Soil Preparation for Eggplant and Peppers
by National Gardening Association Editors
Because they love heat, okra, eggplant, and peppers are among the last vegetables you'll plant in the spring. If you plan to put them in the vegetable garden, your soil probably will be prepared already. But if not, here are a few reminders about thorough soil preparation that you may find helpful.
Work the Soil
In order to have good root development, which is important for the growth of the plant, the soil needs to be loose to a depth of six to eight inches. You can use a tiller to break up the soil, but it can also be done with a garden shovel. Preparing the soil helps roots develop, and it also uproots any weeds that are beginning to sprout.
Add Some Organic Matter
All types of soil can benefit from the addition of organic matter. It helps light, sandy soils hold moisture and nutrients better, and wedges between the soil particles of heavy, clay soils to help them drain better. Grass clippings, turned-under cover crops, leaves, compost, garden residues or whatever you add that can decompose (with the help of millions of tiny bacteria already present in the soil) turn into that key ingredient of all good garden soils - humus. You'll also be feeding that old gardener, the earthworm, who helps aerate your soil by digging his tunnels and helps build up your soil's richness by adding his leftovers, called castings.
Check the pH
You should test your garden soil's pH level every year or so. You can purchase a soil test kit, or your local county Extension Service agent can do the test for you for a small fee.
Peppers and eggplant need a soil pH of about 5.5 to 6.0 (slightly acid). Okra also likes this pH range, but is more tolerant of pH variations than eggplant and peppers are.
Your soil test will tell you if your soil is too sweet or alkaline, or whether it's too acid. Add lime to an acid soil and sulfur to alkaline soil to bring the pH level into the proper range.
Your Extension agent will tell you what to add and how much, based on your soil test. The Extension Service test will also tell you if any other nutrients are lacking, which brings us to the next garden preparation step.
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