The first step to a healthy garden is preparing the soil. No matter what kind of soil you begin with, increasing the amount of organic matter in the soil will significantly improve it. You can add grass clippings, manure, straw or compost. This organic matter is needed for the earthworms and microorganisms. Their job is then to break it down into nutrients for your plants.
Adding organic matter to your soil is critical. Organic matter such as leaves and manure decompose in the soil providing it with nutrients, making healthy plants possible. The first year and every year you will want to add organic matter to your garden. The best time to add it is in the fall, but if that is not possible, you can add organic matter in the early spring. Spread it evenly on top of the soil.
Cover crops also help build up your soil. They grow in the off-season and protect the soil from wind and water erosion. Winter rye, oats, clover and alfalfa are all used as cover crops. Plant them in the fall and then in early spring, four to six weeks before planting your garden, turn the cover crop under. This will smother weeds and revive your garden soil.