Monday, 8 December 2014

Manure, Sprouts, Oca and Cape Gooseberries

Manure, Sprouts, Oca and Cape Gooseberries 

Today was a fantastic winters day to be preparing beds for next spring. Because of the clay soil that we have I spread manure 12 inch deep across several beds so it will act as a weed suppressant and can have time to break down. The beds had 18 inch to 2ft of manure added earlier in the year and bit by bit the soil, although still clumps of clay are everywhere, is becoming far more workable. Large amounts of dark humus / compost are now evident throughout the beds.

Fresh Manure
I gave the beds a quick dig over before piling on 60 wheel barrow loads of manure on top and can see that although full of worms the manure didn't get mixed in with the clay by worms, insects and plant roots. Maybe over time the organic material will find it's way into the clay but over the shorter time scales digging is certainly needed to mix the clay with organic material.

Just pile it high!
The first layer of manure added earlier in the year hasn't composted as well as the layer above because it got water logged where the water sat on top of the clay, again another reason to continue digging as opposed to a no-dig method. Digging the clay, no matter how deep leaves a plough pan which water can't easily penetrate and although I have dug fairly deep it is clear that from now on I must raise the level of the soil to avoid the plant roots sitting in water. This water caused problems with the potatoes this year and meant I had to lift them a month or so too early. The crop was small and wouldn't store.

I must have had 30 tonnes of manure delivered since late spring and apart from a decent compost heap most of the manure has just disappeared into the beds without raising the ground level by much and I have agreed to continue taking 3 or 4 tonnes a month for the next year. I'm sure this will all be of great benefit in the coming years.

Areas that I have dug over and not applied manure just compact again under the soils own weight and become water logged so I'll be digging more areas and applying manure this winter even if those areas will ultimately end up as lawn.

Not many but enough
The 3 sprout plants that survived slugs and pigeons have been attacked by rabbits last night so I have harvested what ever I could. The plants had a huge number of sprouts on them, sadly though half were nibbled and one plant was cut in half. Since sprouts are a favourite of mine I'm going to put a lot more effort into them next year although this year we will have plenty for Christmas dinner, shame they couldn't be left for a couple more weeks as now we have to process them and freeze them for a fortnight rather than deal with them fresh.

The main bed that I manured today contained 6 Oca plants that had withered due to frost. The tubers are rather small and many are a bit green. I'll need to read up now to see what I do with them. The other 6 plants are in another bed and I'll lift them later in the week. Had they grown a bit better there would have been a good number of tubers. I was given the seed tubers by Anni Kelsey ( and I'll be putting more effort into Oca next year should these taste OK.

Cape Gooseberries
Almost ripe Cape Gooseberries
I sowed Cape Gooseberries last spring and planted them out into a bed, rather late, and was worried that they weren't going to ripen. In November I tried one and it was still green and extremely tart / bitter but today I noticed that some have ripened. The couple I ate were fantastic and if I can leave them another week or so the rest should ripen since they are all almost ready. These are supposed to need a lot of sun and should really be in a green house but despite this year not having much sun, (August was particularly bad), they are going to be a success. Next year I'll be planting many many more and will have one or 2 in the green house. It's the first time I have ever tried them, tasted or grown, and have been extremely surprised how nice they are and can't think why I have never tried them before. They could easily become my favourite fruit and taste like a very very sweet tomato and are the size of a large cherry and orange in colour. The taste has changed so much in a few weeks, last time I tried a green one it made my tongue curl and my eyes roll and I had totally given up thinking about them until today. That's the best surprise I have had out of our food growing attempts!

The Cape Gooseberries alone have now made me long for spring when I can sow some more. It'll be a long wait I think :)

Today's Sun Graph
How sunny today was in Watts per Metre Squared - how much power was in the sun:

Infrared and Visible light readings
The above graphs show patchy sun in the morning but no clouds in the afternoon. A perfect day would look like a semi-circle.