In some of the gardens we maintain that have very clay based top soil we struggle to keep the garden imaculate. We know this and don't like it and takes away the lovely joy and satisfaction you shoud get looking after flower beds. Also a customer can be disapointmented, so a differnet direction is needed, the problem is the top soil in the flower beds. We need to make managing the flower beds more efficent, speeding up the the time it takes to weed them, to create the additional time that we normally have at our other large gardens we maintain. With the result of keeping the essential maintenance imaculate and then gives us the time for some extra planting, mowing, stimming, and keeping the gravel drive neat too.
The is a good reason at our other contracts the soil is good, and easy to work. When soil is very 'clay based', so it becomes hard and dry like rock, and ehen it is wet it is so heavy to work. This means that we have to dig the weeds out of the flower beds with forks or spades every time a weed needs to be extracted, and this takes a lot of time, also it is not enjoyable for us. When you have a lot of flower bedsto manage, a situation of every time we have weeded every flower bed, the bed we began three weeks ago then needs doing again, a never ending process. This then leaves very little time for the pruning, hedges and spraying, and no chance to improve the gardens. In most of our gardens the soil is loam based, this just means over time the clay is worked down into a lighter top soil that is easy to dig even when compacted, we then only dig it over properly once a year in Winter to de-compact the soil. The key bit here is we then use hoes to weed the flower beds, this is a very efficent and quick process to keep the flower bed clear of weeds.It may take 5 times longer to dig weeds out than using a hoe, and in your garden you can not use a hoe at all.
All is not lost! The only way to improve your soil is work lots of your own compost and farm manure into the clay soil, this makes the soil gradually softer, lighter, into loamy soil. This however takes years of doing it to have a significant effect, and you may need a quicker solution. This is still farm manure, but not compost as it is too light. This is to stop the digging which takes up so much time from April to December, this will free significant time away from the flower beds. To do this we need to mulch thickly the flower beds with 'well rotted' manure, similar to mulching with wood chip, which you often see in new housing estates / supermarkets (we can use wood chip but this is expensive compared to manure, and still needs regular topping up, like with the manure). Wood chip normally is not very pretty as it ages. The manure also feeds the plants! This manure will then get dug into the soil in the Winter time. Then we need to re-mulch the flower beds once a year in Winter.
The manure needs to be well rotted, with any straw well rotted into the dung. This means it is pleasent to look at when it is just sitting on top of the beds, important as it will be next to your lawns/patios. All mulches do not stop the weeds, but make it more difficult for the weed to germinate, so less weeds. The weeds that do germinate in the mulch, are then much easier to get out than the comparison of digging a weed out of the rock hard clay. Once the mulch is down we will still have to do weeding, but using much less time than we have been on weeding in the growing season.