Yesterday, I put in my first big day at the community garden: about three hours of turning the dry soil and pulling the weeds and grass that had taken hold since last year. (I took this pic about halfway through the job.)
As laborious as this work is, I take a certain instant gratification from it. I can still feel the effects of heaving the pitchfork, but I do really enjoy grabbing hold of grass stems and pulling out the runners. The longer they are, the better. And I love the feel of the deep, loose soil—walking in it up to my ankles and running my hands through it to catch any errant weed roots.
There are a couple of theories, maybe more, about restarting a garden. Some gardeners advocate not disturbing the soil—just planting in last year’s bed (assuming, of course, that plants are rotated as needed and there are no weeds) vs. turning, or tilling it like I did.
This year, I have an opportunity to try both. An area on which I spread a rich compost last year now contains far fewer weeds than the portions of the bed that didn’t get that cover. Sure, I will have to move the soil to set seeds, but I am going to try not to turn it deeply. And I’m going to lay down more compost.
As I understand it (and if previous seasons are any indication), the tilled portion may produce more weeds. Turning the soil introduces more oxygen, giving the tiny bits an opportunity to thrive. (Of course, I mulch throughout the summer. See this midseason picture from 2008: There is hope yet!)
Now in my sixth year in the community plots, I’m still learning, considering all advice—including of course, that found here. So tell me—please: What do you do to prep your garden each year?