Last time we looked into opening a vegetable bed and leaving the weather to break it down. Late February, early March provides a good opportunity to apply the finishing touches. Look for a dry spell in the weather, if you walk across the bed and soil sticks to your wellies then leave it or you’ll just end up wearing muddy platforms.
Start off with a fork, I use a border fork simply because it’s lighter and easier to wield and break the lumps down by ‘stabbing’ at the clumps with the fork. Don’t be afraid to get your hands in there too, breaking down lumps with your hands will give you a ‘feel’ for the texture of the soil. You are aiming for a bread crumb consistency across the bed, however depending on how dry the soil is this may take more than one visit.
Once you’ve forked over the ground then you can do one of two things. Either lightly ‘tread’ over the bed or tamp it down with a rake. Ultimately you are trying to consolidate the soil and fill any larger gaps or air pockets. I’m a ‘treader’ - treading is frowned upon by some as it is said to damage the soil structure, however I’ve not found any adverse effect, and besides it leaves you hands free for a cuppa!
The next task is to rake over the plot to get a nice even surface. Much like the forking, this may be something you will do over a period of time; ‘working the soil’ intermittently in this manner is a good habit to get into as it will translate into ‘hoeing’ later in the season – something you can never do enough of!
All the while keep an eye out for weeds or weed roots – the one guarantee is that no matter how well you will have weeded you won’t have got rid of them all. Pick out any larger stones or pebbles that may come to the surface. You don’t need to go looking for stones, just remove the ones you rake free.
If you’ve not grown your own vegetables before seed catalogues are ideal way to get a view of the wonderful varieties that are available. Don’t get carried away though, it’s remarkably easy to go all starry eyed and end up with a list as long as your arm of the things you want to grow. Take into consideration the size of your plot. Do you have the space to grow it all? When is it ready to harvest? Will they all be in season at the same time? What can I do with the surplus or will it store? Ideally you need to be trying to get a steady flow of produce for the kitchen for as long as possible, but by equal measure do consider some of the more unusual vegetables you don’t normally see in the shops. In a small plot you’ll never grow enough onions or potatoes for the year, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t grow any at all, but I’ve found its worth picking out those varieties that you don’t often come across.
The growing season is just around the corner and the planning you put in now will pay dividends
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ChickenStreet '...a passion for plants and poultry'
Member since: 19th May 2011
Freelance writer for country, environmental, gardening & poultry magazines (incl Oswestry based Country & Border Life).