Saturday, 5 March 2011

When is it a good time to start digging over a vegetable bed?

Every spring time, new gardeners start worrying about the same things. One of the questions I get asked is, when is the best time to start digging over my vegetable bed? Well, the first thing you need to consider is the state of the soil. If you go out, and so some weeding, is the soil too cold or wet to be comfortable to work?
This varies year by year, so the information in gardening books is often out of date.

The second thing to consider, apart from the state of the soil, is when you will start planting. That is when a gardener’s diary comes in helpful. By recording the temperature every day, you will start to see trends. For example, the last frost where I live is generally over by April 12th, so if I dig over the beds now, I can start planting out in the last week of April without too much risk.

Of course, as a new gardener you will not know when this will be, but by keeping an eye on the weather forecast, particularly the week forecast, you will be able to guess when frosts are ending – it is when the temperature is over 5 degrees centigrade at night regularly.

Digging over beds before the weather improves enough to plant out is very useful indeed.

For really experienced gardeners another factor comes into play when deciding if it is a good idea to plant out. And that is when your work and holidays are likely to come in the year. Each plant has a typical time to harvest, and by filling up a calendar with your holidays, you can work back.

So, if you are taking a holiday on 1st August, you know that you don’t want things maturing then – you might want to delay planting out a couple of weeks.

These calculations fix the earliest and latest times you can dig your vegetable bed. Beyond that, it is your choice as to when you dig over, but I recommend doing so over as long a period as you can. Rather than digging your bed all in one go, you want to do no more than a few hours of it at a time. Digging over vegetable beds is very hard work.

Anyway, where we are right now it is too early in the year to dig, because the ground is still very wet, so like normal I guess we will be rushing to keep up once the weather starts to improve.

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