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Getting the ground ready for a Veg plot

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Question from Toby Arnold

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I'm creating a veg plot from scratch, in a corner of a garden had been left to run wild for years. It's not a huge plot (say 5 square meters) but the soil isn't great - it grows grass and ivy, but is so stony its hard to dig. My question is about what you can do to new plot to get the soil to a point where you can start digging manure in.

Half the plot was lawn growing on clay with an awful lot of stone (I sieved out over barrow load yesterday). I dont know what the other half was used for - before it got covered in ivy that is. The soil there is very dry and light and seems to have a lot of broken up woody matter / roots in it.

I'm planning on digging fairly deep to bury the stone at the bottom bringing the depth up to 1 1/2 spades. On top of that goes the turf taken off the top. I will then mix up the sieved soils and cover the turf, add manure and new topsoil to bring it to the required level.

So my question:
1. Does this sound like a sensible plan, or am I creating further problems for myself?
2. Any suggestions for things I haven't thought of?

  • Views: 1536
  • Replies: 8
  • Posted: Mon. 3rd March 2008 15:06

some veg plot help

Reply from Cris

Hi there!
It sounds like you have your work cut out for you! I was a bit concerned because it sounded like you said that you were going to bury the stones under the vegetable beds? Is it possible that maybe you could keep a spare corner in the garden where you could bury these and then perhaps you could rest a compost bin on top of this area? Depending what you are growing, a layer of rocks/stones under your soil is never a good thing in a garden. If possible get rid of them all together.
If you are short on space though- perhaps you cound bury them as described, and then build up raised beds. They can be made with 15-20cm wide planks, laying them horizontally and attaching them to stakes that are buried in the ground. This would give your crops more room to grow (carrots and parsnips) and more nutrients for the roots to grow into.

It sounds like you have the right idea with the removal of the ivy. Try to get as many roots out by hand as possible, or use a weedkiller with glyphosate (active ingredient will not stay in soil after they have killed the weed/plant).

Adding well rotted organic matter (manure, garden compost, leaf mold) will help with your soil structure and give the much needed nutrients that your veg will require. You will want about one buckey full for every square metre- more for really poor- thin soils.

Just a note:carrots and parsnips grow better on soil that was manured last year- so maybe wait to grow them until next year.

Hope that helps.


get yourself a veg book- something like Carol Kleins :Grow your own Veg. It will help out alot when deciding what to plant and how to get the most out of your space.

  • Posted: Tue. 4th March 2008 18:16

Thanks

Reply from Toby Arnold

Thanks Chris

Yes its a fair bit of work - but I need the exercise and its beats running at lunchtime.
I take your point about the stones - the deeper the good soil the better I suppose. I am making a raised(ish) bed - to get a level patch and stop the topsoil moving off downhill.
I tried rinsing the sieved stones in a tub after the earth dropped through and it seems to be quite quick. So I guess that's a new path round the bed then!!
Do you think that burying the grass at the bottom of the patch could be storing up any problems? The rest of the roots are coming out in the sieve so I'm no more worried about strange weeds there than anyone else (who else has some sort of geranium smothering out the dandelions in a lawn??).
I attached a photo if you fancy a laugh. There's a half size bed still to go in next to it.

Thanks

Click image to enlarge

  • Posted: Tue. 4th March 2008 21:22

Burying lawn

Reply from Cris

Hi there- Looks like a decent bed! It is a good idea to use the stones for a path- I like your resourcefulness!
Burying the lawn shouldn't be a problem. Breaking it up, or buring it upside-down with soil on top - the grass will break down and release its nitrogen and other nutrients back into the soil. Nitrogen is one of the basic nutrients all plants need for leaf and shoot growth- so it will all get used. :)

  • Posted: Fri. 7th March 2008 21:55

Getting the ground ready for a Veg plot

Reply from Marissa Zoppellini

Hi Toby

I would not be too obsessive about the stones in your soil - having some stones up to around 3mm helps with with drainage, especially if you have a lot of clay in parts. Organic matter will make the difference in the dry area and over subsequent seasons of adding it to your plot the structure will improve progressively.

I favour the no-dig method, whereby once the plot has been prepared for planting, you don't tread on it (narrow beds of around 1m are necessary) and mulch generously with organic matter. This would be good for your conditions, as you would avoid compacting the clay, improve the texture of both the clay and dry areas and not have to do battle with the stones with your spade!

With regard to the various layers you are building up, make sure you tread each layer before adding the next, so that they remain aerated but do not have huge air pockets that will lead to sinkage problems as everything settles.

Have fun!
Marissa

  • Posted: Fri. 14th March 2008 12:25

getting ready to grow veg

Reply from Emma

Hi there. I'm a novice at growing veg and hope to start myself maye later this year but certainly next. I asked a coleague at work for tips and she recommended planting potatoes to break up the soil... not sure if this will help you but if it works it'll save your back!

Good luck

  • Posted: Wed. 26th March 2008 14:10

Early preparation

Reply from Adam Rubinstein

Hi Emma, my no 1. tip, if you are going to do veggies next year is to cover the ground with black plastic or thick cardboard weighted down RIGHT NOW. This will kill the weeds and make it much much much easier to dig in the spring. Also as it will be warm weed seeds will germinate and then die with no light. growing your own veggies is the best thing in the world (well nearly) but there is loads of work involved so do make it as easy as you can on yourself.

  • Posted: Tue. 21st July 2009 17:09

veg from scratch

Reply from Adam Rubinstein

Hi Toby, well done for taking the plunge, you'll never regret it.
It sounds like your are doing what I did about 10 years ago only mine was in the corner of a field.
Do take note of the other responses regarding stones and turfs. I removed the biggest stones but the smaller ones are an important part of the soil structure.
I operate a no dig system on raised beds but they only need to be raised a few inches to make a difference, this will help drainage (I'm on clay) and also keep a definition of where you are walking which is very important in no dig.
Areas that you are planning to use in future should be covered in black plastic (see reply to Emma above).
One problem is the paths getting weedy and dropping seeds onto the beds. I use strips of old carpet (bathroom is the best as it is impervious). you can cover this in bark chippings, wood shavings etc or just have a carpeted veg plot. I find that I need to add a new layer of carpet every 3-4 years depending on the quality and how careful I am when I'm weeding.
Old window panes are useful to create mini cloches for tender seedlings especially if you have an exposed site like me.
In the photo you can see (from right):
Rhubarb, white and red onions, soring onions, garlic drying under old windows, leeks, broad beans, cellery, florence fennel, beetroot, salads, rocket. I don't do well with carrots and parsnips because the soil is too heavy.
HAVE FUN

veg from scratch

Click image to enlarge

  • Posted: Tue. 21st July 2009 17:25

Grow garlic

Reply from Adam Rubinstein

Garlic is the greatest crop.
It is in the ground over winter, doesn't suffer much from pests (some rust just before harvest but bulbs aren't bothered), lots from a small area, keeps for ages.
Find the biggest bulbs you can and break into cloves to plant in a grid system with 4-6 inches between cloves in both directions. Plant in Autumn and harvest when the foliage dies back in June/July. It likes a rich soil so plenty of manure or liquid feed in March/April/May. Keep your best bulbs to plant next year. I've been eating the same two bulbs from the South of France for 20 years but this year bought two more on a market in Florence and planted them in February, they've done even better.
The nearer ones are the Florence ones and the furthest are the original ones from France. they're drying under old windows (I do live oop North)

Grow garlic

Click image to enlarge

  • Posted: Tue. 21st July 2009 17:36