Preparing the soil for planting

by Jane Moore

The recent sunny weather has been a godsend on the plot, as I've been able to get on with some much-needed digging.

Preparing the soil for plantingThe recent sunny weather has been a godsend on the plot, as I've been able to get on with some much-needed digging. It was great to have a couple of weeks working in the sunshine.

We've all felt the benefits of the good weather - spirits have been revived, enthusiasm has soared and the plot is looking rather good. I've done an awful lot of clearing and weeding and now I've started digging over the raised beds. Garlic, broad bean and autumn onion set planting is only weeks away, so I thought I might as well do a bit of forward planning of my crop rotations and get the relevant beds prepared.

I'm really lucky with my soil - it's a rich brown loam, well-manured in decades past, with a tendency towards the stickiness of clay when wet. It's also a bit stony - lots of chunks, lumps and even the odd boulder of beautiful golden Bath stone; so much that I could build a little rockery in a corner of the plot!

The beauty of raised beds is that they don't really take too much work to prepare - no double digging for me! All I tend to do is give the soil a thorough and deep forking over, breaking up any 'capping' on the surface caused by heavy rains. Mother Nature can take care of the rest of the work for me - winter frosts will kill slugs and break up large clods of earth, leaving a crumbly soil to work with in the spring. I haven't added a top dressing of manure to my beds yet - I'm not too sure what to do about manure this season after all the weedkiller scares of the summer. I'd rather go without than take that sort of chance!

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Gardeners' World Web User 05/10/2008 at 18:00

what do other people do when putting on manure? leave it on the top for the weather to breakdown,or to dig it in?

Gardeners' World Web User 06/10/2008 at 17:51

With the scare over the manure, I am wondering whether or not to use the manure pellets they are a little dear but it saves the heartache over if I am using chemical infected manure. As my compost is not ready this may be the case of safe then sorry.

Gardeners' World Web User 08/10/2008 at 12:41

For the past couple of years when we have had drier winters, I have been planting up potatoes in the Autumn. I read in a gardening magazine that someone was going to try this because volunteers always came up and they had been in all winter.

I plant them in properly and cover the ground with paper sacks then compost to give a blanket against frost. As a Mum with two busy boys I find that I have more time in the Autumn when they are at school than in the Spring when there seems to be more going on. It stops me getting despondent in the spring with the long lists of tasks if I have my potatos, onions and broad beans in at this time of year.

It has worked successfully for me, has anybody else tried this?

Gardeners' World Web User 09/10/2008 at 15:26

Need advice about the manure? When is the best time off the year to put manure on for allotment and weather to leave it or dig in?

Gardeners' World Web User 09/10/2008 at 18:34

I have never been able to grow broad bean successfully in my allotment-18 years of trying! They have always gone black and have given a very small crop. A teacher on a course I was on told me I must have a virus in my soil, so this year I grew them in pots, in potting compost, and had a much better crop. So don't despair if you have blackened broad beans, this may be the answer.

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