Daily Express :: Garden Feed

Daily Express :: Garden Feed

People may not be “digging for victory” but they are certainly digging for dinner, lunch, supper and afternoon tea. 

And it pays off. 

By giving up space in the garden for crops such as courgettes, French beans, mangetout, baby salad potatoes, cherry tomatoes, redcurrants and dessert gooseberries most families could easily grow a couple of hundred pounds worth of fresh food in a season. 

With returns like this it clearly pays to dig up part of the lawn to increase your production area.  

But there’s an art to turning grassland into good, fertile kitchen gardening ground and it’s easy to go off the rails. 

The first place where people go wrong is cutting corners: they’ll hire a rotavator or reach for a spade and simply dig the existing grass in. Wrong.

It just regrows through your crops where it’s impossible to weed out. 

Always strip away the turf first.  

Use a spade to skim it off to about an inch deep, which removes most of the roots. 

Cut the turf into manageable squares and stack them upside-down for a year or two so the roots die off and the whole lot turns into wonderful, rich, fibrous loam that you can spread back on your vegetable patch. 

Having cleared your ground it needs digging over. 

Because it has been under grass for years it will be very short of “roughage” so take the opportunity to dig in as much well-rotted compost or manure as you can. 

Digging also fluffs up the texture of badly trampled-down land, turning it into well-aerated, open-textured soil that vegetable roots can run through easily.  

Soil fertility will also be very low after years of starvation under grass but wait until spring to add fertiliser, otherwise it will be washed away and wasted. 

Make a note in the calendar for March or April to work in up to 4oz of general organic feed, such as blood, bone and fishmeal, per square yard before sowing and planting. 

Meanwhile start to tackle the big problem with any newly-dug grassland: soil pests. 

Wireworms, leatherjackets and even chafer grubs can live in your lawn without doing much harm. 

You may not realise you have any but they’ll be there – and they love vegetables.  

They feed on the roots so that healthy young plants suddenly wilt and collapse. 

With no soil pesticides available these days your best bet is to dig up your bit of lawn as soon as you can and keep forking it over right through the winter so that birds and wildlife can pick out the grubs. 

Another cunning wheeze is to lay damp sacks over the surface of your freshly dug soil. 

Soil pests, slugs and snails will congregate underneath and you can collect them every few days. 

Admittedly it’s an effort but it’s time well spent since you will reap your just rewards, instead of discovering too late that your valuable crops have been half-eaten before you get your share. 


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