Archive for the ‘Green Manure’ Category

I’m a little late with my current season updates this year, but anyway here we go…

 

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Giant Goosefoot ‘Magentaspreen’ Seedlings

One of the most ornamental Salad Greens I have on my allotment is the Magentaspreen Giant goosefoot, the centre has a beautiful magenta colour which shows up differently in photo’s, they are very similar to ‘Fat Hen’ aka Good King Henry (there’s such a thing as a good king? .. whatever).

I made the effort to keep some Phacelia to go to flower, mainly as they are very beneficial to various pollinator species but also because it is a Green Manure, it pays to let some go to seed to keep my own stocks up. Watching bumblebees visiting Winter and Summer Squash flowers can be quite ammusing, they seem to aim for the flower and just fall in, I don’t know if anyone else has ever noticed this, I noted this with quite a few bees on one particular day.

I still have a few smaller Borage plants still to open flowers, it seems like my self seeded patch is quite weaker / smaller this year, it may be that I have loads more going on at the Allotment this year that perhaps I am giving the dedicated wildlife flower section less attention.

I decided to allow the Broad Beans which were sown at the same time last year as my Garlic on top of the new Hugel / Suntrap to go to flower and seed (the intention was as a Green Manure where you dig them into the soil as you see them forming flowers) They made a nice addition to a stew we made. As an experiment, the Hugel / Suntrap has various support / companion plants sown on top with one Tomato, Sorrel, a couple Salad Burnet (Perennial) , Rhubarb (Survivor / volunteer) and two Asparagus crowns (these are purely to experiment, I obtained many crowns [20+] and can afford to lose two if all goes wrong).

 

Mid summer update coming up soon …

I had a thought the other day, what am I doing wrong in terms of companion planting / sacrificial planting? (Sacrificial, meaning growing plants which you intend to attract pests away from your desired species / crops). The main result being that I always grow them too late! When Spring is approaching we just usually all take a look at our stock of seed packs or growing calendars to see what needs sowing / starting off early indoors (such as Cabbages, Onions etc.) But the one thing I am going to change this year is to have a few trays dedicated to the sacrificial plants, mainly Marigolds (Tagetes). I am using Phacelia (Phacelia tenacetifolia) as a Green Manure but am aware too that Bumblebees like the flowers so, I will be ensuring that a few plants will be grown seperately purely for the Bees and placed in various micro-climates around my gardens (place one group in full sun, another grouping in partial shade and this will ensure different flowering timings which will help the bees a lot in that their forage sources are spread out), do this with various plant species, include perennial plants, annuals etc.

tagetes

Marigolds (Tagetes) planted as sacrificials to ensure Pumpkins were left unmolested by Slugs – once they died, fresh seed was harvested for next years sowings

Marigolds have two main and a third benefit in our gardens, the first for me and most Organic farmers (small scale) benefit, is the sacrifical planting which attracts slugs and snails away from other young plants you are trying to get going in the early parts of summer, they love marigolds and will mostly go for those (violas and pansies are another plant that can be used as well).
Benefit number two is that Marigolds (Specifically Mexican marigolds) have aleopathic chemicals which suppress difficult perennial weeds such as Bind Weed, a piece of land can in theory, have this perennial weed eliminated with the correct method being used.
The third benefit is it’s Ornamental value and it’s aparrent attractiveness for Bees (after growing Marigolds for the last 3 years as sacrificial plants, I have yet to see a Bee specifically going for them), I keep seeing it mentioned on other sites online especially ones writing about Pollinator Attracting plants …

Start your Sacrificial plant sowings Now, as well as any other plants you wish to get going in your garden by seed which are either for the benefit of wildlife or perennial plants.

One trick I have learned about Marigolds is to let perhaps one set of true leaves form (the more mature leaves which will be differently shaped compared with the smaller baby leaves which come out on germination) and I then clip the top out above the first set of true leaves, I then immediately plant the tip in a small pot with damp compost and keep moist, these plants are very good for cuttings propagation, not a single one failed even though they were left right in full sun in moist compost).
Do the above for every one plant and you will easily double your population! so for example, if you decide you would like to grow maybe 40 -50 Marigolds per season. you merely need 20 – 25 starter plants to come up from seed which means one dedicated seed module tray!

Remember, as with all plants, the more you cut them lower down, the more the plant bushes out so instead of perhaps 2-4 flower heads from a mature plant, you will have lets say 5-9 flower heads and a more bushier / attractive plant, this should keep the plant lower to the ground which means more accessible food for the slugs and snails.
Once you buy one pack of Marigold seed, you should never really need to buy another pack as the seeds are easy to save, this is only unless you decide you would like to try another variety to compliment those which you already have.

In the next post, I will be writing about what can be sown now in preperation for the upcoming growing season, I will start off with January and get to February in the coming week…

Late Summer / Early Autumn is the best time to start gathering the materials you need for your planned Hugel Bed / Mound, many Herbaceous plants which can be used in conjunction with the wood logs, branches and sticks are now ready to be chopped down and composted or used in another way. Autumn / Winter is the preferred time her in the UK to create your Hugelkultur mounds mainly due to the need for the wet season to soak the beds, the buried logs will soak up the winter rains for months until the upcoming growing season.

Two pieces of advice I can definitely lecture on about in this article to ensure a successful Hugel Project are;
1: Ensure Air Spaces inside the mound and
2: Add lots of Nitrogen rich Biomass internally to offset the nitrogen locking that the logs will create during decomposition

Air Spaces:
Although there are guaranteed to be air spaces between the logs and branches / sticks, I have found that rain and the settling down of the materials can cause these spaces to fill in, often causing or risking an anaerobic result – go explore your garden or any other garden you have access to (You may even be able to make a deal with a local gardening company – they could leave a bag of said such materials for you outside one of their customers properties so as long as you collect the bag and not leave unwanted contents at the site!) remember, you can always bargain that most companies have to pay to dump their waste at commercial specialist dumps, remind them that you are helping them reduce the need to do so, in most cases they will still have charged their customers to ”remove” the waste even though you took if off of their hands, the customer will inevitably still be charged for it being dumped.

There are many herbaceous plant species which have a hollow stem and need cutting down in Autumn, cut these stems into pieces which you will spread around and in between your logs at different levels to ensure small air cavities will remain. Cedums, Ornamental Globe Artichokes, Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes), Young Bamboo (and old), some Hydrangea varieties and many more have hollow cavity stems which harden enough when dry to be used in this case.

Then there is dry hard leaf ”garden waste” which takes ages to decompose, these are leaves from shrubs and trees which are more on a glossy and hard / stiff texture than a soft / decidious and most likely in all cases, evergreen. Three options I have from the top of my head as examples are the leaves of ‘Magnolia Grandeflora’, The climber ‘Clematis Armandii’ , the Loquat ‘Eribotrya japonica’ Fruit Tree, Some Rhododendrons (look for the large leaved varieties) and Laurels. We have found that most of these leaves can take up to two years in an unturned / undisturbed compost pile to break down, they maintain their structure even when pressed down so they are perfect for maintaining air spaces / gaps internally within the Hugel Bed / Mound! Practically any glossy leaved plant / shrub / tree will do but the larger and dryer – the better!
In fact, a couple of these Tree / Shrub leaves will actualy curl up to form a cilyndrical tube shape with an internal hollow gap, when pressed these are strong and bounce back right away once released.

Nitrogen Rich Biomass:
Probably one of the best options are fresh grass clippings from your lawn mowing or that of a neighbour / friend. You can even clip your grass at your home twice a week for the last 3 or so weeks of Summer, keep these clippings aside in a breathable bag until ready to add into the Hugel Bed – if you obtain clippings over several weeks, you Will need to add additional fresh greens into the mix to compenate lost nitrogen.
Horse Manure is also a great option but I would suggest it be used more as an addition to fresh green waste rather than 100% of the nitrogen source
The not-so-popular option amongst people new to Permaculture, is human Urine, which has a good nitrogen content and is often used diluted 1 part to 10 in early season liquid feed for plants
If you plan on lets say December being your target month for getting your Hugel project started, I would advise Growing a patch of Broad or Field bean green manure from Late August / Early September – these will be ready for chopping down and adding into your bed around and amongst the logs as the fresh greens instead of grass clippings which won’t be available during that month anyway

Further Reading: Click Here for an article on the step-by-step making of a Hugelkultur Mound / Bed

Below I have added a list of Green Manures which will be sown to over winter so that first thing once spring is well underway, you will merely chop ‘n drop (Cut and either leave the foliage / stems on the soil surface or compost them), to get the ”Green Manure” effect.

Clover used as a Green Manure in an Orchard

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa): This perennial legume can be dug in after two or three months or left for one to two years; sow in April to July; good for alkaline soils. Nitrogen fixing may only occur if the seed is inoculated with nitrogen fixing bacteria prior to sowing.

Alsike clover (Trifolium hybridum): This perennial legume can either be dug in after two or three months or left in for one or two years; good for wet, acid soils; sow in April to August.

Bitter blue lupin (Lupinus angustifolius): This perennial flowering legume suits light, sandy, acid soils; sow in March to June and leave for two or three months before digging in.

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum): This half hardy annual will only grow in spring and summer best sown in April to August, it can be left for two or three months after sowing; grows well on nutrient-poor soils.

Crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum): This perennial legume is good for light soils; sow in March to August and leave in for two or three months up to flowering.

Essex red clover (Trifolium pratense): This hardy perennial legume overwinters well and can be left in for two or three months or for one or two years after sowing; good for loamy soils; sow March to August.

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum): This annual legume will only grow in the spring and summer; it is unlikely to fix nitrogen in the UK.

Grazing rye (Secale cereale): This annual crop is good for soil structure and overwinters well; sow in August to November and dig in the following spring.

Mustard (Sinapis alba): This annual crop from the brassica family should not be followed by other brassicas, as it could encourage build up of the disease clubroot; sow in March to September and leave for two or three months before digging in.

Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia): Later sowings of this annual crop may overwinter in mild areas, but it is generally best sown in April to August and dug in after two or three months; its flowers are very pretty.

Trefoil (Medicago lupulina): This legume can be annual or biennial and overwinters well but needs light, dry alkaline soil; it can be dug in after two or three months or left for one or two years after sowing; sow in March to August.

Winter field bean (Vicia faba): This annual legume can be left for two or three months after sowing (up to flowering) and is good for heavy soils; sow in September to November. (Use in place of Broad Bean [Fava Fava] as they are generally cheaper to buy).

Winter tares (Vicia sativa): This annual legume is hardy and overwinters well, even in heavy soils; sow either in March to August and leave for two or three months before digging in, or sow in July to September for overwintering.

Green Manure on a Farm (May be Phacelia tanacetifolia )

Green Manure on a Farm (May be Phacelia tanacetifolia )

Problems that may occur from Winter Green Manure:

  • A dense carpet of green makes a perfect environment for slugs and snails, so control measures may be needed after green manuring.
  • Decaying green manures can suppress plant growth, so allow at least two weeks between incorporation and planting or sowing.

Source: RHS Website

Begonias Doing Very Well, Winter December 2014

Begonias Doing Very Well, Winter December 2014

Wow, what changes we are seeing in the climate regionally and worldwide!

Is it normal to find that your begonias and other related plant varieties are doing just as fine in the beginning of December as they were in the middle of August ?

Right now in my current city (London), you can see tree varieties, shrubs etc. having a second flush of flowers (especially Viburnums and Camellias), Hydrangeas are showing buds forming … lets hope they don’t have problems once the weather really changes given they are currently diverting their nutrients and energy into bud, flower / foliage production … and not into their natural state which should right now be dormancy!

Don’t hesitate to share your own anomalies from your garden/s as it is good to document these things for future reference.

I am now seriously contemplating sowing a second batch of Nitrogen Fixing Green Manure since my first batch half failed (Due to negligence on my part) – It will most likely be Red Clover ( Trifolium pratense ) due to their hardiness and the fact that I have a good supply of seeds … keep an eye on the blog, I will update soon what the result is.

Whilst all beans will have the useful trait of being Biological Nitrogen Fixers (Leguminous) for our soils (Bringing Nitrogen back into the soil naturally) which may have leached out trough heavy rainfall, for example.

The Broad Bean (Fava Bean) is particularly useful to anyone who prefers to ”model nature” (John Kohler’s words) and not rely on chemical non-natural based off the shelf products which, in the end, bring a negative balance to local ecosystems.

Broad Bean Plants

Broad Bean Plants

Positive Traits that make them so useful:

  • Tolerant of heavy soils (Clay),
  • Cold Hardy (not specifically needing be grown in a greenhouse or poly tunnel during winter),
  • Nitrogen Fixing,
  • Green Manure (Chop and Drop before going to seed / flower),
  • Some varieties are used as animal feed and forage,
  • Extremely easy to save seeds,
  • Vigorous growth and,
  • Fast germination too

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