Prepare Your Soil for Spring

October 25, 2012 | By | Comments (2)
Vegetable garden at Monticello

Vegetable garden at Monticello. Photo by Steve Bender.

Question from Desperate Reader: I didn’t have a good year for growing vegetables. I have two crepe myrtles near the bed. Do I have too much shade? Can you give me some suggestions as to what to do next season? I am getting really discouraged.

Grumpy’s Totally Correct Answer: Most veggies grow best in full sun. If they get part shade from a tree, veggies that flower (like tomatoes, beans, and peppers) don’t produce as much. Leafy veggies like lettuce, kale, collards, and cabbage do better. Also take into account this year’s awful summer. When it gets really hot and dry, plants like tomatoes won’t set fruit, no matter what you do.

What should you do now? First, consider removing some of the lower limbs of your crepe myrtles and thinning out their canopies to let in more sun. Second, really work on improving your soil. Work in as much organic matter as you can — composted manure, chopped leaves, peat moss, pine straw, whatever. This will both loosen the soil and improve its moisture and nutrient holding capacity. Next spring, be sure to mulch your plants and feed them regularly. Try an organic fertilizer, such as Espoma Garden-tone 3-4-4, Annie Haven’s Manure TeaBonnie’s Herb & Vegetable Plant Food 8-4-4, and Foxfarm Grow Big Liquid Plant Food 6-4-4. Apply according to label directions.

Grumpy’s on Vacay!


Isle of Santorini. Photo by HBarrison.

That’s right! For the next couple of weeks, Grumpy will be cruising to exotic locales all over the known world as he seeks to recharge his gardening batteries. He will not be able to check email during this time, so either wait until October 29 to post a gardening question or wait patiently for an answer.

Don’t think Grumpy has abandoned you. In the time I’m away, I will be answering a gardening question sent in by a faithful reader right here every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday.

Now could I please have another glass of red?


  1. Cosette

    I live in the Miami area, and trying to grow vegetables. We don’t see many bees and are not getting any fruit. What can we do?

    November 22, 2012 at 11:35 am
  2. bebelee

    So jealous of your vacay! No, really, have a great time!

    October 26, 2012 at 9:20 am

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