Brian Kidd says raised beds are best bet for beating poor soil

Raised beds work miracles on difficult ground
Raised beds work miracles on difficult ground

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A good way of resolving soil problems is to create raised beds and a lot of gardeners are doing just that.

It may cost quite a bit to achieve, but it does work miracles on difficult ground.

You surround an area of ground with wood about four to six inches deep. This is kept in place with wooden pegs about 15in long. Bang them into the soil. The sides are then screwed or nailed to the wooden pegs. Do this before digging.

The most important thing is the size of the bed. It doesn’t matter how long it is but the width should not exceed 6ft, or less, depending on how far you can reach. The idea is that the raised bed can be cultivated by walking on the paths alongside the bed.

Hoeing, planting, thinning and picking is all done from the paths. At the end of the season the area can be dug over by walking on the raised bed.

Normal rotation still applies so the same sort of crop is not used in the same bed year after year.

The best guide is to follow root crops with any of the cabbage family. Peas and beans follow roots and cabbages. This rotation helps when digging has to be done.

Peas, beans, potatoes, onions and all the marrow family need well-rotted manure or well-made compost dug in during the autumn.During winter the manure will absorb the rain and in spring the soil bacteria will break down the manure so the nutrients are available to the crop.

All root crops are best grown in ground manured for the previous crop. About 10 days before sowing seeds into the soil, an application of fertiliser is needed. Rake something like blood, fish and bone meal into the soil’s surface.

All members of the cabbage family need lime applied where they will be grown, preferably applied when the autumn digging is completed. It helps to plan ahead.

When cabbages are planted, apply blood fish and bone 10 days before planting.

Some people will look at an area of raised beds and think the paths are a waste of space. Bear in mind that crops can be grown closer together. For example, Brussels sprouts are normally grown in rows 2.5ft apart each way. But in raised beds excellent crops can be had when the plants are 2ft apart each way.

Another advantage is that it is much less daunting to cultivate an enclosed raised bed than trying to cultivate an allotment 90ft by 30ft which at times looks like an impossible task, particularly when winter digging has to be done.

Why not start with one raised bed and see how things go? One thing’s certain, the raised bed will always be the first part of the allotment to receive attention.

Raised beds are the answer if you are struggling with a clay soil or if your garden is too wet during the winter.

TIP OF THE WEEK

Now’s the time to buy Surfinia petunias, scaevola, ivy-leafed geraniums and other gems to grow in baskets and tubs. These can all be propagated by keeping them warm in a propagator. Pinch out the tips and they will produce side shoots. Cuttings a few inches long can be taken to increase the number of plants you need.