They say that this is fast becoming the wettest winter on record and after a day of working in the rain, I can well believe it. As gardeners, we are never too bothered about getting wet and many of us take a strange pleasure in being outside in extreme weather. But the rain does restrict what we can do because working on wet ground can cause long term damage to the soil, which must be avoided at all costs. We are always well prepared for periods through the winter when we can’t get on the soil, saving jobs like pruning, seed sowing and potting for such occasions. But there is a lot of ground to cultivate in the kitchen garden and so any brief windows in the weather must be seized with both hands! The great danger in cultivating wet soil it that it gets compacted, squashing out all of the tiny air pockets and turning it in to mud, which will grow nothing and takes years to recover from. The soil really is the single most important resource in the garden and its care is always our first concern in any cultivation work. We are lucky in that ours is very light and free draining, so after only a couple of dry days it can be workable again. If there is any danger that the soil is still a bit wet, working from planks helps enormously, dispersing the weight of the digger and protecting the soil beneath.
Words by Tom, photographs by Martin