Time to give permanent beds a service

This time of year provides a fantastic opportunity to renovate the permanent beds in your kitchen garden or allotment to get them in best condition ready for the coming growing season.

During the winter months it can seem there aren’t that many jobs to do around the garden, while the weather can hamper attempts to get those jobs you have identified done. If you’ve spent days sheltering from rain and cold you really do relish getting back outdoors.

Any gardener knows they can always rely on the winter cycle of clearing beds, weeding beds and mulching beds. It is a continual and essential process to make sure beds are tip-top as the new season will come rapidly round the corner.

It is now a time to give these permanent beds dedicated for growing produce a face-lift and, with a little bit of time and sweat, you will have fantastic-looking and really healthy beds all ready to plant in once the season starts. For some people this may be just one or two beds, if you have an allotment there is likely to be a lot more, and for me I estimate that I have around 20 of these permanent beds to do that run along the side of the main kitchen garden.

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Before clearing begins

It can be arduous and backbreaking work, but when you see the transition from scraggly and weedy bed to a smart new mulched bed with straight edges and fresh paths it is very satisfying. Some gardeners may not see the aesthetics of their beds towards the top of their priorities, but for me it has to look good as well as be productive.

So, to start off with the first thing to do is to clear the beds of everything from last year to ensure it is a fresh canvas for the new season. Cut down and pull out the remnants of the old plants, making sure to remove all detritus left on the bed. It is then important to weed, and in my personal view that is to get in and weed as precisely as possible. If you are affected by it then this can also be a good time to pull out grass encroaching around the edges of the bed.

Once you have cleared and weeded then that is last season wrapped up and over. Now it is time for the work to start to make that bed as perfect as possible aesthetically and for the plants you’re going to put in it in the months ahead.

If you used mypex, or other material or sheeting, to mark out the beds initially then it is imperative to check their position now and mark them out again. It is astounding how far the beds can move year-on-year laterally as they are worked and mulched. They can end up feet out from where they started if not regularly checked and it means some plants could be planted on top of the mypex and will ultimately fail with no ground for their roots to bury into. A simple process of digging down and finding where the corners are supposed to be, and marking them with sticks, will ensure your bed is in its prime position.

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The smart finished look

Mulch should now be added to the beds, spread over the surface to improve texture, retain moisture and suppress weeds. This would normally be something like garden compost, mushroom compost or leaf mould and spread somewhere between two-to-three inches deep. It is a simple job shovelling and spreading the mulch with a rake, making sure it is an even covering and keeping the material within the boundaries for the bed you just marked out.

Not only will the mulch improve the soil but also help give the bed a neat and smart look. And that tidy appearance will be complimented by spreading a good layer of woodchip to create paths around the sides of the bed. It is vital here to be neat and ensure a straight line between the mulch and the chippings; trying to make sure the two materials don’t merge and get muddled together too much. A bit of gentle persuasion with the rake can separate the mulch from the bark as and when required and help get decent lines.

What you end up with is neat beds that have all the ingredients to grow healthy and prolific plants in the coming season. I think these completed permanent beds look really good and cannot wait to get them all planted up. But for now I will concentrate on finishing them, as in truth at this stage I’m still only just over halfway through giving all 20 their winter makeover.

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