Soil Conditioning

Having taken on an allotment on a site that was very nearly derelict, I'm just getting ready for my first growing season. One thing I'm not quite sure how to manage is the soil conditioning.

The soil is heavy, with poor drainage and a pH of about 6. It seems to have had mostly weeds (and the odd tree) in it for a while, so we're starting pretty much from scratch.

We plan on using a four-season crop rotation, and would like to grow as close to organically as we can productively.

The recommendations seem to be to use lime to raise the pH and break down the clay, and manure to lighten the soil, but we can't do both at the same time, so that's a little confusing. Also confusing is the wide range of fertilisers available (bonemeal; fish, blood, and bone; hoof and horn; seaweed; etc.). Comfrey and leaf-mould seem like they should be part of the long-term mix too, but I'm not quite sure how and when they fit in.

Basically, I'm baffled and winging it, and need a clearer plan. What would be the best approach, short-term and long-term, to bringing the soil back into working condition?

1 thought on “Soil Conditioning

  1. Hi Tim,

    I do add lime and manure one after the other. Your soil is quite acid and certainly needs a higher pH. I would add lime now to those parts of the plot you want to grow most things – except potatoes, which will get scab from fresh applications of lime. Probably a couple of handfuls per square metre at least and rake it in. Leave for a couple of days and then cover the ground with well rotted manure and turn over. You can double dig and trench manure and it is wirth checking out the website for tips on doing this. It’s a lot of work, but if you build raised beds – see how Jesse is getting on with his – then the heavy work only needs to be done once. Raised beds will improve drainage too over the medium term.

    I like to use fish, blood and bone. This is a slow release mix, although if you are adding a lot of poo then you shouldn’t worry too much about adding more fertiliser at this stage. If the ground is poor then it will help of course. The stuff is expensive but if you open an account with LBS then you can get the stuff for about £20 a half hundredweight.

    I hope this is helpful

    Happy gardening,

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