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17 September 2014
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how to be a gardener - The complete online guide

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4 - Preparing the ground
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Improving your soil
Improving your soil
With the ground preparation complete, it’s time to improve the soil. Improving the soil means making its texture and structure easier for roots to grow in and providing all the food a plant needs.
It’s a two-stage process:
  • Dig in lots of well-rotted, bulky organic matter, such as horse manure or garden compost, about half-a-wheelbarrow load per square metre
  • Apply fertiliser - a handful of a general organic fertiliser, such as blood, bone and fishmeal, per square metre
If you are starting afresh, do the digging and mucking preferably the winter before, especially if you are on soils that are clay dominant, but don’t worry if you’ve missed it. And fork in the fertiliser just before planting.
If the plants are already there, ‘mulch’ the beds with a 10cm (4in) layer of bulky organic and a scattering of fertiliser before the growing season begins – early spring.
Organic matter
Organic matter improves soil structure, as does the digging, and as it breaks down it releases small amounts of nutrients. That’s what organic gardeners mean by ‘feed the soil not the plant’.
Organic manure
You can buy a range of soil improvers in bags at the garden centre, but this is expensive. Much better is a ‘steaming pile’ delivered, and making your own with a compost heap.
4. Practical planting

Preparing the ground
 Improving your soil
 How to dig
Buying plants
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