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Winter Digging

(8 Posts)
Knottingley Mon 13-Jan-14 12:45:28

I have a fairly recently established veg plot and whist it's had a couple of years with lots of organic matter added, it still needs lots of improvement. I guess that's a long-term project.

I know think I'm supposed to do the digging and add compost/manure in the winter but how? We have heavy clay and it's been far to wet to get on let alone dig since before the last of the crops were harvested in the Autumn.

dreamingofsun Mon 13-Jan-14 14:52:21

i've just got an allotment, so i've done lots of reading but not much practise. as i understand it you should not be working wet soil, especially clay soil as it messus up the structure and compacts it.

if you lay compost on top the worms will take it down during the winter.

i have weed suppressant membrane on mine to use as paths. each bed is 4ft and my plan is that i don't step on beds ever, and also don't dig them....just hough weeds, hand dig big weeds and lay compost on top.

yes LT project. you could also try green manures - but they are more of a summer/autumn planting.

potatoes are good at breaking up soil, so i hear. plus they shade out large areas, so you don't get many weeds. i'm planting quite a lot of these so i can focus on other areas of the site.

CuttedUpPear Thu 16-Jan-14 07:38:39

You won't be able to do much with your clay soil during this wet weather unfortunately.
The best thing you could do would be to cover it with black landscaping fabric or carpet, thus preventing weed growth and helping the soil to warm up for spring.

You really do need to open the structure up though. See if you can source some well rotted manure. You'll need lots of this and also buy in some bags of horticultural grit.

Clay soil is full of nutrients and a really good medium for growing once it has had its structure improved.

My veg plot was like yours. I dug in lots of manure and grit over 2 years and it is really workable now.

My top tip: Do not use a spade. Get yourself a nice stainless steel gardening fork with a wooden handle. Not one of those with green painted tines.
With this you turn over your soil and incorporate the manure like mixing a big cake.
A fork helps you to dig to a good depth on clay without doing your back in.

EeyoreIsh Thu 16-Jan-14 07:53:08

We've got similar soil at our allotment. We've put down cardboard and then lots of manure. We've not dug the beds over (other than in autumn to get rid of the worse off the weeds).

Latest advice is not to dig soil over. Try and encourage lots of worms in and they'll gently do the job for you.

Our home garden, just a little distance away has the opposite problem of really chalky free draining soil! We're learning quickly what suits which condition best.

BeeBawBabbity Thu 16-Jan-14 07:58:08

I dig mine (clay) in autumn as I clear crops, and spread compost like the others have said. Im struggling to source huge amounts of manure (I would need it delivered).

When its time to plant in spring I'll dig and rake the patch before I put the plants or seeds in.

EeyoreIsh Thu 16-Jan-14 08:01:45

beebaa we had a lorry load delivered from a nearby farm. It was a lovely day spent shovelling it out!

What's interesting is that some of the allotments have gorgeous, rich, fine soil. So it is possible to make a difference in the long term.

BeeBawBabbity Fri 17-Jan-14 20:55:45

Oh yes I'm very jealous of Old Bob's beautiful loose soil. And his compost looks like a slice of chocolate cake when he takes the side off his compost bin to show off.

He's been working his allotment lovingly for forty years.

DUSTIN Thu 23-Jan-14 12:44:41

I have had an allotment for nearly 3 years now and I don't dig. I add lots of well rotted manure/ compost in the autumn and then just rake it to break down any lumps in the spring ready for planting. I have a few books by Charles Dowding, who recommends the 'no dig method', which are great. He also conducts trials on his land using the no dig versus the digging methods. He has found his yields are higher using the no dig method. I find I have a lot less weeding and I don't need to water as often the summer which is a bonus.

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