Re-structuring the Back Garden
20th Nov 1996
Last year a lot of time and effort went into re structuring the back garden with the main work being concentrated on having raised beds built so that the onions and leeks would grow in an environment that would give them good drainage. This certainly proved itself as I had some marvellous specimens of both onions and leeks. The beds were three courses of concrete blocks above soil level and the proof of the pudding came when I starting turning over the beds ready for the Winter months. The root structure of the onions and leeks could be seen way down into the soil, so it must mean that both the onions and leeks are quite capable of searching out nutrients to over two feet or more provided that the soil is open so that some air gets down amongst the soil particles.
Here are some other benefits of having raised beds:
1 The soil warms up much faster in spring and the bricks or blocks will also retain the heat during the day and then release it during the night.
2 The soil is never walked on so the roots are allowed to grow unhindered without being broken by your feet.
3 It's a dream to attend to the growing plants, you can sit on the bed and the plants are right in front of you, no back pains with this job!
4 Soil cultivation is much easier and you can set yourself manageable targets such as a bed a day to complete rather than trying to dig a large area of open ground.
This year I have started the soil preparation earlier than usual and I have come across an excellent source of horse manure which according to the owner goes back five years and looks just like old pipe tobacco. The owner is in the business of breeding show horses and I know that they have lived on the best of diets so I"m hoping that what they have left behind will be an excellent source of organic matter for my soil!
This is the first time in a couple of years for these beds to have manure added to them and because in previous years my manure was rather on the fresh side and strawy, it was always worked into the bottom of the trench. This works well if you do it on an annual basis (and not too much of it in one go), because every following Winter when the beds are well forked over, last years manure is then brought up and worked into the top layer of soil.
This year, because the manure is really what I have been looking for, so it will be broken up and worked right through the bed. You must however be careful not to go over board with the manuring, you can over do it to the extent that the vital organisms take far too much time in breaking down the manure to create humus as well as using up all the available nitrogen in your soil. There is another angle to bear in mind as well, if too much manure is added, then it seems to act as a sponge within the soil retaining too much moisture and preventing the plants from working their way through the soil in search of nutrients. As the plants search their way through soil, so the roots system is increased and strengthened which cements what my father has always said to me " If you always look after the roots, the tops will look after themselves"
Once the beds have been completed, there are 7 of them in total, they will be left exposed to the elements as I intend to remove the polythene cover on both houses. This means that nature, through the ravages of the Winter months will be allowed to carry out it's rejuvenating work on the soil, work that man can only aspire to crudely copy.
A soil analysis will be taken in the new year and once more I shall use the services of Lancrop Laboratories who are based at The Airfield Industrial Estate, Pocklington, York. YO4 2NR. You can also ring them on 01759 305 116 to ask for their kit, this includes the method of testing the soil as well as a polythene bag and a padded envelop to return the soil sample in.