Gardening: Soil Cultivation – Ridging Method for Improving Soil
Improving Soil with Soil Cultivation using the Ridging Method
The ridging method is a technique adopted on wet, badly-drained soils and consists of heaping up or ridging the, which enables the moisture to drain out, air to pass through and frost to penetrate the ridge. It also exposes a greater area to weathering conditions, and in a new garden cuts out a work stage; if potatoes are to be the following crop they can be planted in the hollows between the ridges.
It is not essential to put in manure at the time of ridging, the manure can be stacked, composted with leaves and garden refuse and then filled in to the hollows or trenches between the ridges in spring. This works very well, particularly if the area is to be used for potatoes as well-rotted compost can be put actually over the tubers.
For exhibitors or those who wish to grow superlative crops of peas, beans and celery for which a good deep root run is essential, add the manure and then dig between the ridges normally. When the ridges are split and the soil is levelled, you will have an excellent site for these particular crops.
Just in case it sounds a very formidable operation, ridging is a job which seldom needs to be done as the benefits are lasting and it is no harder or more difficult than ordinary straightforward digging.
After the initial spade work has been done most soils benefit from the surface being kept on the move and various appliances, both mechanical and hand operated, are available to help out. This is where the mechanical rotary hoes fitted with blades or tines come into their own; they really mechanise hoeing. Keeping the soil open allows it to breathe, rain to penetrate and helps to conserve moisture in the soil.
This may sound contradictory but on heavy soils which have dried out, cracks can go down to a considerable depth and the moisture evaporates from the sides of these causing a great deal of moisture to be lost. A fine surface tilth prevents this cracking. It also benefits the various bacteria and fungi in the soil as virtually all the beneficial elements thrive on oxygen.
The more you help them the more they will help you. You can easily find proof that these various bacteria and fungi thrive in the top 5 to 7 inches of the soil by looking at old posts. Posts which are otherwise very durable often rot off at, or just below, soil level. The top may be perfectly sound and, on being dug up, the part in the soil 2 ft or more down may also be as sound as the day it was put in, whilst the section at soil level can be completely rotted through. This is due to the active bacteria and fungi which cannot live out of the soil or in the airless conditions of the deeper subsoil beneath.
Not only does organic matter provide food for the various organisms in the soil, it also helps to retain moisture, particularly when it reaches the state gardeners describe as humus. This is organic matter which has decayed and broken down to a point when it is little more than a jelly-like film.
Soil, no matter what the texture, is essentially mineral and made up of solid particles; if we can get humus between these particles it will help to keep the very fine ones (which occur in clay and silt) apart and allow better. Between the larger particles of sand and grit it acts as a blotting paper and holds the moisture.
So although it sounds contradictory to say humus assists drainage and at the same time holds moisture, this is a fact and anything that can be done to produce humus-rich conditions should be done.
Soil Cultivation: Ridging Procedure for Improving Soil
This is the procedure to follow:
- Put down a garden line, take out a trench at the end of the plot (A), three spade blades wide, dig the middle width (D) in the usual way, throwing the soil from th first trench forward to A.
- Then dig widths B and C turning them over on to the middle width (D).
- Complete the area to be ridged by digging successive strips in this way.
As ridging is hard and time-consuming work, my advice is to do just a a little of this each year. It is better to utilise trench crops such as celery, leeks, peas and beans as a means of eventually trenching all of the ground.
Soil cultivation is a very important part of gardening. Soil quality can be massively improved and ultimately your crops depend upon improvement of your soil if you deem it substandard.