‘At this time of year, many of us keen gardeners are digging our plot. In doing so we are clearing the accumulation of summer growth and compaction and exposing the soil to all the benefits of winter weather. Or that is what we have long believed. But recently I have become persuaded by overwhelming evidence that digging does more harm than good and should be kept to an absolute minimum.‘ (Monty Don)
‘Raised beds are quite a lot of work to make, but, once made, they need not be cultivated ever again and they focus your attention on a highly productive area. I made quite a few in my own garden last year and shall make more this winter. ‘ (Monty Don)
These comments by Monty Don reinforce the advice that we gave last month, which is that with raised beds, there is no need for the unnatural and heavy digging over of the living soil advised by traditional garden writers.
In fact, it cannot be emphasised enough that digging over the soil without adding composted organic matter (humus) destroys the soil structure, and disturbs the life of the fungi in the soil that break down complex organic substances to make them accessible to higher plants, whilst excreting substances that seem to act as a stimulant to growth.
Moreover, special fungi known as mycorrhiza (myco=fungal and rhiza=root) appear to live in tree and plant roots in a symbiotic relationship, as described by Dr M C Rayner in ‘Mychorriza’ published in 1927, and quoted by Lady Eve Balfour in her important book ‘The Living Soil’ of 1943, and these fungi rely on organic matter in the soil on which to feed.
So no disturbance of the soil structure this month, just a basic clearance of weeds before spreading a thin layer of composted matter over the soil surface on the vacant beds for the worms to take down.
Roots and tubers
Swedes can be left until December, and parsnips should be left in the ground for as long as possible, as they benefit from a sweeter taste after frost.
As advised last month, there is still time to sow Aquadulce broad beans and Meteor peas under the protection of fleece if you wish, but as beans and peas sown early next spring often catch up with, or even overtake the over-wintering varieties, you personally have to decide if the extra work is worth the trouble.
Onions, leeks and garlic
There are certain varieties of onions and garlic that can be planted in October or early November for overwintering, but the same applies as with the pulses. Any leeks in the ground should be weeded and continually earthed up to keep them white with long blanched stems.
Continue to keep cabbages, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflowers and kale netted against pigeons, whilst protecting crops of ‘cut and come again’ perpetual spinach (leaf beet) from disease, frost, and pests with a covering of horticultural fleece.
Copyright (c) 2013 Torbay Organic Gardening Society, 25 Church Road, St Marychurch, Torquay TQ1 4QY
Tel 01803 328055 Leaflet No: CAL11