Good quality soil is fundamental to all we do in the garden. There’s still time to get yours into shape and on the way to producing bigger flowers and heavier crops, with better resistance to pests and diseases this season.
Soil should be cultivated regularly to allow air in to warm up the soil and speed up plant growth – it also aids drainage and makes weeding easier. Winter frosts may have broken down large lumps, and repeated re-digging or forking will to help to get the crumbly texture mentioned in gardening books. Many of us will use our trusty spades, forks and hoes to do this work, but depending on the size of your garden and the state of your back, a cultivator could be a worthwhile purchase. Dig in plenty of organic matter to add nutrients and improve the soil’s structure and fertility (garden compost, manure, leaf mould or composted bark) – about half a wheelbarrow load per square metre should do it.
Work through your beds and borders forking over the soil between plants to loosen it up, removing weeds and plant debris as well as slugs and snails as you go. Work from the back of the bed to the front to avoid compacting the soil.
When it’s weed-free, spread a layer of mulch around plants. Mulching will save you time and work for the rest of the season by suppressing weeds, reducing evaporation (so less watering) and encouraging worms to drag the organic matter down into the soil to improve the structure.