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Help with new kitchen garden - soil and planting

(15 Posts)
Newtssuitcase Mon 09-Jan-17 10:38:01

In the autumn we converted a patch of tarmac at the back of the house next to the kitchen to a kitchen garden. We've covered the tarmac in gravel and added raised beds. The beds are wooden and lined. We have three that are 4 foot by 8 foot and 2 foot high and then we have two that are 3 foot square and two foot high.

I have two water butts and also an outside tap right next to the beds and a compost bin which is getting going but will take a while to rot down.

So far the beds have a layer of drainage at the bottom (smashed up bathroom tiles) then a layer of leaves and some other random organic matter which I'm hoping will eventually rot down and add nutrients. This fills the beds about a third of the way.

I need to buy some soil to add to the top two thirds. Is there a specific mix which is best or should I just buy top soil and add manure etc as and when.

Im hoping to do this in the next week and then get prepping. Is there anything I can plant out already or should I be looking at establishing seeds inside at this time of year. I'm a complete novice and so any help would be gratefully received.

The picture (taken part way through) gives an idea of the space. The photo is taken from the east and the left hand side of the photo is south. As you can see we also have a fair amount of shade from tall trees.

Any advice?

Newtssuitcase Mon 09-Jan-17 10:39:24

Oops - photo

Libbylove2015 Mon 09-Jan-17 14:22:29

Sounds exciting!

I think you have suggested the best option yourself - I would go with topsoil and then add some organic matter to beef it up.

Topsoil (being well...soil) although not massively nutritious in itself will have clay and silt particles in it which will allow any nutrients you do add to be retained by the soil. It may also have some organic matter, but not a lot.

Manure or compost has very high levels of organic matter, which contains nutrients and also creates humus in the soil, which retains water and allows air to circulate, preventing waterlogging.

I recon about 2/3 soil and 1/3 compost or manure would be the perfect mixture.

If they are raised beds (esp. on gravel) they will drain extremely well - possibly too well, so will need plenty of water. You could also give them a sprinkle with Blood, Fish and Bonemeal for some nice balanced base nutrients.

Looks great to me though, and the beds seem to be missing the shade so sure they will be a great success.

shovetheholly Mon 09-Jan-17 15:35:56

I agree, topsoil is a good bet - libby's idea of the ratio is a good 'un! You will need to repeatedly add organic matter, because it rots down and in raised beds, this will lead to a fall in the surface level of the soil.

Think about different 'mixes' depending on what you want to grow. Asparagus, for instance, is perennial and requires a ton of drainage, so you need sacks and sacks of grit to add. Roots tend to like a sandy free-draining soil, the fertility of which matters a little less. Brassicas and beans like things damper so add loads of compost and manure. Courgettes and heavy feeders want as much manure as you can give them, but they won't be going in for a few months.

As for jobs you can do now - fruit can go in! Things like raspberry canes, currants, strawberries. You can start some of the very earliest seeds too.

Newtssuitcase Thu 12-Jan-17 18:54:24

Thanks both. I ordered some topsoil today and so hopefully that will come next week and can top up the beds and I can then get some compost dug in before I start planting. It will be exciting to see it looking "finished" at last.

Can I put wood ash in? We always have loads since we heat the house using a log furnace.

pithivier Thu 12-Jan-17 19:11:04

@Newsuitcase . Can I ask what area you live in? I accidentally ordered 900 litres of mulch which was 10 times the amount I need. It is lovely stuff, and need to find some gardners who would like some.

pithivier Thu 12-Jan-17 19:13:40

Sorry for the misspelling @Newrssuitcase

pithivier Thu 12-Jan-17 19:14:52

And again @Newtssuitcase. This is exactly why I have ended up with a crane load of soil.

Newtssuitcase Thu 12-Jan-17 19:17:23

Hi pith. I'm in North Notts and we're fairly rural so probably not close to you unfortunately. I bet there are lots on the gardening board though who do live close to you and would be happy to take some off your hands!

pithivier Thu 12-Jan-17 20:14:11

Ok, that's a pity

shovetheholly Fri 13-Jan-17 07:51:42

There are people offloading topsoil on my local Freecycle pithivier, maybe that could help??

I am not an expert on this at all but I think the wood ash from most log burners is far less nutritious for the soil than stuff from open fires... Because the burners are so much more efficient and burn more thoroughly, so there's not that much left!

Newtssuitcase Fri 13-Jan-17 10:06:15

Hmm, I can see how that might be the case. I might bung some in anyway before putting the soil on top just to fill space if nothing else. I end up with about a dust pan tray full every day if we burn all day.

Now I need to decide what to plant. rhubarb is my top priority since we love it and it's expensive but I know it will be a while before we get anything from the plants.

shovetheholly Mon 16-Jan-17 08:12:16

Yes, it's worth leaving rhubarb crowns alone in the first year to establish. It's a hungry old thing too, so it will reward you for loads of manure!

I read somewhere that you're supposed to move rhubarb every few years, but whenever I have shifted a plant, it has weakened it no end. So I now just leave mine in a permanent place, dumping a load of organic matter on it each winter. smile They don't mind partial shade, as you probably already know.

Libbylove2015 Wed 18-Jan-17 15:56:58

Wood ash is good for soft fruit, but I wouldn't put more than one pan full on each season - there can be too much of a good thing!

Shitton Sun 22-Jan-17 22:13:42

Your raised beds look exactly what I am after. Have you made the yourself or purchased them? Thanks

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