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Preparing Vegetable Beds for Winter

Preparing vegetable beds or other planting beds you are not using over the winter period is good gardening practice.  The beds work very hard over the spring and summer growing all our plants and need replenishing over the slow down of winter.  Just like us they need their vitamins!

By adding organic mater to the soil structure it helps aerate, hold on to water and assist the permeability of the soil.  Plus it helps against erosion (wind, water) and add nutrients as well as serving as a source of nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur through its mineralisation of  soil microorganisms.  If you have sandy soil it will help prevent leaching and with clay soils will help break up the heavy matter.

There are various forms of adding organic matter  know as 'Mulching', which is simply adding a layer of material to the top of the soil.  These mulches can be Compost, Straw, Bark Chips, Leaves, Pea Straw, Lucerne.  Cardboard and newspaper can be used but I would also use compost on top of them.  The mulch is used for soil conservation properties and to suppress the growth of weeds.

My preferred method over winter is to use a combination of Lucerne and Compost.  The Lucerne contains the following and give a great structure to the garden 

  • Increases soil nitrogen.

  • Provides many important minerals, including potassium, calcium, iron, folic acid and others.

  • Contains high levels of protein.

  • Stimulates healthy root growth

  • Feeds worms and microorganism's thus producing healthy soil

  • Suppresses weeds.

  • Decomposes quickly, making it an excellent choice for poor soil although if you add thick layers 6-10cm  it will last a good season hence good for winter

  • In winter it keeps the soil at a temperate level and in summer keeps it cool conserving moisture.

See pictures below of one of my vegetable beds I have prepared for winter using Lucerne and when I can get some compost I will put a good layer on top.  I am working towards a no dig garden this this will definitely help!  

Steps in preparing soil for resting over Winter - Old plants taken out and bed thoroughly weeded - Lucerne spread out thickly over soil (approx. 6cm) - Compost to be added on top of Lucerne

Steps in preparing soil for planting in Autumn - Old plants taken out and bed throughly weeded - Compost added so bed is approximately 15cm high - plant out plants and I add a row of Lucerne between each row which will help keep the heat in over night and also give a walking platform so I don't compress the soil too much when weeding is necessary.

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