Prepare your soil

15 April 2013
Written by Kath Irvine | Images by Kath Irvine
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Kath Irvine likens the gardening journey so far to that of an elite sporting event where crossing the finish line is the reward for you & your garden 

We’ve nearly made it folks – through the drought, the preserving, the seed-saving and the winter bed preparations. Every year at the start of April I feel like I’m at the end of an ironman competition. But hey, we’ve nearly made it! Hang in there!

The lack of water has slowed down the rate at which I turn my beds over, as I wait patiently for rain to come to re-energise my soils.

Planting out new veges takes on a whole new meaning when you’re on the scrounge for H2O, especially when the beds you’re planting into are dry and tired. How dry is your soil? Do this simple test for soil moisture.

Grab a handful of soil and squeeze it in your fist. As you open your hand back out give it a wee shake.

* If it’s super dry, none of it will stick together and it will fall away to a pile of crumbs like this photo as the image to the left shows.


* If it has good moisture levels, most of it will remain in a clump, with a small amount of crumb fallen away, as the image shows.

Parched soils repel water, and take a lot of wetting before they accept it again. New vege will not flourish if planted into bone dry soils, so the first task is rehydration. Scrape back the mulch and aerate your bed. Please don’t do this under a beating sun. Choose instead a lovely rainy day and your soil is in for a treat. Really dry soils will need a good few days under the sprinkler (or rain if we should be so lucky) to get properly wet. Keep testing for moisture.

Once you have the moisture level right you’re going to need to convince the microbes to come back. Do this with compost. Your own preferably – otherwise buyer beware. I hope you all read Hannah Zwartz’s article in the Dom Post about killer compost this weekend - if not, you should. I would only buy compost direct. I’d want to talk to the chief compost maker and go see their garden. Don’t be seduced by claims of natural/ or organic. Talk is cheap. That’s why I use Paranui Organics.

Roksolid or any full-spectrum mineral fertiliser is an important addition when repairing wounded dirt. Trenching your food scraps up the centre of the bed will bring as many worms as possible along for the ride, and liquid feed is always useful when you need to stimulate a bit of action. Whatever you add, let it settle for a bit before planting, then mulch. Done.

In the Vege Patch

Keep your broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages growing fast with:

  • weekly liquid feeding
  • cabbage white control
  • good watering
  • extra mulch up around the stalks. Include some rotten poo in this mulch for a lovely booster (they will peg new roots down in this mulch giving them extra resilience)

In the next two weeks:

  • Plant out lots of salad greens, parsley and silverbeet
  • Direct sow peas, snopeas, broadbeans, corn salad, miners lettuce, cold weather salads, spinach, coriander, rocket; carrots, beetroot, parsnip, florence fennel and lots of good companion flowers
  • Tray sow globe artichokes

Keep your pumpkins protected while they mature, with a bit of dry mulch under their bums.


In the Orchard
In the Kitchen



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