How can I get raised beds ready for planting next year?
I have just purchased a home and it already has four small raised beds in the front yard. I am new to home gardening, but I would love to get these ready for next planting/growing season. Is there anything special that I should be doing now in order to prepare for the spring (which is when I assume would be the best time to really get into this project; open to other ideas if that’s not right!)? They aren’t large, but they’re fairly overgrown with weeds and the soil appears rather dry. Let me know if there’s any actions I could take over the late summer/into the fall in order to better ensure a successful planting season.
There are several things you can do to prep your raised beds, and you should be able to get some fall crops in this year if it fits your schedule–we offer a planting schedule https://extension.umaine.edu/gardening/manual/propagation/plant-from-spring-to-fall/ and you can see there are several crops you can plant until August, or garlic later on in the fall.
First, remove the weeds by hand or hand tool and take a soil sample for submission to the Cooperative Extension laboratory, so we can give you advice on any deficiencies or amendments you may need to make: https://extension.umaine.edu/cumberland/horticulture/soil-test You shouldn’t need to do this more than once every few years, as long as you’re getting the productivity you want. Most likely you’ll want to work in a scant 1/2 -1″ layer of compost, but I would wait on the results from your test first.
Next, you can turn and work the soil using a garden fork until it’s nice and fluffy and easy to push your hand into. We do not recommend rototilling, even if your beds are big enough to allow it, as overworking the soil destroys the texture that plants thrive in.
Third, you are ready either to plant or cover the soil until next year using a 2-3″ deep layer of mulch (straw, shredded leaves, no bark or wood chips) to prevent the weeds from taking back your hard earned real estate. Alternatively, a middle option between planting for the fall and letting the beds wait until next year is to plant a cover crop, which will depress weeds and help fertilize the soil when you turn it in at the end of the season: https://umaine.edu/soiltestinglab/wp-content/uploads/sites/227/2016/07/Covercrops-Lois.pdf