How Do I Prepare A Seedbed?

freshly sown bed of corn

freshly sown bed of corn

Well prepared soil is the secret to raising good crops and flowers from seed.

This video clip shows the preparation of a ten square metre seedbed, ready for sowing or planting.

The basic steps are:

1. Clear existing crops and weeds. Compost them (not shown);

2. Spread rotted compost or manure over the surface of the bed (not shown);

3. Dig the soil to the depth of a spade, turning the soil to bury any weed seedlings, and breaking up any large clods as you progress.

If soil is soft and reasonably moist (as here), use a spade. If soil is hard and solid, use a fork;

4. Rake roughly level;

5. Tread over the bed using ‘pigeon steps’. Place your feet close together so that you tread over the whole surface, gently compacting the surface.

Digging fluffs up the soil, making the surface uneven. Treading gently treading it primes it.

I was shocked when the editor of a well-respected gardening magazine wrote to me when I recommended pigeon stepping over a seed bed  “You can’t encourage people to walk on a garden bed!” But pigeon steps are vital to effective seed bed preparation, not optional.

6. Rake gently over and create a level surface ready for sowing or planting. You’ll notice I use a rake with metal tines;

In this video you will notice I saved a self-sown lettuce and a self-sown endive plant. These were within the rows of corn that I planned to sow later. Their retention does not affect crop rotation.

This is my standard method for seedbed preparation and, over five years, helped create the fertile, freely draining, easy to dig soil that has sustained consistent crop production through drought (2005 – 2010) and summer floods (2011, 2012, 2013).

After sowing with corn, I thinly mulched the surface using chopped organic sugarcane. This veneer doesn’t blanket the soil completely, but it does shade it, helping retain moisture and keeping the soil temperature more even, all conditions that aid germination.

Happy sowing!

Jerry Coleby-Williams

16th September 2013