Another four weeks in 'lock-down' and another zoom! Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have had to cancel all gatherings at the garden. Instead of stopping the Grow Your Own course, we felt it would be more beneficial to continue with the course online albeit in a different way, with a practical to catch up when we can all be at the garden together again.
The April theme was soil building and soil fertility. This is the heart of organic and biodynamic approaches to gardening. Kai emphasised the importance of supporting a healthy, living soil. You can help build soil fertility in a number of ways:
Avoiding digging (use a fork or broad-fork instead to open up the soil and a hoe to develop a fine tilth on the surface);
Using green manures (we like Phacelia, Crimson and White clover and Fava beans).
Composting kitchen waste (all raw fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee, tea and egg shells) and garden waste (we have a separate compost heap for perennial weeds);
Mulching - whether green manures that have been hoed in, leaves, wood chip or straw.
Kai also emphasised the need for slow release food for soil community - in the form of carbon. Adding compost, mulch and green manures into the soil can help feed the life in the soil.
Liquid fertilisers (like nettle and comfrey tea) can help plants too but they should be viewed more as a medicinal tonic rather than a food source for plants. Making plants struggle a little, so that they stretch out their roots in search of more nutrition in the soil produces healthier plants.
With such sunny and dry weather at the moment, we spoke about watering . It turns out plants are kind of like people. Babies and young children need a lot of care (and probably a lot of watering) whilst young adults can benefit from a little less care so that they can develop independence. The same applies to watering. Young seedlings need regular watering whilst older seedlings benefit from less regular watering so that they can extend their roots deeper into the ground. At Real Seeds, they suggest watering plants only once a week once they are hardened off. Pots and indoor spaces like greenhouses and poly tunnels need more regular watering.
We also had an interesting chat on bees and ants. Both can bring a positive force to the garden!
ROOTS: Beetroots, Carrots and any other root crops (make sure Carrot is covered with mesh to protect from Carrot root fly).
FRUITS: Squash, Courgette, Beans, Peas, Sweetcorn.
LEAF: Salads (sow every few weeks for continuous supply), Spinach, herbs like Parsley and Coriander, Brassicas.
Cultivating beds ready for planting out.
Now is also a great time to build a compost heap.
COMPOSTING: TOP TIPS
1. Balance. Get a balance of carbon: nitrogen. Make sure you are adding enough carbon material (woody or dried plants from the garden, straw, cardboard) as well as nitrogen (grass clippings, annual weeds, leafy plant material from the garden, kitchen waste - we use only raw fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee, tea and egg shells and NO cooked food). The nitrogen provides the heat whilst the carbon provides the structure.
2. Layering. Make sure you layer the carbon and nitrogen in the heap so that the heap doesn't get too hot or too dry. If you have a lot of veg scraps for example, add some woody or dried plant cuttings, straw or newspaper or cardboard.
3. Chop. If you have really thick stems (like brassica stems) it can help to cut them up so that they can break down.
4. Size. Aim to create a heap around 3-5 feet high and as long as works for the space.
5. Cover. Putting thick fabric like old carpet or fleece can help maintain the heat within the heap and speed up the composting process.
6. Turn. After around 6-8 weeks it can be good to turn the compost heap. If it is too dry, you could water it, if it is too wet, try to mix in some drier
7. We also add biodynamic preparations. You can learn more about the preparations here.
The compost should be ready once it is crumbly and smells nice and earthy.