Monday, 4 April 2011

Seed bed Preparation – for sowing outdoors

Developing a proper seed bed can be quite physical work. You need to dig the bed thoroughly in the winter. Probably double digging is best, but the reality is that often only single dig. This may include an application of lime, or manure, if at the appropriate stage of your crop rotation. Either way, you leave the bed to break down over winter, and come to it again in the following spring when the ground has dried out. You shouldn’t work on really sodden ground since it will damage the soil by making it too compact.

You will need to dig the bed over, removing any perennial weeds, and once you have dug it over you need to do something that will make you look like a bit of an idiot.

You need to get your fork, and whack the surface of the earth like a madman. Some people try to level it out with a rake, but a rake is really for getting the stones up on the top of the soil. Bashing the soil with a fork will make it nice and level, breaking any clumps up.

The resulting soil will be a perfect seed bed.

In order to  get the best results when sowing, I generally suggest making a furrow with the handle of a hoe, and then sowing the seeds. Rather than pushing the soil back onto the seedlings, I think using compost is a better idea. Because the compost looks different to soil, you get a firm mark of where you have sown. This makes weeding a doddle.

The problem with sowing seeds outdoors is that even if you have a perfect seedbed, there will probably be seeds that are in the soil, so unless you mark the rows properly you won’t know which of the seedling are weeds, and which are plants. With a compost marker, you will be able to use your hand hoe to decapitate the weeds leaves before the plants have a chance to establish. This helps you maintain the perfect seed bed with much less effort.

On top of that, one thing you always need to do is mark the variety and time of planting on a label. While there are labels for pots, these can become lost. There are better options in garden centers, or you can cut up a plank from a garden center into small sticks. Write on the sticks with a permanent market, and just paint over the writing every year. 

One final thing... it is often better to water the soil before you sow rather than after. You don’t want to wash any of your seeds away.

This is coming up to the perfect time of year to sow plants outside... we haven’t had a frost here for weeks, and we don’t expect any more. So have fun J

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