Resetting your finished plots
There might not be much going on in the garden around this time of year, but there are always jobs to be done- even when it’s typically a quieter period. One of the best things you can do in the winter is prepare for next year. It gives you a great chance to get a head start on your plans for the next growing season so when it comes around, you’re ready to get planting. You might still have some crops going late into the year, but any finished plots can be dug over and reset so that they’re ready for whatever’s going in next.
Digging out old plots once they're finished is an essential yet often overlooked practice in gardening. This process helps to maintain healthy soil, which in turn ensures stronger and more fruitful future harvests. Furthermore, the act of turning over the soil can expose unwanted pests and disrupt their life cycles, which gives you a more fertile and disease-free environment for your plants. Incorporating this step into your gardening routine not only optimises the utilisation of available space but also creates a sustainable and productive garden for years to come. Having your soil prepared ahead of every spring is always a good habit to get into.
If you’re struggling with your soil, you might find that it’s worth double digging. It’s usually done around this time of year, when the ground is moist but not frozen or waterlogged. It involves taking off the top layer of soil with a spade and exposing the layer of subsoil underneath, which gets broken up and mixed with organic matter so that it replaces the topsoil that was initially removed. It allows the roots of your plants to reach deeper into the earth. The better-draining subsoil helps to prevent them from becoming waterlogged or oxygen-deprived.
Blending manure or compost into the top layer of topsoil is a great way to encourage root growth ands health. They’re packed full of nutrients that your plants love, the main one being nitrogen, plus they help to contribute to improving your overall soil structure. That means better infiltration and water retention, both of which are perfect for your plants. Add a minimum 5cm layer of your compost or manure over the surface, then work it in as you’re turning the soil over with a fork. Once you’ve dug it in, tread the area using your heels to firm the soil.
Now that you’ve worked in all the organic matter, rake through the soil to get rid of stones and remove any rogue weed seedlings that might have popped up. The process of raking allows increased aeration, which in turn enables essential nutrients and water to penetrate the soil more easily. It makes sure that your roots are given access to much-needed sustenance. It also helps to give the soil a nice even layer that’s ready for planting or sowing. Because you’re doing the work ahead of time, leave the soil in larger clumps and let the weather break it down into a nice crumbly finish.