Kate Hardy

Make your soil sing this autumn!

Kate Hardy
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Good gardens and healthy plants start from the ground up – the single, most vital element of a thriving garden – and allotment, and farm field for that matter – is superb, nutrient-rich soil for all your plants to sit happily in for years. 

True, many plants can thrive in poor soil, but most don’t appreciate compacted, unworked and untended ground.

Give bare soil a good forking over. This will increase the air flow down into the ground, which is needed for growing plants and will improve drainage, too, at a time when there’s a lot of rain to contend with. 

Many plants don’t mind the cold of winter as such, but will not sit happily with wet feet. Turning over the soil also brings up lurking pests that will hopefully make a nice lunch for a few hungry birds.

Another great job is to add mulch, mulch and more mulch! It’s a great way to protect plants and soil when they need it most, and it also takes some of the work out of gardening for us, too. Biodegradable mulches are best for the soil, such as mushroom compost, manure, compost, leaf mould, bark, chopped-up tree and hedge trimmings, wood chippings or seaweed. These can add more to your plot than gravel or sheet mulches, for example. This kind of mulch is nutrient- rich and can rot down to feed the soil and your plants. 

Not only that, there are many other reasons to use mulch. It suppresses weeds, improves the texture of your soil and encourages our lovely worm friends to make their way up to the mulch and bring it down into the soil – which aerates and improves too. 

Also, mulching will protect lots of your plants’ roots from the cold, stabilises the soil from it
all being blown or washed away in harsh autumns and winters and stops leaves that touch the ground getting too soggy. It generally looks quite good too, particularly with neat layers of bark laid out everywhere. 

Yes, just doing this one simple afternoon job kills a lot of birds with one stone! It’s the ultimate autumn task to help you and your plants out and takes your garden happily through to spring.  

3 ways to... help wildlife 

1 Make a leaf or stick pile

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Hibernating creatures need a home, plus ground-feeding birds take advantage of the nooks and crannies.

2 Replenish feeders 

You can put out all types of feed now, as there are no new fledglings for a few months. Hedgehog food and water may be welcome too.

3 Keep plant seed heads 

Seed heads that still stand strong and attractive in borders provide food and shelter for insects and birds. 

  • There's more gardening in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.Karen writes for Garden News magazine which is packed full of tips, inspiration, plant and product news and great money-saving offers! On sale every Tuesday or subscribe and try your first 4 issues for just £1 – Call 080858 438884 and quote YFIG, or visit www.greatmagazines.co.uk/YFIG. T&Cs apply.