Get seed beds ready for sowing in plenty of time and you'll steal a march on the season - especially if you use the 'stale seedbed' technique in which soil is covered with clear polythene from late winter. It's widely used by commercial market gardeners but can be easily adapted to home growing.
Stale seedbeds harness and concentrate watery winter sunshine to warm the soil so your seeds can be sown earlier than they would otherwise. At the same time you encourage weed seeds lying dormant in the soil to germinate.
It may seem crazy to encourage weeds, but it buys you valuable time while seedlings get established. Once the weeds have germinated, you can hoe them off just below soil level – clearing the way for your veg seeds and giving them a head start on any other weeds which might drift in.
To use the stale seedbed technique, simply cover your veg beds in clear polythene. About a week before you want to sow, remove it and hoe the weeds off. Re-cover and hoe again just before sowing to catch any stragglers for a trouble-free start to the season.
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