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Soil conditioners?


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  • Soil conditioners?


    As we're getting our allotment ready for planting, I'm wondering what to add to the soil?

    We have heavy clay soil, which at the moment is rather waterlogged so we're leaving it alone until it dries out a bit! I know the best thing to add would be manure, but not sure if we've missed the boat on that one as all the other plots seem to have organised a delivery a while ago.

    If we can't get any manure, what would be the best things to add before we get round to planting?

    I was thinking perhaps of seaweed meal? Should I also add some sharp sand to try and improve the soil structure a bit? What about gypsum - I've read that that is good for improving clay soils? Any of these?

    I don't have any home-made compost yet but obviously that will be great to add when we're up and running!

    Any suggestions, and also, what about fertiliser? Will I need to add that before planting, or later once plants are growing/maturing?

    The plot hasn't had anything growing in it (apart from the weeds obviously!) for the past 2 years.


  • #2
    Our local council supply what they term as 'soil conditioner' quite cheaply. It is actually composted household waste and tree clippings.

    We got some delivered free to the allotments and it was good stuff.
    My Majesty made for him a garden anew in order
    to present to him vegetables and all beautiful flowers.- Offerings of Thutmose III to Amon-Ra (1500 BCE)

    Diversify & prosper


    • #3
      Originally posted by *Lavender* View Post

      The plot hasn't had anything growing in it (apart from the weeds obviously!) for the past 2 years.
      Personally I wouldn't add anything. If weeds can grow then crops can grow.
      Grow for a year and see how things do. You can then decide if your plot is deficient in this or that.

      You could take a couple of soil samples and find out if it's deficient or you could not bother (I never have)
      All gardeners know better than other gardeners." -- Chinese Proverb.


      • #4
        I wouldn't pay for anything just yet.

        Cardboard, placed on top with clods of soil to hold it down [get the biggest sheets you can] will stop most weeds; plant through it using a bulb planter [leave it to rain to soften the cardboard] and as the crop grows, the cardboard will be dragged down by the worms. This adds valuable organic material to the soil.

        Also, anything like coffee grounds, old compost, home made compost [made from the weeds that you dig up or rake off] as you make it will help to add organic material.

        If you can get hold of sand, then by all means use it - I'd recommend using it in the areas where you want carrots or parsnips - dig that bit over, remove as many perennial weeds, dig the sand in, sow the seeds and weed twice - once when the seedlings are 2 inches tall and once when they are about 6 inches tall; then leave them. For the carrots, cover with a good fleece or fine net to deter carrot fly and leave it in place from sowing until final harvest. If you do it in a block rather than a line it makes both prepping the soil and the netting easier.

        What I found for clay as well, is to grown in beds [not necessarily raised] so that you have specific spaces where you grow, you never have to dig ground you have walked on, it's cleaner in the spring, autumn and winter, and it's just much easier all round. I just put weed fabric down in 2 paths across and 2 paths down on the first day, and we used newspaper and card to cover the other beds; I wish we'd done ALL the other beds now with cardboard; as we'd have less of a couch grass problem as it would have reduced the original roots growing as much as they did.

        Link to pics of the paths on our first day -

        We grew like that for the first year, and then added sides once we were happy with the layout...most of the wood was free - you collect things as you go!
        Last edited by zazen999; 05-03-2011, 08:31 AM.


        • #5
          Clay soil tends to be very fertile so I would go along with seeing how things do this year.



          • #6
            We have very claggy soil or did till the other day when a very kind plot holder dug over our plot with his tiller, we had already dug out all the weeds and dug it over a couple of times the hard way to help it to dry out. I now have soil that I can rake to a fine tilth. I also add compost to whatever I am planting by digging a bigger hole than needed and adding the compost, if sowing seeds I make a drill and add the compost pop in the seeds and cover with compost. You dont need to add loads.
            Gardening ..... begins with daybreak
            and ends with backache


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