19th April, 2008

Brrrr! It's still cold with a stiff easterly wind that seems to be blowing directly from Siberia. The temperature according to my thermometer is only 9°C. Even the greenhouse is struggling to get above 10°C. Consequently, there's not much growth except for weeds of course, so I did a bit of hoeing and turned 2 compost heaps. Regular turning helps aerate the pile and aerobic conditions are needed to produce good compost rather than an anaerobic smelly sludge.

I found a dead rat in the pile which did give me a bit of a shock but it wasn't a total surprise . I know the neighbour has been putting rat killer down and a few weeks back I saw Roland (aren't all rats called that?) in the compost bin rather sick looking. I added his body back to the pile to aid the decomposition process; I learned this from Bob Flowerdew (Gardener's Question Time, BBC Radio 4) who recommends adding dead animals (such as roadkill) to the heap as well as peeing on it. I do both now!

I've got 6 compost bins and even that doesn't seem enough. I did collect and fill the bins this January with farmyard manure. My wife's friend is a farmer's wife and they let me have some although I did have to go and bag it and bring it home myself. It didn't smell too bad.

Compost bins at the bottom of the garden. It would be better if they were in full sun to warm them up and promote the rotting but they have to go out of the way under the trees.

Below is a picture of what I call the side bed with south to the right, so it gets plenty of sun. It's full of the maincrop potatoes. The soil is still quite pale so I must add all that lovely compost. This bed used to be a flower bed so the soil is in reasonable condition, but it still is very heavy to work and the hedge, although providing a wind break dries the soil out.

Below is the bottom bed and part of the middle bed to the right. The viewpoint is due south with the base of the Bramley apple tree in the background. Under the enviromesh are the spring greens and behind them are the overwintered broad beans. This soil is very stony and has large clumps of pure clay in it. It's going to take several years to get the soil how it should be so growth on these beds may not be exceptional. Certainly, last year's onions and cabbage could have been bigger, and the soil dries out quickly and becomes concrete. I think I will be making another trip to get that farmyard manure again (and again).

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