Tuesday, 29 November 2011

How to use Shaving-based manures.

1. Be choosy. Always look before you buy. If the manure seems to be made up of dry shavings, do not use it in your deep beds but it can be used to quite good effect on the paths as a weed suppresser. This dry stuff comes form stables that are cleaned out very often. Take a look around for more suitable material.

2. Ask the stables owner if any other gardeners use their horse manure; if so try and do a deal with them to get some on a regular bases.

3. Unless the manure is obviously well rotted, -a nice dark colour, with individual shavings not particularly noticeable-do not use it immediately. Best is to heap it up under a plastic sheet and leave it for a good six months.

4. There is a way to increase the nitrogen content and that is to mix it with grass cutting while heaping it up to rot. Add water or diluted urine.

5. If you see, compost worms in the heap that is a sure sign that it is useable.

6. If in doubt, do use with caution. The best is to try it first as a surface mulch on perennial borders where it will not be dug in, adding first a dressing of hoof and horn or some other organic sources of nitrogen, if the soil is poor. It could be also used as mulch on the vegetable path. Before digging it over a large area, test a small patch and then grow mustard on it, with an untreated patch of mustard for comparison. The growth of the mustard should soon indicate any problems.

The best thing to do, in my view with any shaving based manures; is too heap it up for a year to make sure all of the wood bits have rotted down. The problem with wood chipping and shaving is that if they are dug into the soil without composting they will eat up all the nitrogen in the soil. This happens because the shavings are very high in carbon and contain very little nitrogen; if they are added to the soil without sufficient nitrogen, the microbes rob the soil of its available nitrogen so that they can get to work on the shavings.

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Monday, 21 November 2011

Compost Activators

2 Types of Compost Activators:

Compost activators are simply anything that will get the composting process started, a bit as a firelight is used to help start the fire. A compost kick-start.

They come in two kinds.

Natural activators

These are materials that the composting bacteria find easy to digest. Providing the little bugs the energy to start on the tougher material.

Natural activators tend to be very poor in make up and high in nitrogen. This is material like comfrey leaves, grass cuttings, poultry manures, dried blood, and urine.

Seaweed is the best natural compost activator because of the alginates it contains is an excellent bacterial food.

Activators from a Packet

This type of activator falls into three different types.

Soluble Nitrogen Fertilisers

This simple chemical fertiliser will give instant nitrogen. Not at all organic.

Bacterial Products

These will give a wide range of selected compost bacteria which appartly supplement and improve on those that occur naturally. A sort of kick-start to start the kick-start.

Herbal Materials

This is a mixture of herbs that help the composting process and enhance the compost.

To have any success as a gardener you must be able to understand the nature of your soil and fully realise the importance of properly making the soil ready to receive your crops.

This means paying attention to the number one priority of feeding your soil with organic material.

Your soil is the storehouse for the plant foods; therefore, no effort must be spared to work to build up your soil with the right material.

Although soils vary very largely in their make up; some are heavy, others light, some rest on clay and others on grave sub-soil all of them can be brought into fertile condition by adequate preparation and compost.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Composting for your deep raised beds:

How to make compost for your deep raised bed

What does good well-matured compost look like: dark brown crumbly, fibrous soil; this is what you goal is in making compost and all you need to do this is right there to hand. Composting is recycling at its very best.

The first step in the making of compost is to start and stop worrying that you will not get it right. Unfortunately, making compost is a subject that is often made to sound more complex then it really is. At worst, it is a pile of garden waste that is left to rot in a corner of the plot for a few years and then spread out over the ground. At best it is garden waste that is stored in well made containers, that are turned and keep moist and then spread out on the plot all within a few months.

The next thing to do is to try to gain some understanding of the composting process. It is always easer to do something well if you know why and what you are doing.

There is no magic about it and the best way to start is just to get on and do it. You first batch of compost may not be the quality that you wish for and may take you longer than you hoped but never mind. It will still be useful stuff and the next batch is likely to be better. In the end, you will find and devise a system to suit your own particular circumstances.

One thing to remember is that because composting is a natural process; nature will be on your side. The little “bugs” that make up the myriad of creatures in your compost heap will be your very own useful little workers that will know just what to do.

How many are there? Well you be surprised to learn that its has been estimated that there are around one thousand million microscopic organisms alone in each teaspoonful of compost. Those of you who are suspicious, or not too fond of creepy crawlies should be aware of this when investigating a compost heap while it is working. It is very easy to think that the heap is full of awful pests, when in fact they are simple legitimate workers.

Where do these little beast come from, well I would not worry about that; all that you have to do is start to heap up suitable materials and these compost workers will appear as if by magic.

Why? Because they are hungry and you are providing them with food in abundance and they will just come along and munch away. Breaking the organic matter down and as their numbers increase so the rate of decomposition speeds up. Because of all this activity, heat if produced, which in quite noticeable if the heap is large enough to contain it.

In a very hot heap, the oxygen that the composting microbes need may be in short supply, so, after a few days and work will slow down; so what you must do is turn the heap to introduce more air which will start it up again.

Not every compost heap will heat up, especially those that are made bit by bit. This does not mean that it will not compost; it will just take longer that is all. But if you build a heap and then started another one and then another one, after a while you will always have compost for your deep raised beds when every you need it, what very the season.

What is going on in your heap is quite simple. Having finished the more tender ingredients of the compost heap, the bugs will move on to the tougher material. The rate of work will slow down and the heap might well cool. At this stage of the game, the big boys will move in: worms, beetles, and all sorts of creepy things that you will be able to see.

By the end of the process, most of the ingredients of the compost heap will have been broken down, mixed together and made into what we call compost.

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Thursday, 10 November 2011

How to make raised deep beds

Raised deep beds.

Just how do you make your garden fertile and have control of the soil?
The answer might well in having raised deep beds because if you do it right and take the time you can have control of the soil.

As we know, the answer always lies in the soil because the basis of effective organic growing is a well cared for soil.

What we are looking for is a soil with a good structure, which is rich in plant foods and absolutely teeming with life. The way to build and maintain such a soil, whatever the original soil type, is to feed it with what are called “bulky organic materials” and to make this soil as deep as possible.
By that, I mean at least two spade depths and under that, it is vital that there is good drainage.

I remember years ago when I had to take down a Victorian glasshouse; I was truly amazed to find that the topsoil went down for a good 6 feet and under that there was three feet of clinker. A tad excessive but it was that that got me started on raised deep beds and I have never done my growing any other way.

Just what is a raised deep bed?

A structure containing soil that is above the level of the surrounding area and has a soil depth of at least 2 feet with good drainage, in which to grow crops of one kind or another.

Apparently, using a raised deep bed is a really good way to grow your vegetables.

Raised deep beds have been around for a long time and become popular again in the 70s after many years of not being so. Since then there has been a lot about them in the press, magazines, and no end of books.

The benefits of raised beds are many:

The idea behind deep raised deep beds is really quite simple. You can control and manage the area better then if it were just a patch of land.

In addition, it is much easy to improve the soil inside a deep raised deep bed rather then a whole plot.

The drainage is better in a deep raised bed.

Making a raised deep bed is very hard work and can cost a lot of money particularly if you have to replace all the soil in it but once done it is done. It is a very good winter job and by only making, one at a time can be very satisfying.

It is often said that raised deep beds give more yields of crop then otherwise; this is true to a point but with the beds you will be giving land up to paths so really it is swings and roundabouts.

With the bed, system weeds are not really a problem because the crop is generally planter closer and it is much ease to weed a raised bed then a stretch of land (Psychologically speaking)

Because of the closer spacing, it is always a good tip to watch the varieties of seeds that you use because some types are better then others when close together. This is very much a trail and error thing.

Another reason to use deep beds is that it is much easer to protect crops using cloches or fleeces then an open field.

The maintenance of a plot with raised deep beds is much easer then other methods of growing because you only deal with a small area at any one given time. The plot looks better with beds like this as well.

I find that an 11pole plot rarely takes more then 2-3 hours a week once, it is set up.

There are a few warnings about raised deep beds that you should be aware about be fore you start.

Because it is quite a bit of work to make the bed, it is worth getting it right.

What you are doing basely is digging a hole at least two to three foot deep (The width is up to you but you need to be able to reach the middle from both sides without compressing the soil) making sure that the drainage at the bottom of that hole is good and then putting the good soil back in to the hole.

The first and most important thing to remember is to know what good soil is. What you need to grow healthy crops is a soil that is a living, breathing mass. Try to see your soil as a living being, it needs to breathe, hold moisture and provide a good food supply to all the microorganisms, insects and other members of this complex community.

What you must not do is go out and buy x bags of compost and shove it in the hole. This will not sustain the plants for long.

What I do is fill the hole up with good garden compost that is at least a year old and then put the soil back on top so that I end up with a raised bed that is about a foot above the surrounding ground.
I can do this because my soil is good to start with.

What I have done in the past (because the soil I was working with was too heavy) was go out and find good soil to import into the “hole”. If you live in a town that is quite easy to do because there is always somebody digging up their garden to “slap it” and chucking out good topsoil. Put an ad in the local paper or walk the streets to find some good topsoil being thrown out.

Having made my raised deep bed; I then grow my plants paying attention to crop rotation and every time I finish a crop I add more garden compost to the top.