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Preparing the Planting Site

Ergonomic 'Wiser' Telescopic Hoe/Cultivator
Ergonomic 'Wiser' Telescopic Hoe/Cultivator

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Perennials and annuals must be grown in an area of the garden that has a significant amount of sun, moisture, nutrients, drainage, and air circulation. If you already have an established planting area, then you do not have to worry about the preparation of the planting site. But if you’re starting from scratch, there are several considerations you have to take into account.

Locating Your Garden

First of all, find an area to prepare for your garden. Areas which have high levels of organic matter are always more fertile. For instance, an area underneath a tree would have a high level of organic matter from years of decaying leaves.

Digging Your Garden Bed

Once the site is identified, get ready to dig. It's very important not to dig too early in the spring. To find out if the soil is ready, start digging. If the soil sticks to the shovel, it's too wet. Squeeze some of the dirt and drop it on the ground. If it falls apart, it's ready to dig. When a week of dry spring weather arrives and the soil is ready to work, don't delay. The window for digging can vary from region to region. Below is a generic guide to show you the general last frost dates of the year.

Frost Map for North America

Double Digging

You will need to double-dig the entire area, removing any roots and rocks in the process. Double-digging is a soil cultivation process that improves the gardening yield of the plot through the loosening of both subsoil and topsoil. This aerates the soil allowing oxygen, water and nutrients to enter the soil more easily. Naturally this will result in stronger, healthier plants less prone to disease and stresses. The loose, uncompacted soil also allows roots to grow and spread unrestricted. Deeply rooted plants are better able to handle periods of drought.

Green Tip:

Group plants in your garden that have similar watering needs together.

Double digging improves soil fertility and structure by the addition of organic matter. Organic matter improves absorption and retention of water in the soil, resulting in decreased water runoff and soil erosion. Sandy soils are highly permeable, but drain quickly and don’t hold water around the root zone. Organic matter improves sandy soils by helping to hold water and nutrients in the root zone. Clay soils are less permeable but do hold water – sometimes too well! Organic matter improves clay soils by allowing water to enter and penetrate the soil more quickly.

In order to double-dig, you must first dig a trench the entire width of the garden to a depth of two shovels (retaining the soil by its side). Afterwards, another trench must be dug that adjoins the first one; however, the soil from the adjoining trench should be deposited into the original trench.

Adding the Soil

While filling the original trench, prepare the soil by adding fertilizers sparingly to it. Compost and granular all-purpose fertilizer can all be used as fertilizers. Consider adding bark to the soil to add structure to its clay content. Remember to thoroughly mix the fertilizer into the soil.

After the soil is double-dug, prepared, and mixed, it needs to be leveled out with a steel garden rake. Areas which are not to be used for planting (E.g. pathways) can be covered up with a mulch of wood chips, which consume and burn nitrogen to the soil as they compost. Water the entire area to help the soil settle.

Congratulations, you are now ready to plant!