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First time gardener here <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/wave.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="wave"><br><br>
My friend was recently given an extra plot in our neighbourhood community garden. She asked me if I wanted it because she has no use for it this year. So of course, I took it <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile"><br><br>
I went to the garden yesterday to have a look and my plot is in rough shape. The ground was tilled 2 months ago but now is well filled in with growth (well the plants/weeds are still quite small -- max. 4-5 inches; there is a lot of mint!).<br><br>
We tried tilling the ground again but ended up breaking the handles of both a rake and a big claw cultivator (both of which were my friends!). The funny thing is that the ground was only hard for the first inch or two, but was nice and moist below that (the rake was of very cheap quality and the other tool was very old).<br><br>
Anyway, so I was wondering what is the best way of preparing the land. I am not convinced that simply turning over the first 6 inches is going to help me in the long run. My friend who did this with her plot, and it already has many, many little weeds coming up. The mint worries me too because it has 'infested' quite a bit of my plot already.<br><br>
I was thinking maybe the best way to go about preparing the soil well would be to remove the first 6 inches or so. That will remove the grass rhimzones (sp?) and hopefully most of the mint roots etc.. Maybe I could then use a 1/2" screen to sift the top soil from the 'waste'?<br><br>
So, what do you think? Any better method I can use that doesn't involve more work than I can fit in to a day or two? I have to start planting my veggies soon! The growing season here is quite short and I have done no preparation seeing as I just got the plot.<br><br>
Also what are the essential gardening tools that I need for the 20x20 foot plot? I was thinking a D-handled flat gardening spade, a D-handled gardening fork, a 3" or 5" stirrup hoe and a hand cultivator with spring hooks. And of course all tools shall be good quality -- I am buying for the long run!
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>Siana</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">The funny thing is that the ground was only hard for the first inch or two, but was nice and moist below that</div>
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This makes me think that you were tilling/digging when the soil was too dry. My soil is really healthy, but if we go a week without rain, it gets all crusty on top.<br><br>
I am only in my third year of communty garden plotness, so I am not an expert (there are people on our site who have had their plots for decades!), but if your weeds are annual (not thistles or nettles), I would just wait until the day or a couple of days after a good rain, and dig over the plot. Annual weeds will break down and not be a problem. If you remove the whole top layer, where will you put all this soil? And to buy that much soil to replace it would be expensive. If you have thistles or nettles, or other perennial weeds, you're going to have a lot more work to do. We have thistles with root systems well over a foot deep. We just keep digging them up and putting them in the burn pile.<br><br>
Your tool list sounds good. A rake is nice for getting a bed/row for seed planting in good shape, too. Our plot is a lot bigger than 20x20 feet, and we just have digging forks (one for each of us!) and a spade (we use it a lot less than the forks), plus a hoe and a rake.
 

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In our community garden, we just dug down to loosen up to about 8 inches, then added maybe 2 inches of compost, worked that into the soil, covered the beds with mulch and let it sit for a few days. When we planted, we just parted the mulch until the seedlings were up and had their first pair of true leaves, then mulched again to keep soil temperatures down (here in Fla., hot soil means dead baby plants) and to discourage the weeds from coming back.<br><br>
We did all this with a shovel, a fork, and a couple of trowels, as well as a rake to spread the dirt/compost mixture evenly before covering it. After that, everything was done by hand or with just a trowel.<br><br>
If you think you'll be there weekly or more often, I'd leave the mint. It's a great companion plant for many veggies if you can keep it in check since lots of bugs hate the smell. A few runners around the edges of your garden might save you some work and heartache later in the season.
 
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