Take care of your soil as though your yield depends on it – because it does. To help you keep your garden hale and hearty, here we bring you some of our favourite gardening bloggers’ tips for keeping your soil in top condition. From no-dig methods to improving your soil Victorian style, here’s how to look after the ground you grow in.
Feed your soil
“Feed the soil and the soil will feed you.
But where do you start? With a good fertiliser, says Jim of Jim’s allotment – and what better way to feed your soil than to dig in some good old fashioned manure. Jim’s grandad used it, and Jim swears by it: “It’s free (even if it does require a little bit of work) and the benefits to your crops are superb.”
Or do as Belinda of Plot 7 Marsh Lane does, and make your own compost. She finds the process very satisfying, just “Layer different types of waste (vegetable waste, cardboard, straw, manure) and make sure you keep mixing it up.” Belinda’s top tip is to water your compost heap if it looks dry, or the ants will move in.
Know your soil
Getting the best results from your garden means taking the time to understand your soil says Milli of Crofter’s Cottage. Is it heavy or light? How well does it drain? What’s its pH level? How much sun does it get? Find the answers to these questions and Milli says, “you’ll have the tools to know what will thrive on your patch of land.” From there, it’s just a case of applying Beth Chatto’s Mantra:
“The right plant for the right place
But what if your soil’s just too dry an environment for plants to thrive? Try the Victorian method of puddling in, says Thomas of Thomas Stone. When you’re planting your seedlings, simply “dig the hole and fill with a mix of water and liquid seaweed, and then plant directly into the hole and back-fill while it is still filled with water.”
An unusual suggestion comes courtesy of John of Allotment Garden, who recommends adding salt to your onion beds. He says it’s an “odd tip that does work well, given to me by the much missed Lawrence D Hills who founded the HDRA which became Garden Organic.”
Fancy giving it a go? Add 60g of salt per square metre of soil, and rotate your beds each year so the salt doesn’t damage the ground.
Fertilise no-dig style
Steph at no-dig home gets great results from her allotment. After ten years of no-dig gardening, you can believe her when she says “No dig means healthy soil, far fewer weeds, much less work, and abundant harvests.”
“Not disturbing the soil means that the natural diversity remains intact, the soil flora and fauna flourish, and so do all of my fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers!
To keep her soil in great condition, Steph spreads about 2 cm of well-rotted manure over the surface of her beds each year, and plants directly into it. As the worms and other beasties draw the material into the soil, it nourishes it the natural way.
Alternatively, why not let the moles do the digging? Rosie at Leavesnbloom swears by the crumbly, weed and seed free earth she gathers from molehills. She says: “I grow anemone de caen corms for my flower photography. Once I’ve steeped the anemone corms overnight in water I plant them in troughs full of as much mole soil that I can find.”
Do you have any soil conditioning tips you’d like to share with us? We’re always interested to hear from our readers, so please do drop us a line by visiting our Facebook page and leaving us a message.