Think of the Earth after a harvest like a new mom that just gave birth. The new mother is often tired and feeling a bit worse for the wear after her pregnancy is over. She gets a darling baby out of the deal, but it will still take a bit to start feeling like her old self again. There's a natural period of recovery from growing new life. Your soil is in exactly the same shape after you’ve harvested the last of your crops. Next comes the time to let the soil rest for the colder months. Before your next plants go into the ground, you’re going to want to work on refreshing your garden soil, especially if you happen to use raised beds or containers for your gardening efforts.

Does Your Garden Soil Need Refreshing?

Even fertile soil can benefit from adding some compost after the growing season and even throughout the year to help it recoup. You can always test your ground if you’re not sure if it is in need of some help. You may find that if you have inferior soil in your garden beds, it can be helpful to dig up the dirt and lay in more productive soil. It may be easier than trying to use compost and fertilizers to enrich your soil.

Adding Compost

Compost Bin full of food waste materials

One of the best things you can do for your soil when preparing it for the next round of plants is to add compost. Compost will perk your soil up by adding in nutrients and minerals. Homemade compost is excellent, but not everyone has the space or energy to compost, You can pick up compost at your local garden center or DIY store. You’ll want to look for leaf compost or composted manure. These options are often not too expensive and are natural products. You can always get a few different types of compost and mix them up for when you add them to the soil. Depending on where you’re located and when you go to pick up your compost, you may find that they have some other material options available for your compost.

You can either apply it to the top of the beds and allow it to naturally filter down into the soil or being a bit more proactive by turning the compost into the ground. It can be helpful to add the compost during the fall months if you’re planning on allowing it to just filter into the soil to give it some time. You’re safe to turn it into the ground if you’re planning on planting right away and didn’t get a chance to do your fall garden checklist.

Natural fertilizer is safe and efficient

The best thing about adding a nice mix of compost to your garden soil is that you often don’t have to use fertilizer when planting your garden. You may want to give some of the more nutrient intensive crops, like peppers and tomatoes, a slow-release fertilizer at the beginning of the season and if you see that they’re struggling later in the season. However, most gardeners that use a light soil with compost added can often get away with not using fertilizer.

Composted cow manure is an excellent choice for raised beds.

Rejuvenating Your Compacted Beds

Raised Bed Flower Garden

Refresh your raised beds to keep them producing at their peak

You may find that the previous season was a bit hard on your soil, and it was compacted down in your beds. Never fear as you can bring life back to your compacted beds. You’ll want to start by preparing the beds you want to rejuvenate. To do this give them a good soaking the day before you’re planning on digging and mixing them up. The water will help the soil to be easier to work with when you’re using your digging fork or shovel.

Next, you’ll want to remove any weeds and give the bed a general cleaning. Then, you can start to loosen the soil with your gardening tool. Once the soil is nicely mixed, you’ll want to add in compost or other additives. Some options include humus, peat moss, and even yard waste. Mix in the compost that you’ve put into the soil.

Vermicomposting, or using worms to create compost is an excellent way to make good use of kitchen waste. Here's a whole set up.

Know before you fertilize what nutrients you need with a soil test kit.

If your soil seems lower than it had in the past in the garden bed, you can go ahead and add in some garden soil. Make sure to mix that into the compost and old dirt. Picking a soil with slow-release fertilizer may mean that you won’t have to fertilize when you’re ready to plant. It can be helpful to test your soil beforehand to ensure that you don’t over-fertilize the soil.

A final step is to rake the soil back into shape. Keep it aerated and don’t stomp on it to get it flat. If you’ve taken this step in the fall and you’re not ready to plant, you can add some mulch to the top of your bed to keep it prepared for the spring planting.

Improving your soil by refreshing it after a growing season is a great way to ensure that your garden will be ready to go next year. Compost can be a great ally in keeping your crops healthy with plenty of nutrients.