Preparing Your Soil for Growing

By Sid Tailsby

In this Article...

A short blog providing tips on preparing your soil for growing. This includes when & how to dig & caring for your tools.

This article assumes that your plot is already in good condition, not a mass of couch grass, bricks and brambles.

Digging is the most basic garden task. Once the soil has been thoroughly dug, it can be easily raked to a fine tilth ready for sowing, or planting. You will need a garden spade and /or fork and possibly a garden line if you are not used to digging.

If you are digging a large area, it is best to divide it up into smaller parts to make the job less daunting. The best time to dig a heavy soil is in the autumn or early winter. This will expose the clods to frosts and weathering which will break it down into finer particles, ready for racking in the spring. Light soil can be left until spring. Never dig when the soil is either frozen, very wet, or very dry.

When digging, have a tub or wheel barrow handy to collect deep rooted perennial weeds such as couch grass, bindweed, dock, nettles, ground elder, thistles and dandelion.
Try not to take on a plot with mares tail, you will never get rid of it.

Digging is hard work, so do not try to do it all in one go. Dig for maybe half and hour, then take a break or do a different, less demanding task. Come back the next day and do a bit more, until it is complete.

Digging is also a good opportunity to add some bulky organic matter (B.O.M), such as compost or well rotted stable or farmyard manure. Just spread it on the surface evenly, then dig it in.

Aim to have all your digging done at least six weeks before you sow or plant. Before sowing, rake the soil to a fine tilth. Best not to sow too early, allow the soil to warm up or germination will be disappointing.

Apparently, Victorians gardeners used to put their bare bottom on the ground to see if it was warm enough to sow! I am not suggesting you try this at your local allotment!

Always invest in the best quality tools you can afford to buy. Often you can get very good garden tools from car boot sales etc which are better than the new ones on offer in the garden centre.

Look after your tools, scape the mud off, keep them clean, and sharp. Above all enjoy your gardening in all its many forms, fruit, veg, flowers. Share your produce and make friends.

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