Creating a fine tilth and sowing seedPosted By: rocket veg Category: Growing Veg, Seasonal Tips
As the hours of daylight increase and the temperature rises, now is the time to begin sowing seed in open ground. Being a good gardener who plans ahead, you will have prepared your precious ground last autumn – digging deep, adding manure or some of your fantastic ‘home made’ compost, then covering the soil with black woven material which not only deters weed growth, but also encourages the worms to work the soil and mix all the goodness in. Now that spring is here, all you need do is remove the covering to expose the weed-free, warm soil – the envy of your allotment neighbours!
How to create a fine tilth
The soil may look good, but more work is required before you can begin to sow seed. Heavy frost like we have had this past winter will have broken down the larger chunks of soil and it is now a matter of creating a fine surface of the smallest soil particles known as ‘tilth’. Don’t be in a rush to make tilth – only when you are ready to sow seed, as the soil will quickly settle and form a hard surface which is really tricky to sow into, especially after rain.
When the time comes to create tilth you need to use one of your trusty tools – a flat-headed garden rake with a long handle. Decide where you are going to sow seed, then start at the far end, raking towards you as you move slowly backwards. The prongs of the fork serve two purposes: breaking up the soil as well as dragging stones and lumpy matter. As you go, try to avoid treading on the soil too much or your weight will crush the ground which you so carefully dug last autumn. I really enjoy raking soil and watching the particles become smaller and smaller, removing the stones as I go (keep a small bucket handy), a satisfying task. Take your time doing this, working the fork backwards and forwards in a rhythmic way. If you encounter any stubborn lumps of soil, a gentle chop with the prongs should break them up.
Before you sow seed, stand back and admire the strip of land you have just raked and the beautiful tilth you have created.
Marking a row
Avoid treading on the soil by using a plank or similar – which also helps when it comes to planting in straight rows. Use a string line to mark the row, then draw the handle of your fork, a piece of cane or stick along the line, creating a straight, shallow groove. Once done, and before sowing any seed, I always mark both ends of the row with short lengths of cane as it is surprisingly easy to forget where you have sown, especially if you are creating several parallel rows. At this point, I generally water along the row so that the soil into which the seed will be sown is moist
This may seem obvious, but always read the information on the seed packet – especially the guidance about spacing and sowing depth – before you start; then open the packet with care as you may need to store any unused seed for future use. Tip the seed into a small container from which you can either pick individual seeds (eg Beetroot) or a pinch (Lettuce), the starting at the far end of the row, move backwards along the plank, sowing seed as described on the packet. Once done, use the rake to draw a fine layer of soil over the row.
Then – most important this – be patient. Seed takes time to grow.