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Soil, Compost and Feeding


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Without soil in good heart (and a pretty neutral pH of about 7), your success as a grower will be limited. Cut-flower growing is a greedy business – especially in the case of annuals, which need a lot of nutritional support in their race to germinate, grow, flower and go to seed in one season. Remember that however you choose to make your beds, you are creating soil structure. You will inevitably add manure, compost, leaf mould, etc. – and that’s before you get to compost tea and seaweed solution, lime, etc…. And what will you mulch with? ‘Strulch’ (straw-based compost – good for keeping plants warm in the winter), municipal green-waste compost, spent mushroom compost…?

So, you will be creating soil. As the seasons turn, and perhaps twice or even three times a year, your beds will be cleared, replanted and expected to perform again. Every time you do this you disturb the soil structure, and create a new structure for your next crop to grow in.

I recommend Charles Dowding’s books for advice on no-dig gardening and building no-dig raised beds. You could also look at the Ten Minute Gardener on YouTube for a demonstration of building no-dig beds. That said, we don’t do ‘no dig’ here at Common Farm. This is partly because we garden in a meadow where creeping buttercup, pendulous sedge and couch grass invade our beds from every side through out every season, and we are both obsessive about getting every last bit of root out. But it is also, mostly, because our long-ingrained habits involve a border fork (me) and a rotavator (him). At the end of the day, you are making a cutting patch which must first and foremost suit you. Going too hard against your own gardening habits may actually slow you down. So, we rotavate our beds hard when we create them (we have to mix in a great deal of drainage material and compost to break up our solid clay soil), but once the beds are made we don’t dig them hard again at all. We simply mulch generously once a year, and feed the soil and plants often.


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