How does one know if a garden bed is 'ready for planting'?
First, if you did not clear the dead plant debris last fall, now is the time. It really is best to clear dead debris in the fall so that any diseased material is removed and doesn't incubate for the following season. It also allows the soil to warm up quicker in the spring. If you have roots, bulbs or perrienal plants that need winter protection, cover them with a layer of fresh straw or chopped leaves rather than leaving their dead stems & leaves standing.
Second, the soil needs to be dry enough to work without causing clumping. This is especially important in high clay soils like those we have in the Red River Valley. Working the soil before it has adequately dried will create clods of soil that become very brick like once they dry. You will not enjoy trying to break them up and neither will your plants.
Third, check the temperature of the soil. Most seeds need at least 40F or greater soil temp to germinate. You can use a soil thermometer or if you like, you can do like my Mom & raid your kitchen drawer for a reliable meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer at least two inches deep (seed planting depth) and wait a minute or two to take your reading. Once your soil temp is 40F or greater, the soil is ready for the cool season seeds (peas, kale, spinach, some lettuce, etc). If you are transplanting started plants, take a deeper soil temp to be sure the deeper soil is warm enough for the established roots of the transplants.
Now that I know my south bed is ready for planting, I am looking forward to getting my fingernails dirty later this week. How about you? Do you have a garden bed ready for spring planting?
Just encase you are wondering, my main veggie garden is still under snow as well as most of my front flower bed.
Happy Spring Gardening from the Frozen North! ;)