Clean Up Time and no Green Manure
I hate October, I really do! It is without doubt the most horrible month of the year. There is the mess and decay of spent crops still to be cleared. The Autumn leaves start falling. There is no longer enough warmth to dry up the ground between rain. And to top it all there is the prospect of winter still to come along with all the dreaded Autumn and Winter festivals which after 48 years have all worn too thin for me to get enthused about.
As I am a fair weather gardener my keen-ness to get onto the allotment is not what it was up until a month ago. Thankfully the Sweet Corn and the Runner Beans were pulled out a week ago. This time of year there is too much to fit into the composting bin so I make a big heap on some spare ground and chop it up with the hand shears. The heap so far consists of the Sweet Peas, Runner Beans, Sweet Corn, Calabrese, Potato Tops, yellowing leaves from the Brussels Sprouts and the Chrysanthemum plants which have already been cut down to stools.
This big heap of vegetation will be turned once a month during Autumn and Winter. By the time we get to March it will be semi rotted. At the semi rotted stage it is quite good enough for digging in providing it is put a good way down to avoid uncovering again during cultivation. Semi Rotted will hold and retain moisture much more effectively than fully rotted compost.
The best place for this semi rotted compost is underneath the Runner Beans. In March or April I will mark out where the Runner Beans are going and I will dig a trench 24 inches wide and 12 inches deep. The trench will be filled with the semi rotted compost and trod to firm it. As much of the excavated soil as possible will be returned to the trench to cover the compost. The remaining soil will be placed evenly around the trench area to create a recessed area for the Runner Bean plants. The recess allows for heavy watering and flooding without the water running away. The recess allows for a mulch to be applied later without creating a hump. A hump is not much use as it dries out rapidly and the water runs off.
It is often recommended by gardeners to sow the bare areas with green manure in the Autumn. I do not. Not only does green manure seed cost money which I don’t wish to spend but the amount of organic matter produced from green manure is minimal. The green manure takes nutrient out of the ground only to put back no more than it has removed. The ground does not get a rest. I do not like soil to be in continuous use without ever getting a rest. It is most beneficial to soil to be left empty for at least 3 months but preferably longer. Not only does this help the soil to be flushed through by winter rain removing the build up of potentially damaging ’’Salts’’ which are residues left from fertilizers, but it allows for soil pests to be ‘starved out’ over winter. Green manure will hold the ‘Salts’ and feed the Pests.
It is not always possible to leave all of the ground empty as crops like Brussels Sprouts and Purple Sprouting go right through to Spring, but where ever possible I believe in resting the ground. I do not ever recommend to anyone they grow green manure. For adding organic matter the way to effectively do it is to get in a trailer load of farmyard or stable manure and apply that in a 4 year rotation with 2 alternate plots getting manure and the other two not. Each year the plots shift round so the ground gets manured every second year. As well as adding the manure add any garden compost which has been made. A mix of the two is ideal.
- 5 Oct, 2012
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Recent posts by sunnyhill
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