Hugelculture – Clare Sheridan

Hugelculture comes from the Permaculture school of thought where you make the best use of land, efficiently and sustainable, living lightly on the planet, in harmony with nature. A Hugelculture is made by starting with digging a pit and placing a log in it, then smaller branches and then twigs, this is covered by upside down turf and then soil, so that the whole structure is an elongated mound. We made ours 1 ½  metre long, 1 metre high, and  0.8 metre wide., but they can be made any size. The idea is to make use of vertical space and to preserve moisture. 

Filling gaps with turf and soil

Planting up with strawberries peas and beans

Hugelculture bed semi – established with, peas, nasturtium, strawberries and the addition of self seeded borage and nigella. Broad beans have also been planted but have not come up yet. Having made the bed in  April then the long hot weather spell in May dried it out a bit whereas when really underway the idea of the Hugel is that it keeps moist and fed by the gradual breakdown of the internal wood. Initially it is best to sow nitrogen fixing plants to replace any taken by the breakdown of the wood, but by next year we can grow any plants we wish

WORM COMPOSTING

Worm composting is a method of generating compost by feeding manure worms with kitchen waste;  it is not generated very quickly but it is useful for recycling kitchen waste if you do not have either the facilities or enough materials to make garden compost.

Manure worms digest fresh material, vegetable and fruit peelings and are found in the compost heap as opposed to earth worms which we find in garden soil and digest the garden soil.

Manure worms are brandling worms(pink) or tiger worms(stripey) which can be bought from fishing tackle shops (they are used for bait for fishing) or can be found in garden compost  or stacked fresh farmard manure.

It is easy to make a worm composting facility yourself.

I use a bucket, or fat ball container, with a plant pot fitted into it (the plant pot a little smaller than the bucket) with an old roof tile or the like under the plant pot to keep the bottom of it proud of the bottom of the bucket;  this is important because the process generates liquid and the compost will be too wet if the plant pot is sat directly onto the bottom of the bucket.

Fat ball container with piece of stone in bottom
plant pot inside the bucket

To get started:

  1. place your plant pot into the bucket(with the tile underneath) and add a couple of inches of compost – it is best if you can use some compost that you have made, or use organic compost that does not contain any artificial chemicals.
  2. Add some worms and let them get acclimatised for a few days
  3. Then add some kitchen waste for the worms to digest
  4. Add a wad of damp newspaper on top and cover with something like some Perspex or something else that makes a rigid lid, punch some holes in the lid
  5. Keep feeding the worms until your plant pot is full.
  6. Scoop off the top layer of food which should contain the worms and set aside to start the next batch
  7. Remove the compost and store for use
  8. Leave  a couple of inches of compost in the pot to start the next batch and add the worms to get started again.
compost with worms and vegetable waste

When adding the kitchen waste, add in shallow layers and leave a small area free from the waste to allow the worms to come to the surface if necessary.

Take the lid off for a few hours from time to time.

Watch that the compost does not become to wet or dry – add ripped up newspaper when too wet, or water lightly if too dry

Worm compost is high in nutrients, about ten times that of garden compost.

Can be added to potting compost.

MAKING LEAFMOULD

Leafmould is easy to make and free. It has very little nutrients but is very useful as a soil conditioner; it opens up heavy soils and helps with moisture retention on light sandy soils. It is also useful as a mulch on veg beds and ornamental borders.

Leaves are high in carbon and are broken down by fungal action. Materials that we put in the compost bin are broken down by bacterial action, the bacteria needing lots of nitrogen to keep working. We can add leaves to the compost heap but they will take a long time to break down and the break down process will use a lot of nitrogen that the bacteria need. So it is better to make leafmould separately from the compost heap.

All that is needed is a wire netting (small gauge) cage to stop the leaves from blowing around. Just use two or three small stakes or bamboo canes, driven into the ground and surround by wire netting. Add the leaves and just leave them to break down. You can add grass cuttings, mixed in with the leaves, or urine to speed breakdown. After a year, there will be some nice leafmould in the middle of the heap that you can use and then just keep adding leaves as they become available.

Research by Garden Organic has shown that using leafmould on the veg plot gives healthier plants, better yields and less problems with pests and diseases.

So, have a go!

COMFREY

RUSSIAN COMFREY – BOCKING 14

HIGH POTASH CONTENT & TRACE MINERALS

USE FOR:

  • COMFREY LIQUID
  • MULCHING
  • COMPOST ACTIVATOR

COMFREY LIQUID – USE AS A HIGH POTASH LIQUID FEED DILUTED WITH 15 PARTS WATER TO 1 PART COMFREY

MAKE IN SUMMER:

  • PLACE A LARGE PLANT POT INSIDE A BUCKET
  • PLACE A TILE UNDERNEATH THE PLANT POT
  • PACK THE PLANT POT WITH COMFREY LEAVES
  • ADD A COUPLE OF LARGE STONES/BRICKS
  • DO NOT ADD WATER(WATER MAKES IT SMELLY)
  • COVER TO AVOID RAIN
  • PUT IN A SHELTERED PLACE
  • LIQUID WILL START TO RUN IN ABOUT 6 WEEKS
  • POUR LIQUID INTO A SEALED CONTAINER
  • CONTINUE PACKING LEAVES IN THE BUCKET & REMOVING LIQUID ALL SUMMER – KEEP LIQUID OUT OF SUN
  • AT END OF SUMMER, TIP LEAF RESIDUE ONTO COMPOST HEAP
  • STORE LIQUID IN A COOL DARK PLACE FOR LATER USE

MULCHNG

USE LEAVES TO MULCH UNDER LARGE VEG WHERE IT WILL BREAK DOWN AND FEED THE PLANTS

ESPECIALLY USEFUL FOR OUTDOOR TOMATOES

COMPOST ACTIVATOR

VERY USEFUL AS A COMPOST ACTIVATOR – WORKS BETTER IF CHOPPED TO INCREASE SURFACE AREA FOR BACTERIA TO WORK ON

Raised Wicking Bed – Clare Sheridan

It is lined with pondliner, a layer of fleece to protect the pondliner, a layer of rubble then some more fleece. There is an overflow pipe just above the rubble layer and a downpipe in one corner to water into the base. Plants can then suck up what they need.

1. The empty raised bed with overflow and downpipe in situ. 

2. The pondliner in place.

3. Layer of fleece and a layer of rubble 

4. A layer of fleece over the rubble and then the soil was added. 

5 Planted up bed with mizuna, mibuna, mustard,carrot Beta, Sweet pea, beetroot Devoy, broad bean Glos bounty, calendula, cavolo de Nero, sorrel, chives and oca.    

6. View down the garden with hazel arch to the raised bed  

Malvern Spring Show 2019

GOGG attended the Malvern Spring Show in May.  Our theme was ‘BACK TO BASICS – GARDENING ORGANICALLY’.  We had demos for comfrey liquid, composting(thanks to Gloucestershire CC for the composter and leaflets), worm composting as well as the soil model showing the wealth of micro-organisms that provide soil fertility from the inputs.  We also had a table for children’s activities.

We received a lot of interest from the public particularly in composting and our method of making comfrey liquid (putting the leaves to break down without water, preventing the strong smell!) 

 We were very nicely surprised to receive an RHS BRONZE MEDAL for the display, so very well done to everyone who contributed.

Frost Damage on Apples

Many apples were affected by the very late, very severe frost that we suffered in early May 2017.  This resulted in some very poor crops and some trees have not had any fruit this year.  Some apples show frost damage, appearing as russet patches, something many of us have not seen before.  These are two Adam’s Pearmain apples and one Bramley apple, all showing signs of frost damage.

 

September – Organic Blooms Visit

 

Ten members joined with members of Women’s Farm & Garden Association for an afternoon visit to Organic Blooms near Bristol.  We had a guided tour around the gardens with Jo, who then fed us tea and cake and did a demonstration of a hand tied bouquet of flowers from the garden.  Fantastic organisation, totally organic, Soil Association certified, very ethical and part of a social enterprise scheme with young people with difficulties working alongside them to propagate and grow the flowers for cutting.