Getting Your Garden Ready for Spring

By Erna

April is one of our favourite months for its idealism: with dreams of freshly ripened garden vegetables on our tables and colourful flower blooms dancing in our heads. Funnily enough, it’s also the ugliest month – a muddy brown stretch between winter and the fresh green of spring. The warm days tease us, but the cold snaps prevent us from planting away.

The receding snow can be brutal. We wish for it to reveal rich, black garden beds that are ready for spring crops to be sown into. More often, however, the snow melts to unveil soil that is either too muddy or too dusty for the veggies we’ve been dreaming of. But with the right tips and tricks, none of this is to fear!


Healthy dirt is the most important foundation for a healthy garden, but it’s not as popular a topic as the hottest new plant trends in the glossy magazines. A healthy root system needs healthy soil, and it will be impossible to have the blooming, fruiting garden you want without good roots to back it up.

Good drainage is about creating a healthy balance between managing water levels and keeping enough nutrients at root level. You’ll want water to move through your soil to avoid drowning your roots, but still need your medium to be rich with nutrients.

The science to testing drainage is actually in the palm of your hand: Grab a handful of moist soil from your garden and squeeze it tight. If the clump holds together as you open your hand, but falls apart with any poking or prodding, you are lucky to have great soil – not too little or too much of anything.

Soil That’s Too Sandy:

If your soil falls apart as soon as you open your hand, it’s probably too sandy. It’ll have excellent drainage, but could be lacking in some nutrients. Even a healthy garden plot can eventually turn dusty after years of growing. All your garden plants, but especially your edibles, greedily devour nutrients like nitrogen and potassium, which also drain away naturally over time in your water.

Fixing your sandy soil is simple. Start by measuring your garden space to get an idea of how many square meters it is. Get a 40 litre bag of compost, or Sea Soil, for every square meter of ground. This will give you a 4-5 cm layer that is ideal for an annual touch-up. If your garden looks like a dust-bowl and needs more than just a little boost of nutrients, double up to an 8-10 cm layer.

Blend your layers in evenly with a shovel or a pitch fork. If you use a rototiller, make sure your blades are going deep enough to mix your soil properly.

Soil With Too Much Clay:

If your clump of soil looks more like a golf ball when you open your hand, you’ve got an abundance of clay in your garden. Clay retains tons of nutrients to feed your plants, which is awesome, but is not very good at draining. Your soil could become waterlogged, and young, fibrous roots will have a hard time growing in it.

Amending sandy soil is all about adding nutrient retention, but amending clay is about opening up the pores so your roots can breathe. You’ll want to pick up some peat moss from your Garden Centre. These bags come compressed, so one bag will go a long way – it’s the most affordable garden amendment. Adding it to your soil will improve your drainage immensely but, unless your clay-heavy garden also has lots of black loam, you’ll also want to add some compost into the mix to feed your garden.

Having garden soil that isn’t perfect is far from the end of the world. With just an afternoon of work, you can easily give your plants the nutrition or drainage boost they need to be blooming and growing their best this season.