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Should I use soil from under a huge beech tree in my veg plot?


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  • Should I use soil from under a huge beech tree in my veg plot?


    My quest to improve the clay soil for my new veg beds (and in my polytunnel) continues.

    We have a humongous beech tree in our garden. I don't think the ground beneath it has been disturbed for years. Very little grows - I guess on account of the lack of light - and there is a carpet of leaves, nut shells, and twigs.

    Have I potentially got my own supply of leaf mould, or at least decent soil, here? I thought perhaps from the years of leaves, shells, etc breaking down that the soil beneath could be good to transport over to the veg beds and polytunnel? Is this something people with the same option do or are there reasons why it wouldn't be such a good idea?

    Sorry for all the questions... I'm trying to make the transition from being green to being green fingered


    A few photos to help visualise:

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    Last edited by Russel Sprout; 30-06-2020, 03:27 PM.

  • #2
    Soil looks OK but I'm not sure its worth the effort moving it - sounds like a lot of work. I usually collect up fallen leaves in a builders 1 ton bag in the Autumn and let them do their thing in an out of the way corner of the garden for 18 months, after which you obviously get leaf mould - so that would be my suggestion here too.


    • #3
      The soil should be fine, so if you're willing to put the effort into moving it, I say go for it.
      It probably won't be very high in nutrient, so you'll still want to add fertiliser as normal, but it should help with improving soil texture if you can add enough of it.


      • #4
        It should be OK to use I would suggest that you rake it into piles for shifting as there could be a lot of roots just below the surface
        it may be a struggle to reach the top, but once your over the hill your problems start.

        Member of the Nutters Club but I think I am just there to make up the numbers


        • #5

          this is natures way of building and fertilising the soil, thats why it looks and feels so good on the surface under the tree. But there will be many tree roots just under the surface so raking it up will produce mainly leaf mould and a little soil. But put that in your beds and stir it in for good effect.
          The leaves on thier own won't feed the plants' the trace elements in the clay are essential for plany health and the microbial and insect life in the organic material you've added will poop out all the nutrients in a plant friendly manner.
          The soil will be fungally dominated (all that leaf mould) and so extra nice for plants that prefer that (fruit bushes etc). But throw some grass cuttings on top as a mulch and there will soon be lots of bacterial activity too.

          Come autumn rake up a load of the leaves (beach does tend to hang on to them a while) and place them nearby in a chicken wire cage. Just leave them there, you can throw a spade ful of soil on top and poor urine into it to accelerate the breakdown, but a year the folloing spring (18 months) you will have about 30% by volume of what you collected as free fantastic leaf mould for future soil improvement.


          • #6
            I moved into our house in November and have a very similar situation. I've collected leaves and have several binbags full which I'm hoping is half way to becoming leaf mold.

            I dug a lot of shells and twigs into some raised beds I built in the back garden. My biggest concern was that a load of beech saplings would pop up but they haven't - at least no more than half a dozen that I pulled out straight away.

            Our tree has had the crown lifted so there's light, but the soil is bone dry and needs regular watering.

            I read that organic matter is best for improving clay soil, and best of all tree bark, so it should help, but you'll need a lot. I'd have thought that as an annual job, moving beech husks and tilling them into your plot would make a considerable difference to soil texture over time.


            • #7
              When I was a young lad, probably in the late 50s. My dad used to send me down a country lane to bring back the 'soil' from under trees to use in our vegetable plot which is similar to what you are proposing. The trees there were mainly hawthorn that hadn't been cut for decades. Using a wheelbarrow it should not be too difficult.

              If it were me, I would probably do it in the autumn or as your beds become empty, just spreading it on the beds a couple of inches thick and let nature do the rest over winter. it will be incorporated as worms do their business and when you are planting out/sowing. It is unlikely to be very fertile so nutrients may need adding but clay is rich in minerals. Only this year I planted a row of peas half on very fertile land and half on clay. That on clay was noticeably behind but I gave just 1 feed of comfrey to the clay half and, with all the rain of late, I can't tell the difference now, both halves are loaded with pods.


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