I need some help preparing my garden for planting this spring. I have questions about improving the soil as well as light questions.
So in one bed I'd like to plant spinach. I've heard that spinach requires a lot of nitrogen, so I'd like to add some to this particular bed (I don't know how the soil fertility is at the moment, but in general the soils in my yard have been badly neglected). What could you recommend as a good, fast-acting, source of available nitrogen? What sources do you think are most effective? Easiest to apply (for a beginner)? Most environmentally friendly? Also, I'm hoping to to sow as soon as the frost is out of the soil. Should I add the nitrogen to the soil before sowing? After? At the same time?
My other question concerns beets. I've read that they require a lot of phosphorus (I think - I always confuse P and K). I've got some wood ash left over from last summer, which apparently is a good source of phosphorus. Would you recommend using that as a nutrient-booster? I think the soils here are naturally somewhat basic (we have chernozemic soils around here) but I also seem to recall reading that moderately basic soil is fine for most plants. If wood ash is a bad idea for this bed, can you recommend something else?
Also, this particular bed only gets partial sun. I thought this might be better for the beets as the soil should be cooler. It gets morning and some afternoon sun, but is otherwise blocked by a fence on the south and a tree on the west. Do you think that 4-5 hours of morning sun is enough for beets?
(I hope these questions haven't been addressed in another thread. I poked around a bit but didn't find what I was looking for. Though of doing a search, but somehow searching for "nitrogen" didn't strike me as being too useful. )