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Should I use soil from under a huge beech tree in my veg plot?


My quest to improve the clay soil for my new veg beds (and in my polytunnel) continues.

We have a humongous beech tree in our garden.  I don't think the ground beneath it has been disturbed for years.  Very little grows - I guess on account of the lack of light - and there is a carpet of leaves, nut shells, and twigs.  

Have I potentially got my own supply of leaf mould, or at least decent soil, here?  I thought perhaps from the years of leaves, shells, etc breaking down that the soil beneath could be good to transport over to the veg beds and polytunnel?  Is this something people with the same option do or are there reasons why it wouldn't be such a good idea?  

Sorry for all the questions...  I'm trying to make the transition from being green to being green fingered :)  


A few photos to help visualise:  


  • philippasmith2philippasmith2 Posts: 9,631
    As with most soil, you can adapt to your specific needs.  If you want to clear the top soil from there you can certainly use it elsewhere - as it has probably not got a lot to it, you add what is necessary..........your own home compost, horse/sheep manure ( well rotted ) etc., etc. If you are happy with it as a base, then go ahead. Waste not Want not :D
  • GemmaJFGemmaJF Posts: 2,283
    I would see it as a great 'improver' to add to animal poop based compost heap. Would want to compost it down really, particularly if it has woody bits, before adding to growing soil. In a good 'hot' mix, it will help to kill of any un-germinated seeds that could have built up also. There could be a lot that simply have not germinated because of lack of light.
  • January ManJanuary Man Posts: 196
    Thanks for the responses.

    I should have been a bit clearer in as much as the plan was to use the soil beneath all of the leaves etc.  So I'd be raking all that back first.  I hoped the soil beneath may have benefited from the decaying leaves etc, but perhaps not then...  

    On your point @GemmaJF, I was thinking that the leaves etc on top could be a good addition to the compost heap....  Would it serve as good "brown material" to mix with house and garden greens?  Is that what you were saying?  

  • GemmaJFGemmaJF Posts: 2,283
    Yes, I thought you were mostly talking the leaf litter and surface layer, so yes browns for the compost. My usual compost for veg is made up of house and garden greens, browns like leaf litter if I can get it, then a layer of fresh horse poop, built up like a lasagne, leave it to cook. Great stuff.
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 9,873
    The ground below the leaf litter will likely be full of fibrous feeding roots from the beech and surrounding trees and consequently quite poor in nutrients (as it is in most woodland) so less than ideal for this use.
    The best way to improve clay soil is to add lots and lots of organic matter;  Leaf-mould mixed with well-rotted manure is hard to beat.  Part of my veg plot was originally a pile of clay bulldozed from what was a clay tennis court, but by adding well-rotted farmyard manure over the years it is now highly productive and very easy to work.
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • B3B3 Posts: 15,437
    What a beautiful tree!
    In London. Keen but lazy.
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