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Geoff Hodge Web Editor Peterborough

I've been a horticultural journalist for 20 years, a gardener for longer than I want to think about and a veg grower for 25 years.

  • Date Joined: 21 Nov 2006

Recent Comments

Going backwards – and then forwards

Posted by Geoff Hodge on 27 Apr 2009 at 03:35 PM

After three weeks of sowing a wide range of things at home in the raised beds, hardly anything had germinated – apart from two poor rows of radish! So I decided to delve deeper and see if there was a bigger problem than just the cold weather. And I’m glad I did.

Two things became apparent. The soil had ‘capped’ and had become compacted under the compost mulch I’d put on in the winter. Also, the soil was full of tree roots from a barrier of trees just outside the fence. So, although my raised beds are no-dig beds, it was time to dig them both over. Each one yielded a wheelbarrow full of tree roots and the soil had become badly compacted. So after a couple of hours or so of sweat (and a few tears because I hadn’t thought of it earlier in the year) I’d got two new raised beds full of lovely, un-compacted soil and no tree roots. So let that be a lesson to you all – just because you use a no-dig system, every now and again (my two beds have been in place for four and six years respectively) they do need digging over. The only thing left to do then was re-sow everything. Hopefully now I’ll get good germination and better growth.

I’ve also been really busy over the last few weeks sowing more pots of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and aubergines, plus trays of broad beans, leeks, beetroot and brassicas to transplant to the allotment plus the first pots of French and runner beans are on the go. And of course, there have been dozens of seedlings to prick out and pot on. It looks like we’ve overdone it again and we’ve produced far too many plants. Never mind, I know a couple of people who have started growing their own for the first time this year and I‘m sure they’d welcome a pot or two.

The allotment is now looking pristine and nearly completely weed free, ready for all the crops at home to be transplanted out when the time comes. I’ve already put in a row of broad beans, the early spuds are in as well as shallots, garlic and onions – all of which are looking remarkably good – just about every single bulb has sprouted.

It also looks like it might be a good fruit year on the allotment. There’s masses of blossom on all the Coronet apple trees, the damson has just finished flowering and (frost permitting) there looks like there’s going to be a god crop and the apricot is absolutely smothered in fruit – this is its third year. The soft fruit bushes are all doing well and there’s a lot of flowers on the strawberries. My mouth’s watering just thinking about it.


miranda said:

I've been thinking about your compacted soil and wondering how, when you've been mulching the beds, it could become compacted. From the no-dig gardening I've done, because the soil is mulched every year and then disturbed as little as possible, the soil is wonderful and has never compacted. Your beds should be full of worms and other creatures, turning and aerating the soil. How thick a layer of compost have you been putting down?

I'm  wondering if it might be something to do with the tree roots drying out the clay rather than the under layer just solidifying on its own.

on 29 Apr 2009 at 03:21 PM

Margarita said:

I am looking for advice on how to stop tree roots coming up inside my raised beds and I wondered whether you managed to stop them last season after your post last year. I am contemplating digging out the soil and putting down a membrane to hold moisture in and keep the roots out. Do you think this will work? Like you I started growing veg in the beds two seasons ago. The first year was brilliant, I had a constant harvest of fresh veg. I neglected it a bit the second year due to family commitments and then started 2009 with gusto feeding the soil with a good layer of well rotted manure. Despite the heavy rains and watering it never really got off the ground nothing grew hardly and like yours the soil was completely dry with no life in it except for a tangle of roots lower down.

on 17 Mar 2010 at 05:05 PM