Gardening: December 2017

December 01 2017

COMPOSTING to some gardeners is a chore, while many find it baffling. With others it is an obsession whose sole ambition is to produce a nutrient rich material from almost anything that comes to hand!

COMPOSTING to some gardeners is a chore, while many find it baffling. With others it is an obsession whose sole ambition is to produce a nutrient rich material from almost anything that comes to hand! 

Whole books have been written on the subject of turning garden waste into compost, but there is nothing mysterious about the process, it’s just a matter of getting the ingredients right. Almost anything that has originated from the soil can be included, up to about 50% of the mix; these are the ‘greens’ the rest needs to be ‘browns’ consisting of shredded paper, scrunched newspaper, straw or plain brown unprinted cardboard to mention a few. 

Adding woody, twig cuttings in small amounts is useful as these allow air into the heap. Bulk grass cuttings should be avoided as this simply turns into a soggy mess; better mix it with some browns before adding. Any green kitchen waste can also go into your bin, vegetable peelings and  tea bags, however the material they are made from can take an age to decompose. Avoid adding cooked food as this will attract vermin. Coffee shops are a great source of material for composting, seen as a neutral, coffee grounds help absorb moisture if everything is too wet. The shops are pleased to give them away as it saves on their waste disposal costs. Many small cafés can easily produce several kilos a week, one shop in the area has approached us and offered theirs on a regular basis if anyone would like to collect it, let us know if you could be interested.

Purpose made plastic composters are ideal in gardens, but for a larger plot old pallets tied together in a square pen will work effectively. Whichever method you choose your waste will quickly start its decomposition process, even in winter your heap can easily reach an internal temperature of between 50 and 60C. If you would like to read up on it we’ll be pleased to let you know which books are a good buy.

Making compost is far easier than digging, in fact these days I rarely dig at all! Earlier this year I prepared beds, four feet across and the width of my plot with woodchip paths between the beds. With no wooden sides to the beds time and cost are saved, there is nothing to rot or anywhere for slugs to hide, the level of the beds were raised a few inches simply by adding homemade compost as described above. The results have been above expectations and weeding with a hoe has been quick and easy.  

No dig gardening has been practised extensively for many years by Charles Dowding; the vegetable produce from his garden in Somerset can only be described as ‘exceptional’. Having appeared on television, written in magazines and published several books Charles has offered to supply our allotment shop with signed copies of two of his best-selling titles in time for Christmas. One is How To Create a New Vegetable Garden, useful for both the beginner and even the most seasoned gardeners. The other is Charles Dowding’s Vegetable Garden Diary, not so much a diary in the day to day sense of the word but a manual of gardening to inform and inspire that is packed with illustrations. Call in to our shop and take look, either will make a superb Christmas present.

Regular readers may remember our No Dig potato trial this year. Our beds were cleared of any weeds, a hole about 4 -6inches deep was made for each seed, then earthed-up using homemade compost. This produced a more than acceptable crop of all the varieties we planted. Needless to say, we’ll be adopting the same method next year. Our main crops were Majestic and King Edward; these are just two of more than thirty-five varieties that will be available at our Potato Sale starting from 11am to 3pm on New Year’s Day, continuing every Saturday and Sunday morning thereafter. Our complete list of all varieties is now available and if you would like a copy call in and see us, or we can email it to you. You’ll be able to select as many or as few seed potatoes as you need so it’s a great way to experiment with different varieties, or if you only have a small space and want to grow them in bags.

Our kitchen will be open serving bacon butties and veggie soup. But in the meantime we wish everyone a very Happy Christmas!

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