Posts Tagged horse manure



Today was manure day.  Lots of manure.


After pic. But not the last.



A job well done I thought.  But no, apparently root veg don’t like manure so Helen demanured a bed.


Whilst I laid more patio in the green house and we both got rid of the snails.


Sam helped!

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Toxic Horse Manure

The allotmenteering world has been rocked recently by the news that a certain herbicide has somehow made it into livestock feed and bedding – the result is that many manure sources (and straw) including some certified as organic are now veggie killers.  Whilst it is noted that some vegetables are hardy enough not to be visibly affected the suspected culprit (aminopyralid) has a long soil life and the veg may be unsafe to eat (I stress the may).

Whilst the above guardian link suggests the company Dow agro have not confirmed vegetables are unsafe I can only find an article on their site suggesting back in November that farmers should not sow potatoes on contaminated land.

Regardless, the general advice from forums is to lay the affected manure as thin as possible to allow the chemicals to leach out and not to grow anything for a year.  At least it’ll keep the weeds down I suppose…


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New raised bed for the weekend

What a weekend!

Up at 7:30 on a Saturday! First job of the day was to get some wood from my local wood supplier (8:10) (I like to have something easy to work with when I’m so busy!) which I dropped at the allotment (8:25) with some of the lovely blue plant safe treatment.  Then it was off home to pick up bike (8:30) then to the garage to drop off the car for repairs (8:40).  Back to the allotment by bike (9:00) to start treating the wood!

First job was to paint it all up which I managed fairly quickly, then whilst the first side was drying I made up the small raised fruit box.  Back to finish the other side of the wood then I went over to the new allotment rooms (three portacabins that have been installed into our new loos, seed shop & equipment hire + meeting room) to help dig the grey water channel.  I managed five feet before the allotment committee secretary popped over and told me they’d had a go, thought it was too difficult and hired a digger to do it.


Back to the plot to screw the Harlow bed together and bang it into the ground where I found the old adage of ‘measure twice cut once’ should have been applied.  Ten minutes of extra digging and a further half hour of de-couch grassing and my blue bed was in.  I then emptied 14 bags of fresh and rotted manure into the box and mixed it into the thick London clay.

adapted harlow bed planting plan



I sowed out a new set of dwarf and climbing french beans, carrots, spring onions and chives, planted up some lettuce, courgettes, squash, peppers/chilli and tomatoes. (click to enlarge planting plan to left)

Looks spiffing.

three sisters bed




The sugar snap peas have started to produce, unfortunately they’re only about 1/2 foot tall.  I used the cane supports to plant up my existing rather tatty looking beans in the hope they might take off!

Beans and peas




Rhubarb is looking good, potatoes going well and you can just about see the asparagus bed in the background.

rhubarb potatoes and asparagus



Strawberry patch protected by nets and part of my broken cloche.

strawberry plants (and garlic!)




finished off the afternoon by digging in my fruit tree and gooseberry bush and covering the floor with woodchip to try and delay the couch grass (fat chance).

Gooseberry bush and dwarf apple




By the time I got home I was told my rush was over and my better half didn’t fancy going to her friends birthday party after all (headache apparently).  I wasn’t to complain and sat down to watch Dr Who instead.

Sunday we had a 15% off voucher at Homebase – the manager served us and screwed up the order three times, eventually leaving the whole thing to one of the sales assistants who got it right first time.  Our new purchase was an incinerator which I used to smoke our strawberry patch and neighbours with.  My first ever real lunch down the lottie today – first in 1.5 years – a proper picnic with fresh salad off the allotment but peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes from Somerfields (along with the chicken strips and brie which I wouldn’t have been able to pick anyway…)

We did some weeding but Sunday really was a lazy day.  Today my hands are b*gg*r*d and sore – though I’m not as sunburnt as usual.  Factor 100 must be working.

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Building beds…

This weekend we managed to get down the allotment (having been called out on ambulances or it being so wet n’ windy I’d have needed to peg myself down from being washed or blown away…) and got my project underway. Our last experiment was to break down some pallets and build our beds out of pallet wood. It’s a bad idea and I don’t intend to repeat it. The problem is wood is so expensive! Managed to buy some untreated softwood from the local timber yard with a fairly big discount on top (thanks to one of the guys being a local I drink with down the pub – £45 for 8x11ft ). After treating it with some lovely waterbased blue treatment (I can’t afford to leave it to rot in as permiculture probably wants me to…) I banged it in, layered the bottom first with ‘rooster’ (chicken poo) and then with cardboard (leaving a 6″ overlap under the box). One box I covered in a single layer of cardboard, the other a double. I managed to scrounge a ton of rotted manure which I laid and watered liberally. Unfortunately I can’t find any straw at present – I’ll be looking this weekend for a couple of bales!

All good so far – two boxes approx gives me 60ft2 or (5.574m2) and I intend to build another two next weekend if I get the chance. The boxes only took about an hour to collect, paint and nail.

My next job is to plant potatos down the side of the plot that I want to break up the soil. Hopefully they’ll do the job so I don’t have to dig! I’m also going to shore up the sides of my compost heap – there’s a fair bit of topsoil dug by the previous guy that is nice, loose and broken down. I dug some remaining manure into it and will use it in a mini raised bed for herbs and spices.

Pictures to come…

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Sheet Mulching

sheet mulching diagramFor those interested in sheet mulching here is a diagram I prepared earlier – apologies it was drawn in paint (that ultimate graphic design tool) though if you click on it, it’ll open larger in a new window.  Feel free to use it where ever you want – if you’d let me know where even better.

Sheet mulching is similar to how nature prepares soil for new growth.  Imagine a winter scene where leaves are falling onto the ground.  Beneath the leaves is the end of the years growth, animal droppings etc – all good compostable material.  The leaves provide  a new layer on top that stops weeds from routing.

Similarly we’re laying down a layer manure between the old growth and compacted soil then a layer of mulch.  The cardboard stops any original weeds working their way through.  For my experiment I am using a double layer of cardboard in my beds.

The worms and soil beasties (inc fungus etc) work their way up into the manure and break it down into lovely soil.  The mulch protects the soil being compacted by the natural elements leaving nice, loose soil.  This’ll mean I can simply pull out my crops (as can animals).

Permiculture teaches us to live with the animals (ie providing them with food as well) so that’s not a problem.  They will eat the food, provide more manure and possibly eat other creatures that are less desirable.  I’d love to encourage ducks onto my plot – the ultimate in slug destructors.

For more regular progress I highly recommend you join us in (grow your own) as I hope to post my progress and chat about the project.  Come… join us.

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Allotment in planning

Finally my allotment application came through.  When I spoke to the lady on the phone she wasn’t overly informative and shocked when I asked these things I lovingly refer to as questions.  Apparently she’s confused as to how I’ve found out that she’s the woman who’s roughly in charge of allotments – after all there seems to be absolutely no published information about these allotments including an address or map.  Both of which I shall provide here, so that locals have some idea of how the place is laid out.

The allotment I’ve been provided is 5 poles.  This equates roughly to 20ftx30ft.  It is still intact – that is to say no-one has taken the topsoil off – but unfortunately entirely covered in couch grass.  Yay! = )

For those who do not know the pleasures of couch grass, it is the kind of parasite that digs itself about 8-16 inches into the topsoil and will come back time after time from a single root fragment.  The only way to rid yourself of it is to dig it out and sieve it by hand. I however, am going down the lazy man route of permaculture – namely the no-dig method!

This method employs cardboard as a weed resistant membrane – I shall be first putting down chicken crap as my fertiliser then applying a double thickness of forementioned cardboard – 6″ of horse manure (I shall be using fresh for those who are interested in these things) then a layer of mulch – straw.

I shall water and… leave.  Until I’m ready to plant!  This lazy-man attitude was brought to you by Mr Bill Mollison through the magic of Permaculture.  If it works for couch grass it’ll damn well nearly work on everything.

For those of you who get worried by these things, yes, it will raise the soil line by 12″ (or more) but that’s ok because I have a bad back and prefer to have the ground a foot closer to me.  It also means this’ll work pretty much anywhere – including concrete, though you may want to include a few shovelfuls of natural earth and a few worms to get the composting going on the lower levels!

Once composted the horse and chicken poo will provide a rich source of nitrogen for my crops, though root veggies will be difficult to grow in the first year.  The straw stops the rain from directly impacting the ground and the natural worm aeriators will keep it nice and unpacked.  So when I pull on my potatos, they’ll just pop out of the ground!  No digging required!

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