I like to think that all my plants are in good condition but occasionally I have to think again. Sometimes when visiting other gardens I see plants bursting with health and I realise that I’ve been neglecting mine. When even my weeds are looking weedy it’s time to take steps to improve the soil.
Did you know that fertility in your garden declines over time?
Plants in a garden compete for space. As they grow they also compete for sunlight and air, water and nutrients from the earth. They demand a lot from the soil.
Plants take everything they need from the soil. In a typical mixed border in any garden there are trees and shrubs, perennials and climbers, bulbs and annuals all grown in close proximity to each other… much closer than nature intended. And then we prune and tidy and weed and in the process we remove all potential nutrients. Eventually the goodness runs out.
I garden on heavy clay soil which can be quite hard to work but it holds moisture and has plenty of nutrients for plant growth. Clay soil does dry out in a hot summer though so adding plenty of organic matter in spring will add nutrients and improve the texture as well as helping to keep moisture in.
Back to my weedy weeds… they are a sign that the plants are not getting what they need. I know that improved soil structure and fertility results in stronger plant growth. I also know that really vigorous healthy plants are much less likely to be affected by diseases or attacked by pests. So at this time of year I like to use plenty of organic material to improve the earth in our garden.
There are many good sources of organic nutrients depending on your location… around here my best options are:
- Garden Compost (home made or bought in)
- Spent Mushroom Compost from a mushroom farm
- Spent Hops from a brewery
- Seaweed from the beach
I’ve been collecting fallen leaves again this week. It’s one of those garden jobs that is a complete pleasure to do, especially after it has rained. It’s quick to rake the leaves into a pile and then really easy to scoop the wet leaves into a barrow and wheel them off to the top of the compost heap. By spring they will be nicely rotted down and I’ll be able to enrich the borders with a good thick mulch.
Until then I’ll use garden compost that is already well rotted.
Making your own compost is easy but if you don’t have the space or sufficient green material to make your own it’s available to buy (and is very inexpensive) from your local green waste recycling plant.
How to make compost.
- Make a compost bin to store your garden and household waste in or ask your local council if they will provide a plastic one for you.
- Build up the compost in layers. Use green waste from your garden such as mown grass, autumn leaves, stems and decaying plant material. Thin branches can be added too but anything very woody is best shredded first. Household waste like shredded paper, cardboard packaging and old egg boxes makes up the next layer. Finally, kitchen waste like vegetable peelings, apple cores and banana skins can be added to the compost as long as it’s raw.
- Make sure the compost is moist. Dry material just won’t rot down. Like all living things compost needs water and air. The best
compost heaps have air spaces between layers and plenty of moisture to speed up the process of decay.
- Give your compost sufficient time to decay. This varies greatly depending on the time of year and temperature from just a few weeks to several months.
There are some things that I prefer not to add to the compost heap.
(Even though scientists say that a good compost heap reaches such high temperatures that all diseases, weeds, seeds and spores die.)
- Some persistent perennial weeds that have the potential to produce new plants from just a small segment of root.
- Any leaves that show signs of leaf spot and plants like box with blight I wouldn’t add to the compost heap either. If the disease isn’t completely dead then will I spread it around my borders later on?
So this is when a brazier comes in handy. I like to leave the freshly gathered weeds and diseased leaves to dry out for an hour or two in the sun. Then a good fast bonfire is brilliant for disposing of all the garden refuse that can’t be composted. It only takes a couple of minutes to burn. Once the ash is cool it’s usable too. It either goes on the compost heap or I sprinkle it around some mature trees and shrubs. I sprinkled the ash from this fire around the fruit trees at the bottom of the garden.
What have you been doing in your garden this week? Gillian 🙂