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late start,more advice please!!

hi all,more advice please.

i live on an old air field,iv got a good south facing patch im turning over for veg.

i broke the turf last night to find that half way up my lawn the soil is only five inches deep and laid over the old tarmac runway,the other half is fine and so far iv cut one bed and dug the turf in so as im so late starting what should i focus on first crop wise?

in 3 weeks time i will have acsess to as much fresh chicken manure as i want,it may smell a bit ripe but at least it will bulk out the top end of my garden and breathe some life into the ground for the autumn?

firstly what will grow well in the shallow soil?

i should have 4 maybe 5 beds cut out by the end of the week,what should i be looking to put in them to get started? and im assuming fresh manure will do as i havnt got time to let it rot?

any advice is welcome



  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 23,863

    You're not too late! First things to get in I think would be broad beans, onion sets, early peas, strawberry plants. Too soon for lots of things like runner beans, French beans, sweet corn, courgettes, nearly time for potatoes - 2 or 3 weeks, but you want the frosts over when the green leaves appear.

    Fresh manure is not a good idea. Leave it in a pile for autumn. Get some compost if possible and organic fertiliser.

    Not sure about shallow soil if it's on tarmac. What's the drainage like?

    Dordogne and Norfolk. Clay in Dordogne, sandy in Norfolk.
  • If you are growing vegetables on the deeper soil you could grow potatoes ( always recommended by the ol' boys for a first crop). Also peas/beans since they fix nitrogen in the soil for next years crop which might be brassicas. Make sure you bury the turf upside down as deep as you can. OK if double digging. otherwise the grass may grow again which will be a pain to eradicate. On the shallow soil can you ridge it to create a bit more depth? Smaller plants might do well such as dwarf french beans, dwarf broad beans, spring onions, garlic, stump rooted carrots,onion sets which I think are shallow rooted. Herbs would be OK, especially as sunny. Spinach would be worth a try. in fact with any new allotment the first year is always a bit of an experiment and you will soon learn what works best for you and what should never be tried again. One last point, shallow soil will need regular  watering and mulching might help once plants established. Might you also create raised beds on the shallow area with some soil from elsewhere/compost/imported material. Good digging!

  • marshmellomarshmello Posts: 683

    Eh, what....late, who's late ? I haven't even started yet....plenty time. image

  • Not starting sowing anything until April.  Winter will be late leaving us this year, keep on with the digging, as you will expose lots of pests eggs, such as slugs, which the birds will eat.  Digging when frost is due is also a good idea, as it helps to split the bigger clods of earth, which will make the soil better for your plants.  I'd suggest putting some raised beds on the tarmac.

    Don't use the chicken manure fresh, bung it in a heap somewhere and let it rot down, if you use it now it will 'burn' the roots of your crops and they won't do well.  Don't dig manure in on the bed you're using for root crops such as carrots, parsnips, swedes etc, as they grow roots searching for 'food', which they won't need to do if you've just manured the bed you're growing them in.

    Grow the stuff you like to eat, or that's expensive to buy in the shops.  Potatoes are recommended as a first crop, as you have to do lots of digging (which prepares the soil for other things), you have to dig a hole to put your seed potato in, 'earth up' the shoots (cover the shoots with more soil/compost to encourage more potatoes to form), then you have to finally dig the potatoes up!  That's why a lot of the allotmenteers recommend them (next door neighbour is my vegetable guru!)

    Keep digging whenever it's dry, don't bother when it's wet, the cold weather is an ally when you're preparing any new ground.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 87,955

    Lots of good advice above.  I think I'd make some raised beds to go on the area of shallow soil. image

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • thank you all

    the tarmac is heavy grade,2-3'' stone,im borrowing a pick axe to find out what depth it is to see if  i should abandon it this year and just cut the beds out and clear the tarmac base beneath not sure of the drainage,its had a hedge of leylandii trees growing along it up until now,iv just had permission to kill them off so i wont know yet as the trees would have taken a lot of the water id have thought.

    i was planning to grow a variety of potatoes in builders dumpy bags,with the sides rolled down and justkeep rolling them up everytime i earth up using a mixture of soil grow bags and the green waste from my kitchen and digging the it back into my beds the following season?

    iv got plenty of black polythene,i can leave the muck to rot down,iwont be popular with the neighbours mind!!

  • BookertooBookertoo Posts: 1,306

    Raised beds on the tarmac area seems a good idea, and alot less work than pickaxing it out!

    Raised beds and pots will do well, they will have extra drainage and you can make them as deep as you like, with varying kinds of compost/soil to grow whatever it is that you want - blueberries for example. 

  • Bookertoo, that's a brilliant idea, have an ericacious bed (acid), and put all of your acid-loving plants in there.  Not thought of that as a benefit of having raised beds, will have to think about squeezing one in somewhere when we move.

    Geg, why don't you invest in a couple of the plastic compost bins, and put all of your chicken manure in one to rot down, and use the other to make compost (you can also chuck some chicken poo in there to activate the compost).  Some councils give them away free, I missed out last year when they had a compost week and you could get a big compost bin from the council for £5.  This year there's just a link to a site where you can get a 'discounted' compost bin.  JTF is still cheaper!  At least that way the smell will be 'contained' and maybe you'll be a little bit more popular with your neighbours!

  • BookertooBookertoo Posts: 1,306

    Tnanks MMP, have been growing various types of plants that would hate it here otherwise, gives you the freedom to do what you like!  Can't yet alter the weather here, but am working on it!!

    Glad of the info re compost bins, will look into that as well. 

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