, Newburyport, MA

April 10, 2013

Tim's Tips: Choose soil carefully for garden beds

Tim's Tips
Tim Lamprey

---- — The temperatures keep bouncing up and down, which makes it hard to figure out what you can be doing in the garden and in your yard. Let me take a few moments to fill you in on what you can be doing now.

Hopefully by now, the snow has melted in your vegetable garden. The vast majority of your vegetables will benefit from an application of lime in the soil prior to planting. Yes, you can add the lime after you have planted your early vegetables. Most vegetables will benefit from some compost added to the soil. This can be done when you turn over the soil prior to planting.

You should also add some organic fertilizer to the soil prior to planting. The fertilizer will slowly release its nutrients and feed the growth of new roots into the soil.

If you haven’t set up a vegetable garden and you have been thinking about putting in some raised beds, now would be a good time to do so. There are many companies that make raised bed kits for constructing your garden. One of the problems that I have noticed is that the kits are more flimsy each year.

We have carried a line of raised beds for a number of years. A company called Frame It All makes beds using re-enforced plastic timbers. There are two rows of reinforcement running the length of the timbers. This reinforcement prevents the beds from bowing out when you add the soil. If your timbers bow out in your raised beds, the soil will fall out the sides and you will soon have a mess on your hands.

Once you have the beds in place, don’t skimp on the soil. I have heard all the horror stories of people buying poor quality soil to fill the beds. The soil eventually packs down and turns into a poor growing medium for your plants. The result is a poor harvest of vegetables.

The yields that we get from the soil are fantastic. Remember, once you fill those raised beds, you are going to be using that soil for years to come. Start off with good quality soil and you will be able to successfully grow vegetable in your raised beds.

If you haven’t started to remove the winter mulch from your perennial beds and from around your rose bushes, now is the time to do so. The soil is warming up and your plants will begin to awaken from their winter nap. Once the mulch is removed, you should add some lime to the soil if you did not do so in the fall. An application of organic fertilizer will get the plants to begin to grow again.

Speaking of rose bushes, you should be pruning out any dead branches that didn’t make it through the winter. You can also prune back your butterfly bushes and the Rose of Sharon. Your spring flowering shrubs should be pruned back after they are done flowering.

Your blueberry bushes, grape vines, strawberry plants and raspberry bushes will benefit from an application of organic fertilizer.

Well, that should keep you busy this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.


Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.