Success in your garden lies to a large extent in your soil. And for that reason proper gardening soil preparation is essential in laying the foundation for what you plan to do. And unfortunately, when you decide to start a garden the odds are that the soil you will have to work with initially isn’t going to be suitable to grow what you want. You are most likely going to have to take steps to amend your soil to get it to where you want it.
The first thing you should do is have your soil tested. Without knowing what composition the soil actually is, you cannot know what you will need to do to modify it.
Soil can be tested by using a do it yourself home kit, or by sending a sample to your local county extension service office.
Once you know what type of soil you have you can decide how you want to amend it. An ideal soil composition is roughly 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay, with a pH factor of about 6-7. Whether you have high clay composition or mainly sandy soil, the answer lies in implementing organic matter into the soil. Some of the best clay soil amendments are sphagnum peat moss and finely ground pine bark mulch. These help loosen the clay soil and improve drainage. For sandy soils, the same matter applies, except it serves to help firm up the looseness of the sand, and helps to retain moisture in the soil.
In most beds you will want to add 3-5 inches of organic matter and work it into the existing soil with a tiller or cultivator. Make a first pass with your cultivator to loosen the existing soil, then spread your layer of organic matter and cultivate it again. Make as many passes as is needed to get the added material thoroughly worked into the existing soil.
Once you have completed these steps your planting bed should be ready to go and allow you to grow the plants you want in your landscape.