Preparing a Vegetable Seedbed Outdoors
Vegetable Seedbed Preparation
A seedbed needs to be carefully prepared. It should be reasonably firm and settled, but not so consolidated as to be impenetrable to roots. The surface should be free of large clods and stones, and raked into a good tilth, so that thecrumbs on the surface are about the size of large bread-crumbs. For large seeds such as and beans a coarser tilth is adequate, even beneficial as it will discourage the germination of weed seeds.
If the ground has been dug over in the autumn, frost will have broken down the soil in winter and preparing the seedbed in spring will be relatively easy. The crucial factor is to choose a moment when the soil is neither too wet nor too dry. If the soil sticks to your feet when you walk on it, it is best to delay. Small areas of wet soil can be dried out with cloches, while if the soil has become too dry, it will have to be watered.
The first step is to break down clods with the back of the rake; then rake off any remaining clods or stones, finally raking backwards and forwards until the tilth is obtained. If it is inconvenient to sow immediately, cover the surface with a thin mulch of straw or similar material. This will preserve the tilth in good condition. (The mulch can be raked off just before sowing.) Otherwise the strong drying winds often encountered in spring dry out the surface very rapidly, making it difficult to sow.
Where the ground was not dug over in winter it is usually necessary, unless the soil is exceptionally light, to fork it over first to make it workable. Then tread it lightly to help the soil to settle before starting to rake down the surface.
It is often tempting to save space by making a seedbed in an out-of-the-way corner, perhaps behind a shed or alongside a hedge. Resist the temptation: the odds are that thewill be drawn towards the light and turn pale and lanky. Make sure, too, that the ground is relatively free of both annual and perennial , or the seedlings may be engulfed early in life. Weed seeds are more vigorous and inevitably germinate first.
If the soil is known to be full of weed seed (and this applies to any sowing outdoors) allow the first flush of weeds to germinate after you have prepared the seedbed. Then hoe off the weeds and sow your seeds. This is especially worthwhile when making the first sowings in gardens which have been neglected and have acquired a large legacy of weed seed.