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Publication: Garden Guides
Digging and Preparing a New Garden

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                   GardenGuides Newsletter 
                        July 18, 2006

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Lawn Sprinkler Advice

Why Sprinkle?
Correct sprinkling is vital for keeping a lush green lawn 
and garden. The roots of your grass are actually very shallow; 
generally between two and four inches deep. So your lawn will 
dry out quickly in hot weather and before you know it, you 
begin to see those yellow and brown patches. Light watering 
results in the penetration of water to only one or two inches 
which means that your lawn roots become even more shallow and 
dry out even faster! The weeds that live in your garden 
generally have deeper root systems which means they will 
continue to grow and thrive in the dryer conditions. 

Oscillating or Rotating Sprinklers
The standard type of portable sprinklers are generally 
variations of either the oscillating or the rotating style. 
The oscillating sprinklers produce a fan shaped spray of 
water that moves back and forth across your lawn. These can 
cover a good area, perhaps twenty by thirty feet, depending 
on your water pressure and the size of the sprinkler. The 
rotating style delivers water in an even round pattern 
usually between fifteen or twenty feet in diameter, again 
depending on water pressure. Most gardeners will use a 
combination of the two depending on what size and shape the 
area to be watered is. (or in some cases, what their 
children prefer to run through!) 

When should you sprinkle?
Probably the best time to sprinkle your lawn or garden is 
early in the morning. That way less water is lost to 
evaporation during the heat of the day. Some gardeners like 
to use their sprinkler at night although there is more 
chance of disease when cooler night air and trapped moisture 
can encourage mildew and other lawn problems. However it's 
better to sprinkle whenever you remember rather than having 
your lawn and garden go without water because you forgot to 
put the hose on! 
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Digging and Preparing a New Garden
By Terry L. Yockey

There are some hard and some easy ways to go about digging 
a new garden. The hardest way is with a spade, a fork, and 
a pick ax. If your yard is like mine, that may be what 
you'll need.

First determine what type of soil you'll be working with. 
Start by digging a few holes and taking samples. Scoop a 
handful of the dirt and squeeze it into a ball. Now try to 
break the ball apart by pressing into it with your thumb. A 
good soil will break apart readily. Check the wetness of the 
soil. It should have some moisture, but never work with soil 
when it is too soggy or you will ruin its structure for a 
long time to come (if not forever!). 

Now that you know what you are working with, you can decide 
what method to use. When I added a new garden in my front 
yard, I borrowed a friend's rototiller which did a relatively
good job breaking up all the clay and mixing the organic 
matter into the soil. 

If you do use a tiller, go over the area afterwards and 
carefully remove all roots or stems. The more you can catch 
now, the less weed problem you will have later. Use a rake 
to help find any other roots or stones, then throw at least 
three inches of organic matter over the entire surface. 
Nothing improves a garden's soil faster and better then 
homegrown compost. I also add some peat moss, organic 
fertilizer, and even some shredded leaves. It's much easier 
to add them now--so don't stint. 


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When you are all done spreading everything on the ground, 
rototill the whole garden again and rake it smooth. 

Rototilling works very well if you have just had soil 
brought in, or you are in a newer home with a good layer of 
loose topsoil. For older yards, hand digging is probably the 
better way to go. One advantage is that you can find all the 
rocks and roots intact, and dispose of them as you go along; 
another is that tillers only dig down at the most six inches. 
Perennials will grow faster and better if they are given more
leg room. 

Begin at one end of the garden and dig a trench about 12 
inches deep. Put all the dirt either in a wheelbarrow or I 
use an old wading pool the kids have outgrown. Add some 
organic matter to the bottom of the trench and then move 
over and dig another furrow next to the first one. 

This time throw all the dirt into the first trench mixing it 
with compost and other amendments as you move it from one 
strip to the other. In this manner, work all the way across 
your garden. When you get to the last trench retrieve the 
soil from the original furrow, rake the garden smooth, and 
you are ready to plant. 


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If you don't want to go to the trouble of rototilling or 
hand digging a new garden, there are two easier ways. The 
first is to make a raised bed. Remove all the sod first and 
then use landscape timbers or rocks to create short walls 
which can be filled with loose soil for planting. The only 
prohibitive part is finding better soil to fill the raised 

The other way is for the patient gardener that has relative-
ly good soil at the start. Mark the outline of your new 
garden and then spread 12 layers of newspaper over the 
entire area. Hold the newspaper down with rocks so it 
doesn't move around and then get all the compost you can get 
your hands on and cover every inch of newspaper. Three 
inches of compost is good--but more is even better. If you 
can't find that much compost you can go half and half with 
top soil or even manure. 

All you have to do after that is wait. Next season you 
should have a garden that's friable and ready to be planted. 
In the meantime, go to the library and check out my favorite
gardening book 'The Perennial Garden', by Jeff and Marilyn 
Cox. It has everything you need to know about gardening and 
you can enjoy the beautiful photos while you are waiting for 
nature to do the work for you.

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