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I am getting ready to start planting seedlings out in my allotment. Reading online the advice seems to be that I should prepare the ground about a week in advance by digging through compost etc, and for some veg such as squash’s I should dig a hole a spade width and depth and fill it with a mix of compost and soil.

Can someone please explain the benefit of doing this a week before as opposed to day of please as I can’t find that online anywhere.

Just for added info. I have dug over and created my beds already in my allotment, when I took it over it was covered in weeds and grass so used black plastic to help control and kill back as much as possible and then double dug over for the beds (dug out 2 spades down and then put the remaining grass etc at the bottom and covered over.

So the beds are dug raked and any weeds appearing over the past 3 weeks have been pulled. So do I still need to dig in my compost/manure a week before planting in?

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There are two primary reasons; first, it allows the soil to settle back down prior to planting, and second, if the whole area has been dug over first, then there's no risk you'll just dig a hole and plant your little seedlings - digging a hole in unprepared ground can cause rainwater to run straight into where you've planted, because that is the area of least resistance for water, and that can mean your seedlings 'drown' or get washed out, and larger plants may then be sitting in a sump of water. Equally, allowing the area to settle after digging over is important, especially for seedlings, otherwise the area will settle after you've planted and you may find the plants you put it are not now at the correct planting depth.

I'm not sure about the advice of digging a hole and filling it with compost a week before planting squash, but I imagine it's for the same reasons, though if the whole area has been dug over, digging that hole on the same day to plant squash will likely be less of a problem.

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  • Thankyou for the advice have decided to experiment, today I put some pumpkin seedlings straight into my dug over bed (dug it over about 3 weeks ago) and then also prepared areas for the rest to go in next week. Will see how they progress over the summer now. – Richard C May 17 '20 at 17:54
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I'd say from experience there are a couple of considerations:

  • surprises - sometimes, particularly on allotments, there are issues like old buried bikes, wire, poly rope used to pull bean poles back to vertical, bolts that fell off rototillers to be removed to the dump and the only way to reassure yourself this is sorted is prior preparation
  • heavy vs. delicate work - planting plants is something that should be done coolly and with consideration and delicacy. It is hard to get in the right frame of mind if you have just spent half an hour with a pickaxe struggling with a chunk of iron or concrete one foot down
  • speed - if your planting day is a sunny dry day and you have many bare root plants to handle, any delay in getting the delicate roots into the protected environment of good loose soil reduces your chances of success. Loose soil helps a lot.

Regarding the preparation of squash hills with compost filled pits, if you have a lot of rotted manure and can afford to cover an entire area with goodness and dig it in then that will be enough; if your rich amendments come in more limited quantities it makes more sense to thoroughly prepare a spot in the garden to get squash off to a fast start. Many squash need a long growing period and good strong vines at the beginning of the season are a great advantage. Digging out a pit, adding organic material and then replacing the soil results in a mound standing proud of the surrounding area which is excellent drainage for young seedlings. Something the size of a spade width square will not cut it though; a three foot circle a couple of feet deep makes more sense.

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  • Thanks if I could tick 2 answers I would. have already had the surprise :) I could furnish a house with the amount of carpet I have pulled up. The beds have been dug over, I double dug down and filled the bottom with the turf etc. that was about 3 weeks ago. When I did I managed to find 3 half full bottles of beer a foot down, no idea what they where half full of. – Richard C May 17 '20 at 17:52

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