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It's February in Detroit, MI USA and both my compost pile (three, actually) and my soil are still frozen. Nonetheless, it has been my habit to mulch heavily in the fall, dig this in as the weather warms and apply fresh compost (or other mulch, if I am short on compost) as soon as all the seeds have shown themselves. During the growing season, I try to keep a 2-4" layer of mulch at all times. To conserve water, I use a weep irrigation system (Tyvek tubing) and bury it beneath the mulch.
I have recently uncovered the compost bin from 2007 - it is now ready to use and having read the article I must get out there this weekend and start revitalizing my raised beds before the sowing season begins.
I get all my mulch from woodland horticultural, they've been really helpful in giving me advice as well. The website is
forgot to mention that walking on wet clay soil damages the soil structure. never work on wet soil! also, light soils get lighter if dug excessively (what caused the dust bowl of kentucky).


Does anyone else have big problems with those supposedly compostable rubbish bags? I have just opened two of my compost bins and it looks like they are full of plastic bags! They've hardly begun to rot down at all and my compost looks horrible. Am now faced with sieving the lot or not using the bins this year and with my horrible clay, it will be sorely missed.
Hi Cathyflitter. I don't use the bags at all. I have a small bin in the kitchen where I put what will go in the compost bin. I empty it every day in the compost bin. And it works very well for me! Thanks for the article.
Peat B

I have just found an inexhaustable supply of horse manure. Gurt steaming mountains of it ! I haven't decided whether to plop it direct onto the soil to about 2 or 3 inches or 50 to 75mm deep and let nature take it's course. After due deliberation, I am putting the stuff in a manure heap. It looks good steaming away, and smells 'righteous' ! By the time it is  'cooked' through, it will be the autumn 2012, and ready to serve to the worms.   God ! How  I LOVE this job ! 

I have found it useful to mulch my front garden with fallen leaves and sometimes hedge trimmings especially in the Autmn. (I have fairly heavy clay soil). I have not dug this in this year and have found that a 6" layer of fallen leaves is an excellent weed suppressor. Possibly the worms will get busy as the soil warms up - I am all for saving sweat and toil!

I've only started gardening about two years ago when I moved into my current house. I have been slowly improving my heavy clay soil as i clear each bed but i'm not sure how to approach this 'digging in compost' idea as i've already got bulbs in there that i don't want to disturb... Any suggestions?

Emma Crawforth

Hello wellingtonsallday,

Don't dig the compost in where you have bulbs. You can lay mulch (made of compost or well-rotted manure etc.) on top of the areas where you have bulbs, when they are dormant i.e. when there are no leaves showing. Worms and other soil-dwellers will gradually pull the nutrients down into the soil. This is what happens in nature, when leaves fall - there are no garden forks there! Digging it in is great for places like empty veg plots where you're planning to sow a crop later in the year.

Emma team

You ever tried working dry clay soil? Like trying to did concrete. You have to work it when wet/damp or you cannot dig in the compost etc.
My soil in border is full with plants just flowers but it is solid's and and I need to put goodness in what do I use compost or top soil to top up There is no clay but grey and dry and compacted down.when I see the garden programmes theres always looks black and fiberous..
What do I put in my soil to add nutrients I do not have clay but the soil just seems tired it is grey and in my borders for flower plants not a lot of space in between but will fork in on hands and kness what do you recommend top soil a high standard one or compost or manure as you can tell and enthusiastic amateur gardner.



Compost, manure, anything organic. 


If you can't get any well-rotted farmyard manure locally, the bagged stuff from garden centres etc is very good these days.  I've been using the Westlands for a while now with great results.

Don't dig! Compost on top only! Mulch to destroy weeds and sod. Disturb the soil as little as possible.