Non-Growing Manure

Duffus uses horse manure, lugging it in sacks and spreading over the plot with a rake late winter. This is heavy work and makes him sweat but he seems to enjoy it. I have observed the horses in the field eat a lot of everything and are not fussy. I think it is therefore best to know just what the horses have been eating that makes the manure; if it's chemically treated feed, residues of chemicals may get into your soil. Duffus's plot is very productive and he gives his surplus to a Shelter for Homeless people - and The Director.

Gary uses mushroom compost which he has delivered and then pays for someone else to spread. This is OK for bulking up the soil and for avoiding animal produce. It also does not smell. Gary's grows 'gourmet' vegetables; they've got funny names like pak choi, radicchio and chilacayote. I think they look weird but they seem to like the compost, although Mr Stanford says you shouldn't use mushroom compost around acid loving plants as it contains chalk. Gary never gives his vegetables away.

Mr Stanford uses chicken manure in a concentrated formula which comes in a bucket and looks like finely sieved dirt. He has three compost bins on the go, one in active use, and the other two in various stages of composting. He also uses grass cuttings as a sort of mulch, which he puts over newspaper to help keep the weeds away and stop his plants drying out. The Director uses tiny flaked coconut shells as mulch. They are rough edged and she thinks it may help deter some of the slugs. I have observed that some slugs don't mind roughness. However, the coconut flakes look nice and bulk up the soil; you can buy them from Garden Organic website. Mr Stanford's vegetables and soft fruit often win first prize at Appleton Horticultural Shows. Mr Stanford gives any spare vegetables to Mabel.

Mabel uses leaves - tea leaves and tree leaves which she keeps in square slatted bins on her plot. I have observed that it takes time for leaves to rot. The small leaves like oak and beech rot down quickly and the bigger leaves take longer. Mabel says it takes at least a year to 'brew a good leaf-mould' unless you're using evergreen leaves and pine needles which can take years. PotatoesMabel waters the leaves when they're composting. She doesn't really do much else to feed her soil but things seem to grow anyway. She wins prizes for her chutneys and cakes and gives lots away to everybody.

The Director does green manures, which you grow, because they're 'natural'. Duffus said all manures are natural but The Director thinks some are more natural than others and the green ones attract wildlife and help to keep our plot 'ecologically balanced'. Only we don't seem to grow as much as everyone else.

Growing Manure

Comfrey

This makes Mr Stanford very grumpy; The Director is the only one growing it but it has long tap roots and he thinks it should be banned from allotments. He swears seeds have flown from our comfrey onto his plot but the Director said that was 'impossible' because 'Comfrey's a notoriously unreliable self-seeder' and she'd grown ours from root cuttings - which she brought from Garden Organic. We grow comfrey because:

The Director likes making it into liquid manure - she told me it makes her feel 'very ecological'. This is her recipe for 'Ecological Comfrey Liquid Manure':

  1. Mix in a plastic water butt with tap at the bottom
  2. Cover with lid to keep out the light
  3. Leave to stew for four weeks

Tip - Green Manure

If you make 'Ecological Comfrey Liquid Manure', wear rubber gloves when dispersing the manure and avoid splashing your scarecrow's pole.

Use for all potash hungry crops particularly beans, tomatoes, onions and tomatoes. I do not like 'Ecological Comfrey Liquid Manure' - it smells terrible and makes my head stuffing feel queasy.

Buckwheat

This is very pretty, grows 3ft tall and attracts hoverflies who feast on aphids who usually feast on our beans. However, a gang of hungry slugs moved in one bright dawn and ate most of the buckwheat seedlings; only six made it through.

Clover

We're going to grow some this year for the very first time, so I don't know what will happen. I hope it looks pretty though, and will match my hat as I shall be standing in it.

Alfalfa

Fixes in nitrogen but the Director only grew this once. It has dainty mauve flowers and if left alone, grows to height of 3.5ft and can put down roots as deep as 20ft. She left it alone and Duffus had to help with the digging of it in.

Field beans

The Director planted a crop in Autumn. They stayed in all winter, which kept weeds away, and was supposed to help fix nitrogen in the soil. I don't know if it did - nor does the Director as the beans only grew to a height of one inch.