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Preparing the soil for planting

Oklahoman Published: February 28, 2009

It’s time to start planting your spring garden but before you start laying down seeds, you need to make sure your dirt is primed for planting.

Whether this spring will be your gardening debut or you're a seasoned pro, there are things to be doing now to ensure the success of your garden.

Let's assume you're a beginner. The first step in planning your garden is determining where in your yard you will dig. To settle on a spot, you must establish your goals. Do you want to grow a salad bar or a bouquet?

"I would pick maybe your top three or five favorite plants that you want to grow and start with those," said Samantha Snyder, horticulture educator with the Oklahoma County Extension Service. "The more you can focus on a specific type of plant, the more you're going to learn about it and be able to absorb that, and next year you can expand your vocabulary a little more and try a few different types of crops."

The types of plants you choose for your garden will dictate where you dig. Most vegetables require full sun and plenty of space between plants. Many ornamentals can thrive in full or partial shade. Read about each plant you choose to make sure you've chosen a good place to plant.

Before you go to much trouble to dig out the area you've chosen, you should get your soil tested at your local county extension office. Using a hand trowel, dig 12 to 15 slices of soil about 6 inches deep and combine them in a clean bucket. Then, take 2 cups of the combined soil to the extension office to have it tested for nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and pH balance. A good pH is 6.5 to 7. If the test shows that your pH is low, add a fertilizer with lime. But in Oklahoma, the pH usually is too high, Snyder said, so you'll need to add a fertilizer with sulfur to lower the pH.

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