How to Amend Soil for Spring Planting

How to Prepare Your Soil for Spring Planting

Spring is on its way and gardeners are getting excited. It is so wonderful to start again by planting seeds and little seedlings. Each year is another opportunity to improve your garden. Perhaps your plans include a new garden bed filled with roses or new additions to an existing bed of perennials. 

Maybe you have a colorful bed of annuals that has a new design each year. Whatever type of garden you have, amending your soil is the first step toward the most beautiful and successful garden ever.

If you live in an area where the ground freezes, wait to work the soil until a fistful crumbles rather than stays stuck in a tight ball. When the soil becomes workable, rototill or dig in organic amendments such as shredded leaves, compost, manure or peat moss. If you’re gardening in poor, compacted soil, sow a quick cover crop of nitrogen-rich clover, annual rye or buckwheat in early spring. These “green manures” fix nitrogen in the soil and loosen it up with their vigorous roots. Turn cover crops over into the soil before they bloom and go to seed. If your soil drains poorly, consider building raised beds. This is the best strategy for growing trees and shrubs, including roses, in a heavy clay soil.

Testing Your Soil

Regardless of what you are planting, the plants will reflect the soil they are grown in. Poor soil will be unable to provide the plants with the nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy stems and leaves with lots of gorgeous blooms. 

We think about this a lot when it comes to the vegetable garden, but it is just as true for the flower beds. If you aren’t sure how healthy your soil is, it might be worthwhile to have a soil test done. There are home kits available that will tell you the levels of the main nutrients. 

These are very easy to use and will give you a starting point to assess and identify the next steps. You can also take a soil sample to most County Extensions, and they will give you a very in-depth analysis of your soil and how to remedy any problems.

Shop Perennials For Any Garden Bed garden fork

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Using Amendments in Your Soil

Some amendments are beneficial to any garden. There are three different types of gardens: the existing bed of perennials that is partially or completely planted, the empty garden bed that is used to plant annuals, and the brand-new garden that will be planted for the first time. 

The number one amendment for all three is compost. Compost is organic material that is nutrient rich and will benefit both clay soil and sandy soil. If you don’t have a compost bin already, make this the year you start making compost in your own yard. 

If you are concerned about the appearance when compost building, you can purchase a compost barrel. All the kitchen scraps and yard waste will be contained in the barrel and will not be visible while it turns into compost. 

Otherwise, you can build a compost bin that can be put in an out of the way corner of your yard. If you don’t have a compost set up in your yard you can purchase compost by the bag.

hand of a farmer grasping soil


For an existing empty garden bed, add 2-3 inches of compost when the soil is moist but not wet. A good way to test for moisture is to squeeze a handful of soil. If it drips water, it is too wet. If it won’t form a ball of soil and just falls apart, it is too dry. 

The soil should form a ball that will break up if you handle it. Turn the compost into the soil to a depth of 12 inches using a shovel or garden fork. A new garden is treated much the same way once the existing weeds and grass have been removed.

Add Beautiful Roses To Your Yard planting red roses in garden

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For a bed with plants, like a perennial bed or a rose garden, or a bulb garden, you have to be careful to not damage the roots. Also, in the early spring, it may be difficult to see where the plants are located. It is easiest to add compost in the fall after cleaning the beds for winter. You can see the plants and avoid damaging roots. 

Spread 2-3 inches of compost around the existing plants and shrubs, over the soil where a plant has died or has already been removed, and empty areas left for annuals. Carefully incorporate the compost into the soil without harming the roots. 

Even if the compost stays on the surface of the soil, it will eventually incorporate into the soil and in the meantime, some nutrients will be absorbed with watering or rainfall. Top dress with a second layer of compost in the spring. You can also add fertilizer in the spring if you choose. 

All gardens will benefit from a yearly amendment of compost to the soil to keep it healthy and nutrient rich.