Being a Garden Editor at Southern Living is like being a rock star without all the fame, fortune, and collagen. Readers expect your garden to be fabulous. When it isn’t, they fall into a depression deeper than the creases on Keith Richards’s face.
Therefore, when a large patch of grass in front of my house fortuitously died last winter, I took advantage of the free labor joyfully supplied by my teenage son, Brian. We laid a new stone walk between the front door and side yard and flanked it with beds of spectacular flowers. In all, I invested about 250 bucks―but hey, anything for our readers.
Thanks to bulldozers driving all over the yard years ago, my soil was harder than watching Katie Couric do the news. Tillers just bounce off compacted clay, so to loosen the ground, I had to go old school. I stuck my garden fork into the prospective bed, stomped on it with enough force to cave in a mine shaft below (sorry about that, guys), pulled back on the handle, and turned over and pulverized the soil. I did this once for every square foot of my 300-square-foot garden. Fun like this should be shared.
To further loosen and enrich the soil, Brian and I spread composted cow manure, soil conditioner, and builder’s sand over the beds using 1 (40-pound) bag of each for every 4 feet of bed. We also sprinkled slow-release fertilizer over the beds at the rate recommended on the package. Finally, I used the fork to dig in everything and then switched to a hard rake to smooth and level the beds.