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Great gardens always require repeated steps

Before all else is important in gardening, the soil takes the top place.

To create a healthy vegetable or flower garden year after year, gardeners need soil that's full of organic matter. While this type of soil is hard to come by naturally, the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA) advises that there are a few things people can do each year to improve their gardens soil condition.

•First analyze the soil's texture. If it runs through the fingers when picked up, it's too sandy, which will allow water and nutrients to drain off too quickly. If the soil is thick, lumpy and clinging, there is probably too a high clay content. Plant roots will have a hard time penetrating this and may starve from lack of air and water. A garden can be given a fighting chance by improving the texture of the soil.

•Next, the CSPMA recommends that gardners dig an inch of organic material such as peatmoss, along with some compost, into the top six inches of the garden soil in the spring before planting, and again in the fall after harvesting. Peatmoss has the ability to bind sandy soil and loosen clay soil. Its unique cell structure helps regulate moisture and air around plant roots, creating ideal growing conditions. The improved soil texture not only creates a healthy environment for all of the plants, but also will make weeding less of a hassle.

•Once your soil is in shape, it is time to choose the types of plants and vegetables that are desired. Inexperienced gardeners, may want to consult their local extension agent or garden center on which varieties are best for the zone they live in.

Every gardener dreams of a garden bursting with succulent vegetables and glowing with color, from spring through to the fall. To cut down on the weeding, watering and feeding necessary to make that dream a reality, "re-peat" every season to properly prepare your soil. This means the one inch of peatmoss into the top six inches of soil again and again.

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