Coming into the shortest days of the year it is always exciting when a crop reaches maturity and none more so than the manure heap. Having been delivered by local farmers and stables in the early part of the year and rotting away nicely through the summer months, our fine blend is being relocated to the kitchen garden ready for the new year, when preparing for the summer ahead will begin in earnest. With over an acre of kitchen garden it is almost impossible to have too much manure and moving it up the hill is a massive task. Thankfully we have two tractors to take on the job.
The nimble compact tractor fitted with a loader is perfect for moving the manure quickly from the tight space in the yard into the trailer on the back of the majestic 1960’s 135. The “Red Jet”, as Tom calls her, then makes light work of moving the load to the kitchen garden where a willing team of wheel barrows wait to unload.
Once in the kitchen garden there are two main uses for the manure. The first is as a mulch for hungry or slightly tender plants. The roses, used for cut flowers in the house, get a good layer of mulch which the worms will pull down into the soil over the winter giving us healthy plants and hopefully wonderful blooms next summer. Dahlias, which can be tricky to over winter in the ground, will get a nice thick blanket to keep the tubers protected from the hardest of frosts.
The rest of the manure is destined to be trench dug into the soil and until we are ready to tackle that task, we store it on one of the empty beds. We work on a four bed rotation system which means that beds will be manured every other year. Hungry crops such as brassicas, peas and curcubits all revel in soil rich in organic matter. Root crops, salads and onions prefer less enriched soil and are therefore grown in beds which were manured the previous year. By managing the garden in this way we should be able to enjoy bumper crops and beautiful, healthy soil. As with most things in life, you get out what you put in, so on the crisp, sunny winter days as we dig in the remaining manure we can look forward with anticipation to the fruits of our labours.
Words by Helena, photographs by Martin