It was always one of the intentions on this site to have a what to do now section and as now is kind of the beginning of the growing year (I’ll explain shortly) it makes sense to start it now. We hope by doing this it’ll give everyone a gentle nudge when they need to do things that are time dependent as well as giving an overall plan of how to grow food, wherever you are doing it.
If you look at gardening as a metaphor for life, preparation is vital, and this time of year is the perfect time to begin preparing the soil and growing a few crops that will be ready early in the following year. This post is going to be about soil and the preparation of it, but there will be one shortly about what to sow and plant now.Soil preparation is far from hard but it’s also something that is often passed over by gardeners, who then end up complaining the following year about poor yields or dreadful amounts of pests and disease. All these things are helped by a simple top dressing of well rotted farmyard manure, homemade compost and/or a mix of the two, which will feed the soil, help maintain it’s health and it’s structure. This is important not just for yields but also to maintain the microscopic flora and fauna that lives in billions in every teaspoon of soil, and help fight off fungal disease and pest attacks. Healthy plants can fight back when they are being attacked whereas those in nutrient poor soil will struggle, making it worthwhile to barrow compost and manure over your plot and putting as deep a layer over the soil as is possible. Of course it’s also great to suppress weed seeds and stop them germinating, which is a real bonus too.
So what if you have a space where manure or compost are impossible for whatever reason I hear you ask? The alternative are green manures, which can be used at any time of the year but there are specific varieties that can be used now and will take the soil through the winter, keeping it healthy. Field beans and winter tares are both leguminacae and so will add nitrogen to the soil by creating extra nitrogenous nodules on their roots which, when left in the soil, put nitrogen into the soil which is great for spring growth. Alfalfa andf Phaecelia are both excellent for soil structure so thin or limy soils will respond well to them. All that you need to do is sow them, and then dig them in before they flower, or even as they are flowering. It’s important not to let them go to seed though or you may end up with them growing back.
So there you are. Soil preparation in one easy step. Get it done now, or as soon as possible and the worms will do their work and pull the goodness down into the earth so that the soil is all ready for crops in spring.