Another Saturday, another chance to get out and do some #autumngardening, last time we talked about sheds, this weekend it's all about the muck. In the Hopwood Garden we have two very large bays of the stuff, the problem with is it we don't know how fresh or how well rotted it is, that's why we constructed some new bins. However, it's a bit of waste to let this go to, well...waste. Well rotted manure is a God send for the gardener at this time of year, as a mulch it protects any beds left uncovered, it will rot down over winter and enrich the soil, plus when you go down the mulching route, you'll never dig again. In nature there is no one with spade digging over the soil and adding humus (compost, leaves, falling branches, dead bugs, animals etc). It rots where it lands and the no dig route embraces this. If you dig a trench in a dug garden and a no-dig garden you will probably find more worms in the latter, you'll also find more beneficial microbes and nutrients. Digging the soil can open the soil, allowing valuable nitrogen to wash away and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. A day will come when digging the soil will be banned because of too much carbon in our atmosphere, so get ahead of the game this weekend and learn to mulch.
This pile here is full of too much straw, so students in the Hopwood Garden took off the top layer to reveal a wonderful seam of well rotted manure.
In your garden you will use your compost heaps, if you don't have any, then get building this simple design here. You will also opt for a wheelbarrow but we plan to use ton after ton of this to create mulches across the garden so we have a tractor and a trailer, and some willing bodies to get digging into the well rotted muck (remember anything after six months in a compost bin is well rotted, anything younger risks the transmission of E.coli O157).
We transport the muck to where we need it and then it was a case of tipping it and shoveling into wheelbarrows to take into different areas of the garden.
We laid down a 6-8 inch (up to 20cm deep) mulch in the glasshouse. We won't be planting into it, we want the heat as it continues to rot and this part of the manure we dug out seemed fresher than what we found towards the back of the compost bay. That means there is more straw in here and straw as it rots gives off tremendous heat. Try it in any domestic greenhouse and you'll see the heat spiral up. Even in this large greenhouse the heat soon rises and anyone with glasses is steaming up on what was a cool day. This is not a mulch to be dug in, remember here we are going for a no dig policy and by spring this mulch will be brown and friable and ready for use. We want the heat as it rots to warm the glasshouse and give us enough heat to try some winter crops in the bed opposite. We have plug plants growing in the seed house and more well rotted manure to come to use in that bed. We're going to be setting up a dug vs no dig bed, and some hotbeds to show you what can be done on a large and small scale.
On open beds though we are using well rotted manure as a mulch to keep the worst of the weather off them. Rain erodes the soil and we have plenty of that in this part of the UK. It also keeps down the weeds. This cuts down on weeding in spring and any weeds that germinate in this mulch are easily pulled out as there is no compaction from working the soil.
The mulches continue into the polytunnel, again the fresher stuff to the left will give us heat, the well rotted we will add to the right bed will give us a growing medium. A mulch in any garden now will improve your soil, suffocate the weeds and improve the beneficial bugs and beasties in your soil. There's no digging involved, all you need is a shovel and a wheelbarrow, and the desire to lay it on thick, and we laid it on very thick. See what's left of that first bay below, we're nearly to the back wall and come next week there will be nothing left.
So, this Saturday get out and mulch those borders, that vegetable plot and those neglected areas of the garden and resist the desire to dig it in. There's no need to do that, nature will do for you and you will save your back and take that first step into a new world of growing.