Soil preparation is one of the cornerstones of any gardening. The best soils, known as loams, contain some sand, some silt and a little clay. Loams better hold nutrients, provide adequate drainage, and are workable, easily letting roots penetrate. Adding organic matter, such as compost, is the easiest way to improve your soil.
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Soil preparation for garden beds
Remove weeds and aerate the soil to a depth of 30cm. Add a thick (10cm) layer of compost and 1 handful bone-meal per 1 square metre (avoid bone-meal if you have dogs) and work this well into the soil. This can be done manually with a spade or a fork to turn over the existing soil, break up clumps and add organic matter. If you don’t have access to compost you can easily make your own. If you don’t intend on planting straight away, work in a layer of kraal manure as well, water thouroughly and leave the bed to rest for about 10 days. Not leaving soil with kraal manure to first rest will burn plant roots.
You can either use ready-mixed potting soil or make your own mix. The best potting mixes contain organic matter such as compost, rice hulls and/or wood chips to provide nutrients, as well as perlite, vermiculite, and/or sand to prevent compaction and increase drainage, and coir or peat to absorb water.
Make sure your container has drainage holes in the bottom. Remember that plants planted in pots will need to be fertilised more often as they lose nutrients much faster than bedding plants.
Whether you’re planting in beds or in containers it is very important to ensure that there is adequate drainage. Overwatering is the main cause of plants dying when people trying to grow edibles, especially in containers. Make sure that containers have at least a few drainage holes with a minimum of 1cm in diameter or a single larger one. Add a layer of gravel and mulch to in the bottom of the container before you fill it with soil.