Preparing a Large Vegetable Garden

Slash ‘n’ Burn


Ok, just kidding, but it got your attention, didn’t it?

When you’re starting from scratch, there are a number of acceptable alternatives…

the easy method:


  1. Spray the proposed garden area with herbicide such as RoundUp,
  2. Make sure all of the weeds and grass are dead, but leave them there (they are good compost)
  3. Till it up enough to plant, but not so it is a fine powder (tilling actually destroys good soil structure, and encourages weeds!)
  4. That’s it.  told you it was easy.

the next better method:

If you have a beef with using chemicals in general, have a compost pile, read 2 papers a day or just want to go a little morganic,

  1. Smother the area (either with plastic sheet until fried, or with cardboard or 5 layers newspaper until dead beneath),
  2. Add compost (the more the better generally, but at least 3-4 inches is ideal)
  3. Till.  see #3 above, just work in the compost.

the best method:

Here it is, what the experts agree is the super-duper good gardener plan…


  1. Mow the area,
  2. Smother where plants will be planted,
  3. Add compost in the rows (or squares for sq.ft. gardens)
  4. Shovel in compost to incorporate (no tilling)
  5. Spray or cover walkways and add mulch to them.
  6. Walkways are permanent for this method, so lay out your garden with no need to step on planted area, only on walkways

Notes on strawberries

sandy loam is best, but these are from our patch in Middleton, planted high in heavy clay
  • A nice strawberry patch is one of the lowest maintenance, early producing and delicious options for your garden plot.  Here are some seasonal recommendations to keep your berries healthy and happy for years:
  1. Spread straw over your berries in late fall for insulation *
  2. In spring, rake it into the rows to keep down weeds, leaving some around the plants to keep the berries from ground contact (but don’t smother them)
  3. Topdress with bark mulch any areas that have bare ground showing.

*Marsh hay or rye straw are ideal at about 2-4″ thick when settled; do not use leaves or oat straw due to matting and weed content

…If for some reason your patch doesn’t work out and you find yourself in central Wisconsin around June, stop by Russell’s Farm Market in Plainfield, or one of their satellite stands in Wild Rose, Marshfield, or various farmers’ markets, and say ‘Hi’ to my family!

Teri Gear, the UW-extension agent for horticulture in Wood County,  is the source for most of the specifics here.  Yep, she’s my sister.

Another comprehensive uwex publication you might find helpful is here