Advice - soil and water

We will add advice on the particular soils around Charing and the challenges different soils represent. We will tell you how best to improve it and help it to be drought tolerent in the summer or stop your plants from rotting or drowning in the heavier soils after the winter snow.

The soils from the top of the North Downs to Charing and across to Charing Heath are incredibly diverse and vary from alkaline, chalky soils to acidic soil on top of chalk to good clay loam; from poorly drained clay to well drained, sandy soils around Charing Heath. We understand that it is one of the most varied soils within a couple of square miles in the whole country. No wonder some people grow ericaceous plants like rhododendrons and azaleas with ease, while others cannot grow them at all, just a few gardens away!

Click here for a soil map of the Charing area to give you an idea of the soil where you live.

There are three key constituents of soil: clay, sand and silt, and the mixture of them determines how well your soil holds nutrients and water and how easy it is to grow your plants.

A sandy soil is well drained but therefore dries out quickly and loses nitrogen (needed for leafy growth) quickly with the water. Clays hold on best to the nutrients needed for all growth and flowering but can also drain poorly, leading to waterlogging, which is bad for your plants.

The ideal is a clay loam which provides enough sand and silt in the mixture to improve the drainage qualities of the clay, without losing all the water and nutrient holding capacity.

You cannot change the essential texture of your soil but you can improve all types of soil by incorporating well rotted, organic matter. It opens up clay soils to improve drainage and it also holds on to nutrients and water and thus improves a sandy or silty soil. In addition, it makes soil a little more acidic, which is good for many plants and vegetables, and encourages earthworm activity. Therefore, the best single thing you can do to improve your growing conditions is to start composting your garden waste to use in the borders.

If you want to read more about the soils of Charing check the number on the map against this, more detailed soil description.

Free fertilisers

There are 3 primary nutrients your plants require: nitrogen, potassium and phospherous, and you can make your own fertilisers for two of them.

You can make a compost tea by collecting any young nettles growing in your garden and putting them in a bucket and covering with water. Put a lid on it and leave for a couple of weeks to brew. The result is very smelly but can be seived and diluted (roughly one cup per watering can) and poured over your plants and soil to encourage leafy growth. Nitrogen is a key ingredient in the manufacture of chlorophyll, which your plants need to photosynthesise. If left undiluted it is very strong and will burn your plants (like dog urine does on your lawns in a slightly different form) so you could even try it as a herbicide for annual weeds.

You can make a similar nutrient tea by snipping off comfrey when it blooms in the spring, but this one is rich in potassium (potash) that will encourage flowering and fruiting. Again, dilute and water round the plant as an alternative to 'Tomorite'.

Llama bean 'tea'

If you bought a bag of llama beans last year and have lost the 'tea' recipe here it is:

In total one cup of beans should make 10 gallons of 'tea'.

This tea is rich in a wide variety of major and micro-nutrients and unlike many other 'teas' it has no smell and will not burn your plants.

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