3 Ways to Improve your Soil in Autumn

Whether you are planting up again to keep growing over the colder months, or winding your veg garden down for winter, this time of year is a great opportunity to put some things in place that will help nourish the soil.

Mulch to Protect Soil from the Elements

Mulching your soil is one of the most beneficial things you can do as a grower. It is not good for bare soil to be exposed to the elements – hail, snow, frost, wind, sleet, heavy rains – all these things are difficult for bare soil to cope with. When we’re growing veggies, there is a tendency to have a lot of bare soil. It might be in between rows of growing veggies or in beds that will be empty for winter. Either way, the soil will be well protected by a mulch. This could be as straightforward as a sheet of compostable ‘plastic’ weed suppressant laid over the top of an empty bed and secured down. Or, you could use well rotted manure, spread on top of an empty bed and left over winter to break down. If you’re actively using beds, use compost or leaf mould (as the manure is too strong for most crops to cope with until it has broken down a bit over the winter.)

Get started with No Dig

This is kind of related to mulching, as mulching is heavily involved with the no-dig approach to growing veggies. Essentially, no-dig does what it says on the tin – you stop digging. The theory is that by not disturbing the soil, you allow all the worms, bugs and micro-organisms to do what they do naturally which builds soil health. By doing this, and applying a mulch you essentially mimic nature and over a few seasons, soil health starts to really improve and you see the results in your veg harvests.

If you’d like to get started, all you really need to do is cover an empty bed with sheets of cardboard (which will suppress weeds) and then cover the cardboard with a thick layer of compost (10-15cm thick is ideal). You can then cover this again with compostable weed suppressant or reusable black polythene for the winter, or you can plant straight into the compost if you’re planting up again with autumn veg plants. If you do this, you’ll be able to keep weeds down easily by running a hoe over the top of the compost (rather than letting them grow so big that you need to dig them up.)

In the latter instance, when spring comes, you may wish to top up the compost with a thin 3-5cm layer. If you’ve covered the beds for winter, though, you will be able to plant straight into the compost when spring comes around.

(Interested? We have an article on no-dig growing linked below that you may find useful.)

Make a Leaf Mould (to use next autumn)

Getting a leaf mould on the go now will be so great for you when it comes round to next autumn and if you make this an annual job, then every autumn you will have a good homemade mulch available to spread over raised beds which will slowly feed the soil. It is well worth it. All you need to do is create a chicken wire frame around 4 posts, and fill it with any leaves that you rake up over the next few months. They will, over the course of the year, break down and become a useful and very nutritious mulch.

(More on making a leaf mould in the article below.)

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