The sun is shining the grass is green... well almost...tiny buds are forming on your trees and your bulbs are starting to put on a show! It's time to talk about Soil! No, it is not dirt people!, dirt is a dirty word in the word of gardening! If you have already planted Cole crops you are probably thinking it's too late, but I think it's never too late to amend your soil. The first thing I would do is pick up a soil test from your nearest extension office. Your soil test will give you instructions on how to take a soil sample and send it in to be tested. This way you will know exactly what you have to work with and what to add to get the best results. You will only invest about $14.00 or so and you will know so much more! After you get results you can make some good educated improvements.
While you are waiting for your results here is a general rule of thumb on what you can do to improve your soil.
Areas you have not planted are still very workable and usually the best time to amend soil is in the early spring or late fall. Make sure your soil is moist, but not wet. You can test the moisture level by taking a handful of soil 3 inches deep from the garden and squeeze it firmly. Drop it on the sidewalk, if the ball shatters it is a good consistency to work. (if it is too wet you may destroy the natural clods in the soil, making the structure not as effective for growing)
The absolute best thing you can do for your soil (and any type of soil) is to add organic materials. (i.e.: sawdust, manure, leaves, needles from conifers, wood chips, compost or peat moss) Organic materials will improve soil structure and workability and productivity.
Warning: Although an excellent source of organic matter Manures will almost always contain weed seeds!
When soil is workable in spring, spread a 2-6 inch layer of organic material and some nitrogen fertilizer to your soil. (1 qt ammonium sulfate(21-0-0) per 100 square feet of area, per inch of organic material) Till to a depth of 6-8 inches. Make sure the soil is only tilled to leave marble sized particles in the soil. I know it is tempting but Do not over-till!
The Utah State University Extension recommends that you use the soil you already have instead of bringing in large loads of new soil so you don't introduce new problems/weeds, or interface issues to your existing problems...
Always inspect any soil before you bring it into your yard.
I hope this will give you some ideas of how to improve your soil and quality/quantity of your home grown food!
Just for fun here is a link to a very good article about self-reliance and gardening!
My references for today come from...The Utah State University Extension website: