Sunshine and Planting

planting potatoes
Planting seed potatoes

We planted potatoes at the allotment yesterday, the weather was pleasant all weekend with Sunday being warm enough to leave our coats at home. Yay! Even though I dislike planting potatoes (I find it so dull), it felt good to be doing something other than talking about what we couldn’t get on with and moaning about the weather.

digging
Dig, dig, dig

When we first got our allotment two sections of the plot were incredibly stubborn to dig. Correction, near on impossible. We broke a spade and fork, barely scratching the surface. Eventually we accepted defeat and covered the compacted areas with manure and pretty much ignored it for the rest of that year, using other areas of the plot instead.

digging
Still digging…..

Manure certainly helped to feed and lock moisture into the soil. Last year we tackled the areas again by digging in lots of compost to improve the structure, then we made two large beds and planted potatoes in order to break the soil apart further down. We had a good crop despite a poor summer and the soil improved considerably. Success!

harvesting potatoes

Planting our potatoes yesterday was so much easier than it was last spring (still dull though), making all the effort we put in worthwhile. We’re growing a main crop variety called Sante this year (we usually grow Desiree), so we shall see how it performs and tastes.

Improving Soil in Our New Raised Beds

We’ve made a start on extending the vegetable garden, adding three 10 x 4 ft double height raised beds. After years of being part of a well-worn lawn, the soil would benefit from being improved with organic matter. We emptied most of the contents from one of the large pallet compost bins into a waiting wheelbarrow, the compost wasn’t quite ready but it was lovely all the same – just perfect for mulching and adding nutrients to the dry, hungry soil in our new beds.

One of our German Shepherd dogs certainly likes our compost, I guess she can smell rotting chicken poop. Eww.

I still find it amazing to see the contents of a compost bin change into earthy compost, we add lots of organic matter to our bins such as chicken manure mixed with straw, kitchen waste (vegetable peelings etc), used tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells, cardboard, paper, green waste from the vegetable garden, grass clippings, nettle tops, comfrey leaves and horse manure from our village stables when we can get it.

Our bins are full of tiger worms, they’re perfect little composting machines. They adore kitchen scraps and if you watch your compost bin carefully you will see them surface to feed, starting the magical process.

The contents of our compost bin became darker and more like compost towards the bottom, we had to be really cautious with the spade and fork, lots of toads hide in and around our compost bins! I almost speared one by accident, just goes to show how careful you have to be. Now is a good time to empty your compost bins before creatures such as toads and hedgehogs start to look for places to hibernate over winter. Don’t empty them completely, leave some material in the bins for them.

Another magical ingredient for compost bins is leaves. The huge old oak provides these for free, they rot down faster than other leaves. We have a leaf bin too, taking longer to rot down but lovely as a mulch.

Isn’t it a magical, majestic tree? I think it’s wonderful, it makes me think of the green man or ‘The Oak King’. I love to listen to the wind whistling through the branches, at the moment it’s home to lots of nesting wood pigeons.

Plus, it helps to make this lovely stuff: