Gardening Tips: Coping with difficult sites

Not everyone has an ideal garden for growing food crops—that is, a site with a well-drained, medium loam soil, warm, sunny conditions, sheltered from wind and protected from frosts.

Most gardens, in fact, fall far short of this idealized growing environment. Drainage may be bad. In old, neglected gardens, perennial weeds may be a serious problem. The site may be shaded by large trees, walls or other buildings. Some gardens are in polluted areas, while gardeners living close to the sea may face problems with high salt concentrations.

Steeply-sloping sites, very exposed sites, frost pockets and hollows—all create very real difficulties.

However, do not be deterred by any of these drawbacks. Any site is viable, provided you know how to overcome the particular problem. This may be by the appropriate cultivation techniques or simply by growing vegetables and fruit suited to the particular conditions. There is comparatively little information available on how to grow vegetables and fruit on problem sites. Authors invariably suppose that the gardener has ideal conditions to start with—but unfortunately often this is not the case. So let us now try to solve some of the problems outlined.

Gardens with difficult soil

The ideal soil for food crops is a loam, preferably a medium loam. However you will most likely be faced with some other less than ideal type of soil.

Thin, chalky soil is one many gardeners have to deal with. Chalk becomes very dry in spring and summer, and therefore copious watering is necessary. It is also a hungry soil and needs plenty of organic matter added along with regular dressing of fertilizers.

Chalk soils may make it difficult to grow decent root crops such as carrots and parsnips, but potatoes should do well. If you are determined to grow good parsnips and carrots the best method is to dig out the boreholes where you intend growing them to a depth of at least 30 cm (12”) and fill the hole with potting compost or a really good loamy topsoil which has been bought in. Or they could be grown in drainpipes stood on end and filled with a good soil or compost. Some exhibitors use this method to get really long roots.

All brassicas do well on chalk, together with legumes (peas and beans). Other miscellaneous items like lettuce, onions, spinach, marrows, tomatoes and herbs also grow satisfactorily, given good treatment.

Fruit is undoubtedly difficult on chalk as invariably the leaves become yellow and stunted due to lime-induced chlorosis.

Another problem soil is heavy clay. But once this has been deeply cultivated and plenty of organic matter worked in, it can grow good crops of most kinds.

Provided, that is, it is well drained. It helps to dig early in the autumn, add organic matter, and after digging apply a dressing of horticultural gypsum. This will break down the surface into a nice crumbly texture, enabling you to get a good tilth in the spring for sowing and planting. It takes the stickiness out of the clay. Clay soils are slower to warm up in the spring so later sowings may be advisable.

Light sandy soils can dry out rapidly in the spring and summer unless plenty of organic matter is added. Adequate applications of fertilizer are necessary, too. Given this treatment, good crops can be grown, especially root crops as they can get their roots well down in the soil. Concentrate on those crops which like a very well-drained soil, such as carrots, kohlrabi, New Zealand spinach, sweet corn, tomatoes, sage, thyme and rosemary. As sandy soils warm up quickly in the spring, early sowings can be made.

10. July 2013 by admin
Categories: Featured Articles, Fruit Gardening, Uncategorized, Vegetable Gardening | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gardening Tips: Coping with difficult sites

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