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Where there’s muck…

Where there’s muck…


We have a saying in the UK: where there’s muck, there’s brass. This basically means you can make a lot of money from work that most people don’t want to do because they think it’s dirty or unpleasant. Well, the muck from our compost heap doesn’t make us a lot of money but certainly helps with producing the veg. This whole year I have been mulching the beds with compost, paper, straw, cut grass, leaves, and chicken bedding… you name it, it has been put on the beds. The idea is to keep the weeds down, keep the soil moist and, as it’s organic, slowly turn the soil into a great substance for growing things. And as it’s not dug in, just laid on top, the worms do the work for you. Well, that’s the idea! It’s not really hard work, although quite tiring, but so much better than weeding (and for my back).

Here’s some examples:

mulch2First up is a combination of freshly cut grass and straw on the beds which produced the peppers and cucumbers. This was laid on top of magazines and newspapers. I tried to do it each time after some rain so that the moisture in the beds was kept in.

We had the best cucumbers ever, from June to October, but although the peppers did well they put their brakes on over the scorching summer so the flowers and subsequent fruit were too late really.

vegWe’ve had the same problem with the tomatoes and aubergines: a smaller, later crop than usual as they too hated the heat.

Next up are the sprouts, planted early July (seeds sown in May) in a lovely bed of straw. Each plant also had a protective tube of card around it. The irregular size of growth is in proportion to the amount of sunlight they get. Behind them is one of the asparagus beds, they grow thick and hedge-like every summer creating a dark shadow. This year it’s going to be dug up and moved elsewhere, I’m hoping to do that in time for the smaller sprouts to still catch up and give us a winter crop.


And here the leeks, also put in early July, with a combination of paper and straw and loo rolls:


We’ve had the first of those already. What was very obvious with the leek bed is that those that were planted where the broad beans had been were much bigger. They all get the same amount of sunshine so for me it’s proof of the benefit of crop rotation and also of leaving the beans to die in the beds rather than pulling them up for the compost heap. They really did leave lots of nitrogen in the soil.


Meanwhile there is still the joy of seeing things grow, the mild autumn has been great for the beets…


Less said about the artichokes the better. We’ve had some but it seems the voles have taken a fancy to them too and munched through most of the crop!

And the mulching still continues of course. The squash and courgettes (the latter just pathetic this year) have all been pulled up and lots of muck put on where the brassicas will go next year.


The onions (both red and white) are in, so are the broad beans and peas (both sprouting already). The August planting of cauliflower and calabrese has been a success with large plants already. Just the garlic is left for this year’s planting. And we’re still enjoying some late fruit too: strawberries, figs (both kinds), and melon.


Now we’re just waiting for the rain. It’s been an amazingly warm month with temperatures of 30 a couple of days. The forecast rain never seems to appear, and I’ve actually been watering the veg patch – in October! It feels more like late summer than autumn, perhaps we’ll get some more peppers and aubergines after all.


Plant of the year award

Plant of the year award

Rain, frost, wind and thick morning mists – the winter is well and truly here. All the leaves have fallen off the plane tree in the courtyard, the less hardy potted plants are in the barn or polytunnel and little is being done in the way of gardening although a number of (rainless) days have been spent weeding and composting the beds. We still can’t get over how green it is compared to last year but the downpours have seen to that. They’ve also brought out the snails and slugs that they slither towards the baby turnips and swedes. One evening spent collecting the little blighters in a bucket was enough to fork out on some horticultural fleece which is certainly doing the trick.

fleeceThe veg patch is actually looking quite good at the moment, with most of the beds full or covered in compost. We’re still eating our own potatoes, the colourful chard is going strong and at last some sprouts have formed. Plus the calabrese and cauliflower are ready now too so there’s more variety on our plates at the mo.

But as I walk down the beds in the winter sunshine there’s one plant that beats them all, yes the humble leek is crowned queen of the veg patch. There’s lots of reasons why: firstly, I’ve been growing them from seed for three years now and they’ve never failed. Every little leeklet grows, some bigger than others, but grow they do. Secondly, they take very little looking after. They need watering and weeding but that’s it – no pests to worry about, no supports, no pruning… Thirdly, they stay in the ground for as long as you need them. No need to worry that they’ll be past their best if not pulled out in time, so no storage problems either. In addition they’ll happily put up with whatever the winter throws at them. Plus they’ll reproduce from their own seed so no need to buy any more seed packets. Next year is the first time I’ll be trying this, I have a couple of dried flower heads from some plants left in the ground over the summer so with luck they’ll germinate in the spring. So all in all a fuss free, hardy, reliable cropper. Oh, and they taste good too of course! Long live the leek!