New to Baltimore and about to break ground!

Asked February 19, 2020, 2:59 PM EST

Hello, I moved to Charles Village recently and I'm very excited that my landlords have given me carte blanche with the backyard. I already made my Fedco order (spinach, peas, tomatoes, summer squash, melons, hot peppers), and now I'm starting to plan out the garden. I've never lived in this part of the country, so I'm wondering what advice you have in terms of super basic, just getting started stuff. Like should I be thinking raised beds over digging into the soil (it's grass now)? If I am breaking ground, do you have recommendations for the best tools to use? I'll probably borrow since I'm on a tight budget, but I've done shovels, broadforks, digging forks, and rototillers in the past, all depending on the place. Where are the good spots to get soil? Thank you!

Baltimore Maryland

1 Response

Start with a soil test right now. Once you know what your soil is like, you can make informed decisions about how to establish your beds.

We have great information on planning and starting vegetable gardens (and beyond), including raised beds and lasagne gardens. Start on this page with the sections on Planning and Soil preparation:

You'll read that you do not necessarily have to turn soil at all.

You will probably not need soil as much as organic soil amendments. Local free flyers often have sources for free aged manure. Many counties have a source for leaf compost from the many leaves they collect in the fall. LeafGro is a Maryland-based product which is good. We are not allowed to recommend specific commercial sources.

Most Maryland soil has some clay in it (which is fine) but it should not be worked when it is wet (or it can "set like cement" depending upon how much clay you have.) To test whether your soil is "workable" (dry enough to work with), squeeze a handful and then apply some pressure or bounce it in your hand. It can be a little moist, but should crumble fairly easily.

There are profiles on each type of vegetable crop, as well as insect and disease help on our website, which we hope you will explore. Feel free to ask further questions. Enjoy!