A series of areas about 5m x 0.9m (15ft x 3ft) used to grow fruit, vegetables and flowers, which are cultivated initially by double digging (i.e. 2 spades depth - hard work in a clay soil), incorporating organic matter into the bottom layer. Deep Beds are separated by narrow grassed paths.
Over a period of time (in the case of our heavy clay, about 10 years!) the soil becomes much more user-friendly, friable, well drained and easy to work with and to plant into.
Clay can be improved over the years using Calcified Seaweed, which contains minerals which clump together the small clay particles into bigger ones, making them into a better type of loam (i.e. proper soil).
NEVER, EVER walk on them - that's what the paths are for! This would compact the soil, destroying what you have worked hard to produce.
Q. How are Deep Beds maintained?
As crops are harvested, the areas are dug over to aerate the soil and break it up, and weeds are removed. Compost and well rotted manure is lightly dug into the 30cm (1 ft) of each bed. Every few years it is necessary to dig a spade deep, and put compost or manure in the bottom of each strip as you dig, to help maintain the texture of the soil in the bed.
Q. What do we grow in Deep Beds?
All our vegetables, also rhubarb and strawberries
Q. What don't we grow in Deep Beds?
All our soft fruit. We only have to net redcurrants to stop the local birds getting to them before we do!
Q. Do we apply crop rotation?
Yes, a standard 4 year rotation for the deep bed crops.
Q. How do we plan what's going to be planted where and when?
We used to do this laboriously on paper, but for several years have semi-automated the process by tracking and planning on a purpose written Access database. This is programmed to deal with the crop rotation automatically. It allocated the appropriate months deep bed usage to each crop listed.
This provides us with printed lists of what has to be planted where - this usually ensures a patch is clear when we need it for planting another crop afterwards.
An additional benefit of having this on a database is that it prints out the annual seed checklist to take with us to the seed shop.
It works pretty well...
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