I am looking to replenish a patch of soil ready for the spring. I was thinking of laying down some rich compost and then laying plastic over the top over the winter. I am a bit new to this technique. Is that the right thing to do?
It's a bit early to start warming anything. It will suppress weed growth over the winter, But really unless you have a serious weed problem, it's better to leave it open to the elements over winter. Fork or dig in the compost, I presume you mean farm yard manure or composted material, then let the worms do the work for you. If your'e warming a bed for early veg then late february or early march is the best time. There's usually no need to warm soil in an ordinary garden.
Great thanks! Good job I asked. Yes it is composted material, should I apply that now before the winter?
I was planning to use a black poly sheet, a friend pointed me towards this one http://www.qvsshop.co.uk/damp-proof-membrane-dpm-1200-gauge-2212-p.asp. Do you think that is suitable? I looked online and people seemed to have mixed opinion of whether it should be clear or black plastic.
I forgot to say that I have some spare PVC on a roll in the garage. My daughter gave it to me as she is a teacher and they use it at their school. I needed to cover some cushions and had some left over. Do you think that would work?
I wouldn't waste PVC on this. Just buy some cheaper black plastic and weight it with stones or heavy lumps of wood. Clear plastic allows light in so will encourage weeds to germinate. Black plastic absorbs more heat so warms the soil better and doesn't encourage seeds to germinate. However, any persistent weed roots will still survive and need digging out before you plant or sow next spring.
OK thanks, I guess my friend was correct then. Should I turn the soil over now or wait until early next year?
Except when starting out and clearing a bed for planting or mulching for the first time I don't believe in digging beds as it spoils soil structure and damages worms, other invertebrates and beneficial soil organisms. I would apply a good thick mulch now and leave it for the worms to work in over winter. Give it a light forking over on a mild day in late winter or early spring, rake it smooth and then cover to warm it.
Ok great thanks! This is really helpful! Do you recommend a particular type of mulch?
Well rotted manure has lots of nutrients. Garden compost has lots of fibrous material and micro organisms. If you haven't got a handy stables nearby you can buy bagged manure in good garden centres and large DIY chains. Some local councils sell compost from teh municipal heap. Ordinary potting compost is good too if you"re emptying pots and troughs. Some places sell their stock off cheap at the end of the season.