Protect Your Soil
As well as tulip planting the other major garden job to tackle in November is mulching the soil. The key to a fabulous garden, thriving plants and bountiful harvests of home grown fruit and vegetables is a healthy soil. Because we can’t really see what goes on in the soil it’s a bit of a mystery and this means we don’t often pay as much attention to it as we should. The structure of soil can easily become damaged due to a variety of factors. Heavy rain can wash away soil particles and wind can blow away the fine particles in the top layer of the soil. Walking on soil when it is wet or frosted leads to compaction which impedes air flow and drainage in the soil, making it difficult for plant roots to grow. Growing crops year after year can deplete nutrients and digging upsets the delicate balance of important fungi that live in the soil and can damage worms and other creatures that live there too.
The winter months can be hard on garden soil, largely because most plants have died back under the ground, leaving the soil bare and exposed to the elements. One of the best things you can do to give your soil some TLC is to mulch it, which means applying a layer of material over the soil to protect it. If you want to enrich the soil at the same time, which makes sense, the layer should be a material that will gradually break down, imparting goodness into the soil. The best mulch is homemade garden compost, but it needs to be applied thickly to do its job – ideally the mulch should be 5–7.5cm (2–3in) thick – and even the keenest of composters will struggle to make sufficient compost to cover garden borders. If you don’t have enough bought-in compost will do the job. Composted fine bark, available from specialist compost suppliers, is another option, and if you spread manure on vegetable beds now it will mean it has been incorporated into the soil by worms by the time you come to plant in spring. Manure is often too rich to use elsewhere in the garden and should be avoided if you have heavy clay soil as it can make the soil stickier.
Om Louise Curley
Louise is a horticulturalist, garden writer and author of the award-winning book The Cut Flower Patch. She’s passionate about the power of plants to make us feel happy and is an advocate for organic gardening and encouraging wildlife into gardens.Get to know Louise Curley
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