent plants and weeds – roots and all – and either composting or disposing of them. Also clean out any dead leaves, sticks, rocks and any other debris so you’re left with a clear, tidy space for the new plants to go.

2. Aerate the soil

Next up, you need to aerate the soil. Over time, soil gets compacted and that makes it harder for roots to grow and water to flow through. It doesn’t need to be a huge task, just use a garden fork to break things up and move the soil around. Pull out any more rocks or sticks you find along the way as well.

3. Test the soil

Before you start planting anything new it’s key to figure out how healthy your soil is. A good starting point is testing the pH levels of your soil – if it’s too acidic or alkaline it makes it difficult for plants to absorb the necessary nutrients. You can get an easy pH soil tester from most plant or hardware stores. If you want to go all out you can test your soil for nutrient levels as well – things like nitrogen, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and potassium can all impact on your resulting success with your plants.

4. Improve the soil

Once you have tested your soil, the next step is to improve it! Even if you do nothing else, make sure you add come organic matter like compost, it will add all kinds of excellent nutrients into your soil. Organic fertiliser is another excellent addition, and if your soil testing showed anything in particular is lacking then now’s the time to add that into the mix as well.

5. Mulch

The last step to prepare your soil for planting is to cover the top with mulch. Adding mulch to your planting beds helps keep in the nutrients you have just worked so hard to add to the soil, and is also excellent for drainage, insulates the soil from heat (or cold!) and keeps weeds away. Something like pea straw works really well, and is easy to move out of the way when it’s time to do some digging to pop your plants in.

I hope these steps to prepare your soil for planting are helpful!

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3 Comments on 5 Steps to Prepare Your Soil for Planting

  1. Jane Clarke@FantasticGardeners
    December 11, 2017 at 8:53 pm (6 years ago)

    Great article! I just want to add something about the fertilizer that may be helpful. There are two types of fertilizers. Organic dry fertilizers are mixed into the soil according to the directions on the label and then watered. They work more slowly than liquid fertilizers, but last longer. So choose fertilizer according to your needs.

  2. Matt
    May 15, 2018 at 12:38 am (6 years ago)

    Good article. I would also add one thing about pH. It would be good to know what soil type prefer those plants that you are going to grow. For example, Azaleas likes acid soil, and most vegetables likes neutral.
    So, this should be taken into account when you improve the soil.
    Matt recently posted…Best Tomato Cages – Review and Buyer’s Guide

  3. Potting soil
    January 22, 2023 at 9:21 pm (1 year ago)

    Aerating soil involves making small holes in the soil to allow air, water and nutrients to reach the roots of plants. This can be done manually using a tool such as a garden fork or aeration shoes with spikes, or with a machine called a lawn aerator. Aerating can help improve the overall health of the soil and promote strong root growth in plants. It is typically done on lawns, but can also be beneficial in gardens and other areas where plants are grown.


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