Yesterday, I just about beat the downpour to rake some goodness over my raised beds.
This year is a first for me – I have always used farmyard manure to replenish my soil. I don’t know if this is tradition, but it’s just a routine I’ve always followed. End of the season, dig over, fill up my poor dad’s box trailer with well-rotted manure from the local stables, and chuck it on the plot.
I’ve experimented on small beds with other soil improvers, like green manure (not all that successfully, but probably my fault) and seaweed (really successful for the root crops I grew in the bed) but I’ve never gone exclusively non-farmyard.
This year, however, I’ve decided to have a change. I’m purely using seaweed and kitchen compost.
Seaweed has been used as a soil improver for many years and contains many valuable plant nutrients, such as nitrogen. You can buy dried and liquidised seaweed from garden centres, but of course I’m not going to pay for it when I’m fortunate enough to live near the coast…
My house is a few hundred yards from the River Crouch, where bladderwrack is plentiful. The tides were high at the weekend, which was very handy as the seaweed was pushed right up on to the waterside. Gathering the seaweed into bags was a doddle. I parked my car next to the beach, filled five bags, and didn’t even get my feet wet or muddy. All this took less than half an hour.
I covered two of my raised beds in the seaweed and spread three big bags of kitchen compost on the other. I am currently in the enviable position of swimming in kitchen compost.
My mum is a prolific composter, and has been emptying all her bins over the past couple of months in readiness for her house move. She has stored bags and bags of the stuff in several locations since. Happily, one of these places is my garden. 🙂
Mum always bags her compost up to help finish off the rotting, and ties the top with string. The compost warms in the plastic and speeds up the final decomposition.
I’m very interested to see how the compost does in comparison to the seaweed, and the horse manure before it. I’ve never used compost as manure on a whole bed before, just as mulch around the base of plants.
Breaking Up the Eggshells and More Protection for the Soil
One tip I must pass on to mum though (get me!): eggs don’t compost down as fast as everything else, so need breaking up into little bits first before they’re thrown into the bin. At the moment I’ve got a lovely, crumbly topping, interspersed with eggshells! Oh well, might keep the slugs off.
The layer of leaf mould I’d laid on my topsoil in Autumn is now rotting into the soil, so getting the compost and seaweed down is timely. This will offer the soil some more protection over the remainder of winter.
Cheapy Chipping Options?
The next job is to install weed suppressant liner around the beds so can I add shingle or chipping paths. So far, everything in my new kitchen garden has been begged, free or reclaimed, but I’ll have to buy the liner and possibly the chippings.
I am still working on frugal alternatives for liner and chippings, but if anyone has any wallet-friendly suggestions I’d love to hear them.