Yet again, Wonderpost Compost fuels incredible veg growth. Neville reveals the growing results with his usual panache, only this time we think he’s gone commando – “It’s not the Jungle Neville, it’s Suffolk…”
Now that Summer is over and our thoughts turn to Christmas shopping, and whether we really want the mother-in-law (or father-in-law, for that matter) for Christmas lunch, we mustn’t forget our gardens, because we are parent, guardian, and mother-in-law to a piece of land that is not going to go on holiday, or gives us a break by having it’s own Christmas lunch. Your garden needs all the love it can get, and we can help by undertaking the following 5 best soil improvement tasks.
There’s a lot we can do to prepare the garden for winter, and ensure we keep it in tip-top condition ready for our 2020 planting campaign.
Use Autumn Leaves
Autumn leaves can be a real nuisance, clogging up drainpipes, getting all slippery underfoot, and generally making your garden look a mess. Well, fear not, there is a great solution that both get rid of the mess and improves your soil over the winter.
They make great compost
You can add them to your existing compost heap if you have one. Or you can start a new compost heap which is much simpler than you think:
Use four garden stakes with some old wood nailed to give it sides, and as long as it’s vaguely square it’ll do the job admirably.
Another great idea for storing your compostable items – don’t forget the coffee grounds, tea bags, and plate scrapings, is to use one of those builders merchants bags, you know the bags you see in driveways with sand in and Jewsons written on the side. They stand up pretty well on their own and hold either 500L or 1000L, which should take all your leaf mould and dinner leftovers for a few years.
When you’ve got your compost heap up and running, and it’s steaming nicely like it’s about to explode, here are few pointers to keep it breathing nicely before you start digging it in Spring 2020.
Get the hose on it – to keep the little bacterias fed and watered, and you may want to cover it up so it’s nice and toasty. You can use any old bits of cardboard, tarpaulin, or even old bits of cardboard. Covering your compost heap ensures the composting process carries on during the cold winter months.
You can add Chicken, Rabbit, or Hamster dung to speed things up a bit, plus any old animal bedding can be chucked in as well. Interestingly, one of the key ingredients of Wonderpost soil improver is animal bedding from our livery yard, Morley Farm Barn Livery.
Grow some Comfrey
Well, this is one we hadn’t heard of, a kind of grow your own speed injection. Comfrey speeds up the composting process, so if you’ve got a bit of space in a bed, pop some in and when it’s grown a bit just cut the stems and lay them own your compost heap in layers for a real boost.
Apparently Comfrey leaves make pretty good tea, not a tea for drinking, but for feeding your tomato plants.
Cut up some Comfrey leaves and put them in a container with a lid and leave them to rot for a couple of weeks. As the leaves decompose they leave a brown liquid called Comfrey Tea. Dilute this in the following proportions – one part Comfrey Tea to twenty parts water, and use in the same way you would water on tomato feed.
Dig a trench by digging down one spade depth, known as a spit, and put the soil on a tarpaulin. Break up the bottom of the trench with a garden fork and fill the bottom of the trench with compost around 6 to 8 inches deep. Then replace the soil to form a mound. As the compost continues to decompose, heat up, and leech into the soil the mound will go back to its normal flat self. This helps hungry vegetables like Brassicas to grow. Don’t plant Carrots or Parsnips as they don’t like the enriched soil.
Do double digging in the winter to give the soil time to settle.
A double digging tip
Dividing your vegetable garden into 8’ x 4’ beds makes double digging slightly less hard work.
Winter digging is valuable because it helps to break up the soil and brings pests such as slug eggs to the surface so the birds can eat them.
Using a garden fork turn the soil over WITHOUT breaking up any of the clods. As the ground freezes and thaws, the clods disintegrate to produce a fine tilth. The only thing you need to do after this is to rake and level the ground.
Winter digging tip
The golden rule when digging is not to tread on the soil, because your weight will compact it. Short scaffold planks are ideal for standing on and not too heavy to move.
Another method of incorporating leafy material into the ground is planting Green manure. Crops are sown in early to mid-autumn as scattered seed and germinate between autumn and spring.
Annual green manures are dug in when they reach 4 to 5 inches in height before they flower. They include mustards, grazing ryegrass, phacelia, and some clover mixtures.
Most green manures need to be left on the ground for more than a year because many of them are leguminous members of the pea and bean family. Their roots have nitrogen-fixing nodules. Lucerne or alfalfa, for instance, is left in the ground between two and four years. This technique is more useful on an allotment, or in a large garden, but more difficult if you’ve got a small plot.
And don’t forget that if you really want to give your growing a boost use Wonderpost Farm Fresh Compost the #1 soil improver
WONDERPOST ‘Farm Fresh’ Compost – 100% natural soil improver is a vintage blend of manure, farm animal bedding, and paddock sweepings, formulated and produced in the Suffolk Countryside and matured for over 3 years.
No bulking agents just 100% natural compost made with love, tea and biscuits in Hasketon Suffolk.
As the chief composter says “Wonderpost is the Champagne of compost”.
Whether you want a beautiful show garden or that prize Marrow just add Wonderpost to your borders and beds to supercharge your growing.
100% Peat FREE
As a frequent salad eater, I sometimes feel the need to zest up my plate of lettuce with pickles, which is just as well really as I have an abundance of home-produced pickled products – try saying that with a mouth full of beetroot!
Pickling is a great way of preserving excess crops in the garden. Isn’t it just the way – you grow something and the crop produces more than you can possibly eat, so you end up giving half of it away, selling it at the roadside, trying out new and freakish recipes or of course pickling it in those jars you saved just for this purpose. I had just this experience with the beetroot we had grown on the Wonderpost allotment – when Rog and I harvested them last week there was more than our two families could possibly eat in a week so of course, out came the vinegar and jars. To pickle beetroot, I simply boil them for about twenty minutes, take off the skin and then dice into a jar. When cool I top up the jar with vinegar and add a few pickling spices and then store in a cool, dark cupboard where the jars get forgotten about!
I first grew a crop of beetroot at college in 1979 and thankfully my skills as a gardener must have developed as this recent crop on the Wonderpost allotment was fantastic – especially those beets harvested from the part of the allotment that had a liberal dose of our fantastic soil improver added to it – Wonderpost definitely increased the size of the beets as you can see from the photo. Of course, we could have grown even larger beets if I had remembered to thin out the seedlings when the seeds had just germinated as this would have enabled the beets to grow even larger. But never mind, as I have enough jars of the stuff to see me through the winter!
On a blisteringly hot Suffolk Sunday afternoon, Rog and I undertook the big onion reveal on the Wonderpost allotment. If you’ve been following our allotment posts you will recall that I planted a row of onion sets last autumn, half in the part of the allotment treated with Wonderpost soil improver, the other half planted in just the normal untreated soil. The variety I choose was called Troy and quite frankly it’s a very easy variety to grow. Apart from watering, weeding and applying the occasional dose of FastGrow chicken manure to the crop we haven’t really had to do much else to the plants… apart from of course harvest them!
Well, the harvest has just taken place (you will know when onions are ready to be harvested as the foliage will start to turn yellow) and thanks to Roger’s kids and one of their friends we dug up all the onions, washed the soil off them and then had the weigh in.
We were as clinical as possible as we made sure that there was the exact number of onions growing in each half of the allotment … after all we wanted to make sure our trial was as accurate as possible. With much excitement and bated breath we weighed the onions from each half of the allotment and (drum roll please) and we are delighted to report that the onions growing in Wonderpost weighed in heavier than those growing in the normal soil, coming in at 4.3Kg, whilst the Wonderpost onions weighed in at 5.22Kg.
There you have it folks … proof that Wonderpost soil improver increases yields.
I’m now of to make an onion tart ….
Yes, our first Strawberries are now live on the Wonderpost fortified side of the allotment.
Not ready to eat yet but looking very, very Strawberryish!!!
Things are getting tough down at the Wonderpost allotment; not only is the Sun shining, but the horses are having to do a bit of weeding. This is all good because judging by the looks of those Onions and Garlic plants something is going well.
Perhaps this is just another example of teenage ingenuity? you know the old saying “you can lead a horse to the allotment, but you can’t make it weed”, it’s not true as you can see.
And don’t forget the Wonderpost allotment is 100% powered by Wonderpost Farm Fresh Compost – the 100% Natural Soil Improver now available in nice big bulk bags.
We’re getting into superfoods!
Love it or hate it, there’s no denying the fact that beetroot is good for you. Historically the whole of the plant has been eaten and yes, you can eat the leaves – Tom Hunt, a chef, writer and broadcaster has a rather interesting recipe for Beetroot leaf borani, which I am going to try once our crop has grown. But of course it’s the root which is normally eaten. Beetroot is a good source of iron and naturally occurring folic acid as well as containing antioxidants. I’m told they slow the ageing process so I’m wondering if that means I can ditch the moisturiser!
As there is so much goodness packed into beetroot it would be crazy not to grow some on our Wonderpost allotment. So I delved into our store of organic seeds and set about sowing them. After preparing the soil by creating a fine tilth I then simply made a very small slit in the soil 2cm deep and sprinkled the seeds trying to space them out a bit. This is the difficult process because often seeds land up very close to each other which happened with me. Not to worry though, as I will probably thin the seedlings out so that the plants are about 15cm apart – this will enable the beets to enable grow to a fair size. After sowing the seed I then gently raked the soil over the slit and applied a dressing of chicken manure at a rate of 150 grams per square metre. I then left Roger to water the seeds!
I only sowed a row of seeds which I reckon will provide enough beetroots for Roger’s family and mine but if there is a glut I will probably pickle them for use later in the year.
Chitting for the first time!
I love growing potatoes in the garden and delight in creating Nev’s special potato salad from a freshly harvested crop. Unusually this year I have decided to have a go a chitting my seed potatoes. For those of you that have not come across this weird horticultural term – chitting simply means encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting. In essence this is all about getting the tubers growing earlier which in turn encourages them to produce earlier allowing me to harvest (and gorge) earlier.
Chitting is so easy – in January or February six weeks before you intend to plant the potatoes simply get an old egg box and stand the blunt end of the tubers (where the ‘eyes’ are) upright in the egg carton and then store in a cool place with plenty of natural light. I’ve put mine in the garden shed. The tubers will be ready to plant out once the shoots that sprout from the ‘eyes’ are about 1.5cm to 2.5cm long.
The variety I have chosen to plant this year is Home Guard, a first early variety which, when planted out in late February will be ready to harvest in May. As usual I will be planting half in the part of our allotment that has had a liberal dose of our fantastic sol improver added to it and the other half in the ‘non Wonderpost part of the allotment. I’m also going to experiment with only chitting half of the tubers as well to see exactly what difference this process makes to the harvesting time.
Look out for my next blog and video when I show you how to plant potatoes.