I get quite a few emails with questions. I do try to answer most of them but there are times when I can’t cope. Generally the forums are good port of call, there’s usually someone who knows the answer on there. It’s no use asking me about fixing rotovators, for example. I’m a mechanical idiot but we’ve real experts on the forum.
This email, from John in Sussex, raises an issue I thought worth giving general publicity to. He says:
I took on an allotment 2 years ago (Feb.08) and the plot was completely covered with close grass plus an abundance of weeds; doc, dandelion, clover, couch grass, thistle and bine weed to name but a few. During the first year I dug half the plot by double digging but did not use any manure. I managed to plant 3 rows of potatoes and a row of runner beans the first season using only Growmore as a general fertilizer. The second season I planted 4 rows of potatoes, a row of runner beans and broad beans plus a few carrots, radishes, carrots and beet root. I am about to finish digging over the first half in readiness for the new growing season, then I shall start on the second half of my plot using the double digging method.
When I first started digging my plot I decided not to use manure due to the scare stories I’d read about chemicals fed to the animals finding their way in to the manure thereby rendering the soil contaminated for several years.
My question is; when I’m digging the second half of my plot should I use manure? If yes, is it safe to purchase a load of manure now then use immediately? If the answer to both is no, then what fertilizer, or fertilizers, would you recommend me to use?
The chemical was banned for a short while but has been approved again by DEFRA following promises from the manufacturer to ensure farmers are aware of the risks.
Any manure laid down in the last couple of years is suspect and will remain so until 2013. So if you import manure to your plot you need to check the supplier is aware of the problem and hasn’t used or had used by contractors the chemical.
If you can’t guarantee the safety of your manure, then your best bet is to use home made compost and green manures for the organic matter. To ensure sufficient nutrients, use a general purpose fertiliser like Blood, Fish & Bone or Growmore.
If you have a soil test kit, then you can check the nutrient levels and pH of your soil and apply straight fertilisers and lime in the exact proportions required to balance your soil.
There’s more information on the site – these articles should help you understand.