Sunday, 16 March 2014

Busy, Busy, Busy....

Busy, Busy, Busy...

Having taken a week off of work, every day so far has been a garden day.


Two weeks ago I had 3 tonne of manure delivered, on top of the two trailer loads I gathered myself from the side of the road, then the other day another 3 tonne turned up. I must have the best part of 7 tonnes of fresh manure steaming away. The first 2 trailer loads I gathered was spread directly onto 2 vegetable beds which I hope will have rotted enough by mid may to plant in.

Normally I'd pile manure up and leave it until well rotted by a few weeks ago I found a discarded potato from last year sprouting and growing well deep within my old manure heap. The potato will have been thrown there when the heap was fresh and although the heap steamed away for weeks and shrunk in size by half the lack of horse wee and the fact the temperature didn't climb too high means I needn't wait for the manure to totally break down before planting in. This'll make life far easier and I'll only use the old heap for mulching and immediate planting. All the new manure can go onto beds which will be planted later in the year.

Spreading fresh manure and allowing it to break down in the bed for a few months allows me to prepare the new vegetable beds in a different way, I hope. Rather than taking the top grass layer off then digging the clay soil, breaking it up and mixing with manure I'm hoping that I can simply churn up the grass and churn the next foot deep and place 2 foot deep manure on the top to suppress the weeds but also a couple of months for the manure to wash down into the gaps left by churning. The worms can do the rest.


Having read about how to make a wormery I was rather put off by the idea of buying worms and building up a large enough population but having dug my old manure heap I was rather stunned by how many worms there were in the heap. The manure heap was 4 trailer loads of road side manure I collected last October with kitchen scraps thrown on top and although I intended to turn the heap once a week this, perhaps predictably, turned out to be once per month. As I dug the heap so as to place manure as a mulch around the fruit trees the number of worms per spadeful was between 20 and 50. There was a huge number of worms. Apart from not being able to collect worm pee for a liquid fertilizer I already have a fully functioning wormery which with every mulching spreads huge amounts of worms around the field.

Fruit trees

Last year we planted 8 fruit trees including Pears, Apple, Crab, Plump and Damson. I have just added another 8 trees including different Apples, Quince, Medlar and Cherry. The idea of having an orchard had changed now into a forest garden.

In amongst the trees I am slowly planting fruit bushes in the form of Black and Red Currant as well as 20 Raspberry canes.


After reading in various places about Polycultures and more specifically at Anni's perennial veggies blog, I'm now totally into the idea of perennial polycultures, and even more precisely, perennial polycultures within a forest garden to not only utilize space better (mainly vertically) but to reduce the need to constantly replant each year but also to use different perennials as ground cover to prevent weeds.

The need to cover the ground has been evident in our main fruit garden, which was looking very organised and tidy, until now, where all the bare soil has been filled by weeds. I had realised this would happen and so sprinkled wild flower seed throughout the fruit bushes but as these flowers died weeds replaced them. Wild flowers have their place which I have now decided is within a grassy area. Perennial flowers, especially edible ones will now be planted amongst the fruit bushes.


Having seen how well our strawberries grew and throw out runners and colonise all available space but also how well they have suppressed weeds I think the strawberry will be one of my main ground cover plants. I think I'll pull off dozens of runners and place them where ever I can.

When we started Dec 2012

July 2013

March 2014

Wet Winter

The wet winter the country had turned out to be averagely wet where we are but average rainfall is enough to flood our field but last year we dug drainage channels through the field and led them into a pond. This worked very successfully apart from in our chicken area where they ended up being between 1 and 3 inches under water. A new chicken shed was built, 8ft by 6ft, and a foot off of the ground to replace the 2.5 foot one sold to us as good enough for 6 chickens (it wasn't). A new drainage channel was dug in their area. The drainage channels have now given us an opportunity to break up the field into segments as they provide a boundary to grow up to. Not only that, since they contain water, they can be used to plant willow in.

Our last attempt to grow willow failed for various reasons. Partly because I planted them directly into grass (competition), partly because I only planted very thin "twigs" and also because we had a dry spring and summer and I failed to water them enough. The drainage channels resolve all the problems and if we do have a prolonged dry spell watering will be as easy as pouring water from a water butt into the drainage channels.


We are using the Willow to not only provide screens and wind breaks but also for kindling wood and the ability to make baskets with the added bonus that they drink water like it's going out of fashion which will aid our drainage.  

Soil Types

We are currently on a Permaculture course and have just done soil types and how to analyse your own soil. Since we have a clay soil it confirmed to us that we need to add a lot of organic material and this has re-invigorated the effort of piling on manure to vegetable beds. We don't have a healthy soil and digging it isn't going to destroy anything but I am running out of well rotted manure which means that I am running out of time for creating more beds since the fresh manure needs time to rot in the new beds. I'm finishing this post early so I can go outside and dig. 


  1. I haven';t ever used manure and look forward to finding out how your vegetable beds work out. It certainly sounds a reasonable proposition based on my own experiments with piling all sorts of organic matter on top of beds made from upturned turves on un-dug clay.

  2. I've done a lot of reading up about soil, from your book, the internet (various university blogs and papers) plus the permaculture course. I've watched videos where you are shown the soil through a microscope as well. I was going to do a blog post on what I have learnt, mainly to remind myself but also as a record so I can go back and read what I wrote next year to compare.

    I've also done some jam jar soil tests and on the permaculture course one of the samples I took a "soil bloke" said "that looks good". It happened to be the soil around my fruit trees. That was the soil with a lot of manure in it which I made up this year using last years manure.