Tag Archives: soil compaction

Winter in the garden

The garden has a real feel of winter now. The leaf mould is made, around 30 heaped wheel barrows of leaves were deposited in the makeshift ‘container’ by my able assistant. Not sure how well it will it will rot down but at least it prevented a neighbour from burning great piles of leaves!

Some of the beds have been cultivated, manured or had compost added depending what is to be planted next season,  and then covered with their blankets.  Other beds have been sown with a green manure that should over winter. The main aim is to keep the rain off to stop soil compaction and nutrient leaching.

I used two varieties of green manure this year; Hungarian grazing rye and winter tares.  The rye was mostly eaten by the resident pheasants. They did not go for the tares  which means I’ll be using more of that next season. The trouble is that the grazing rye does a good job of mining nutrients from the deep clay and its long roots also break up the soil. Tares fixes nitrogen, provided the whole crop is incorporated, which is useful but not required on every bed so it’s a difficult choice.

There is not much left to do now excpet a general tidy up and order the seeds for next year. Just right for these cold dark days.

Digging?

It’s that time of year again when everybody is either talking about digging their plot or moaning about a bad back because they have just dug it all in one day! When I had an allotment there was always a procession of blokes walking past bent almost half double and asking me if I had done the digging yet. I was using no-dig then which always provoked comments about weed infestations and nothing growing.

I used no-dig for many years on my raised beds and each year there were fewer weeds. When we eventually moved there were no weeds at all. Digging disturbs weed seeds which then germinate. Not digging disturbs no one except adjacent plot holders.

The other big myth about digging at this time of year is that we need to add as much muck as possible. The bloke next to me used to do that and was often heard to say that the ground was very hungry as he always had to add more manure in the spring.

What happens is that winter rain washes out the nitrogen which ends up in the local river rather than in your plants. The answer is to keep the soil covered during winter. I have some plastic sheets cut to size for the beds without green manures or crops. The manure is rotovated in and then the bed is covered. The result is that when they are unwrapped for spring the soil is rich black and crumbly.

The other thing that rain does is compact soil. So by next spring your nicely dug soil will be flat, compacted and out of nitrogen. Your back might be better though, just in time to dog it all again.