Planning and preparation: Land preparation for vegetable production

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Once you have determined you can sell a crop it is time to prepare to plant it. (Our  FREE "How to Start a Farm" email course walks you through the steps of determining what to farm.)

Before you start planting you need to prepare your land. Prepare your land as soon as you have purchased your seed or while your seedlings are in the nursery.

Here is a step-by-step guide to getting ready to plant.

Step 1: 

Test Your Soil: before you prepare your soil (ploughing/digging) you need to know your soil pH and soil structure.

Your soil pH determines what plants you can grow and what nutrients are available in the soil. Most crops need a neutral pH of 6.5 -7. If your soil is too acidic you can amend it using lime or if it is too alkaline you can amend it by using sulphur. Follow the directions on the package or your soil test recommendations.

Your soil structure (e.g. sandy, loam or clay) helps you determine which implements to use on your tractor or plough.

Step 2: 

Clear your site:  Land preparation is very important to help you get good germination and yields.  Clear your site by removing any rubble, stumps or large stones and then weed thoroughly.

Step 3: 

Tillage: your choice of tillage will depend on your soil type, topography or size of your land. For a small kitchen garden, you do not need to use a tractor with attachments just hoes and garden forks will be sufficient to dig up and break up lumpy soil.

For larger land size land preparation is done in two steps: primary and secondary tillage/cultivation.

Primary tillage (ploughing): you start with a plough to reach a deep penetration of the soil. The tillage method you use will depend on your soil, geography, climate and available resources (e.g. equipment and time).  The implements used can include mould board plough, disc plough, subsoil plough, and/or chisel plough.

Secondary tillage (harrowing): makes soil finer and makes it ready for planting.  Involves harrowing, pulverizing, raking and levelling the soil.  The implements used include cultivator, harrow, and leveller

Minimize tillage over time to avoid soil erosion which causes loss of fertility and reduced water retention.

Step 4: 

Organic and/or inorganic fertilizer: apply well-rotted organic material such as compost or manure and/or any pre-planting chemical fertilizers. It helps improve the soil structure, boost its nutrient content and improve water retention.  The nutrients from the fertilizers will be available for uptake by plants.

Step 5:

Beds: Make flat or raised beds depending on the soil type, crop, topography of the land or production requirements.

Disclaimer: while Emerging Farmer does everything to ensure the accuracy of our guides, it is important to contact an agronomist or your Agritex officer for accurate recommendations for your farm. Emerging farmer takes no responsibility for any losses or damage incurred due to information in this guide.


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