Composting, Leafmould & Soil Improving

I seem to be a bit compost obsessed at the moment. One job was to turn the compost in the field bins. I’ve a row of 4 bins one of which is full of finished compost ready to go when I am.

Compost Bins

The field compost bins. Bins 1 and 3 are working, bin 2 is empty and bin 4 is full of compost ready to use.

The reason I’m not ready to go is that I’m not sure what I’ll be doing next year. Part of me wants to try an experiment which will involve putting some new beds in but there are only so many hours in the day and I’ve been feeling stretched as it is. As I said, half-joking, to a pal the other day, “I’ll be glad when I retire and can get some proper work done.

Restarting the Pile with Comfrey

One of the compost piles was a bit dry and browns heavy so that was mixed with layers of fresh cut comfrey. Comfrey is so rich that it should re-activate the heap and get it breaking down again. I think this will be the last cut of comfrey this year although I expect there will be a little growth before winter hits and it dies back completely.

Converting Wood to Potash

The wood from the rowan that blew down in the storm got sorted. Some into logs and thick sticks that will go onto the woodburner and the twiggy stuff. That got burnt in the dustbin incinerator along with some hawthorn hedge trimmings. The ashes are basically a natural fertiliser now, high in potash.

Leaves for Leafmould

An afternoon was spent collecting leaves. The storm stripped a lot of the autumn leaves from the trees. I’ve a garden vacuum which sucks them up and chops them into fragments. This not only helps get more into a bin but when chopped up they decompose faster.

The winds had blown a load of leaves into patches in the field by the wall so I actually had a good idea! Rather than spend ages sucking them up with the garden vacuum, use the lawnmower. Well it worked a treat and soon I’d harvested enough chopped up leaves to completely fill the bin.

By spring, with a little luck, I’ll have some of the best soil conditioner money can’t buy. Leaves are one of the reasons I’ve planted so many trees here. Most of them won’t be collected for leafmould but will naturally decompose into the soil. There they’re feeding the worms and adding to the organic matter.

This soil improvement takes time and it will probably be 10 years before the results start to become apparent but so what? Whether a garden, allotment or a field, I’ve always tried to leave it better than I found it. I’m trying to reverse the results of 50 or more years of poor land management driven by the economics of industrial farming. It won’t be done in a day.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
One comment on “Composting, Leafmould & Soil Improving
  1. Rowland Wells says:

    This makes interesting reading because I’m a great believer in improving the soil. For several years we were having what’s called soil capping it was very frustrating, we would plant the ground as usual then when the weather warmed up the ground would dry out forming deep cracks and plants, especially brassicas, would not produce. When it rained the soil altered and it was manageable once again but of course the damage was done.

    I asked many people including helplines and so called professional gardeners with no answers so I came up with the idea of spreading straw and rotted horse manure with plenty and it worked. The ground cultivated and kept loose all summer I even spread rotted manure up the rows after planting kept the rotavator going never had any more problems with soil capping.

    As for wood ash we have a wood burning stove and all our ash goes down the allotments mainly on our onion beds and although we have to lift the onions a little early because they tend to have a fungus problem. Apart from that we produce very good onions. I must admit not so good this year because of the weather

    But yes soil improving up my street I’ve set my stool out this next growing season to grow green manure having seen Johns video and other’s its convinced me it can only do the ground good and I’m hopping to buy some used grow bags for my raised beds and to mix in my compost bins.

    As rule of thumb the old gardeners always used to say you must put back in the ground what you take out I think that’s good sound advice for the would be gardener.

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