Beds and borders that have been properly prepared for sowing contain plenty of warm air, some moisture, extra nutrients and have good drainage.
As well as ensuring your soil possesses these qualities, be sure to remove all weed seedlings and large stones as you work. As the season warms up, the soil microbes start their work and help the plants access nutrients. Adding organic matter improves this process by feeding the microbes as well as improving soil structure.
Manure is richer than garden compost, but use whatever you have and add fertiliser to balance. Add more organic matter to the surface through the season if you prefer not to dig. Wildflowers are an exception to this rule – they grow best on poor soils, so you don’t need to enrich the soil with organic matter.
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Follow the simple steps below to prepare your soil for sowing seeds.
You Will Need
- Garden compost or well-rotted farmyard manure
- Garden rake
- Garden spade
Raised beds can be filled with soil rather than bought compost, and mixed well with organic matter and grit. Organic matter improves soil structure and releases nutrients slowly, while grit improves drainage.
Warm air pockets in the soil are important, but so is root instability. Shuffle across the soil with your feet to firm the soil surface. This gives the ideal pressure and only firms the top layers, where rooting takes place.
A fine tilth is needed to get even growing conditions, so rake into the very top surface of soil to break down larger lumps and make it level. If raking disturbs more lumps, tread them in or discard with the final rake.
Use the back of the rake to do a final surface preparation before drilling lines or broadcast sowing your spring seeds. If you can’t reach the bed when sowing, stand on boards to avoid making footprints.
Organic matter to use in the garden
- Peat-free multi-purpose compost – coarser types best for mulching
- Well-rotted manure – balanced pH so can be added to any beds and borders. Nutrient rich
- Spent mushroom compost – alkaline, so can’t be used around ericaceous plants, but is otherwise moisture-retentive and good for improving structure
- Homemade compost – moisture-retentive and nutrient rich
- Leaf mould – low in nutrients, great for improving soil structure