I decided to chop in around half of the Crimson Clover cover crop that I sowed back in the Autumn (the Rye grass didn’t germinate – probably sowed it too late). It has grown really well and while I would love to see it flower I think that leaving all of it to flower might cause me problems later on. There will just be too much ‘greenery’ in the ground and it will take a long time to decompose. It may also put too much nitrogen into the soil.
So, I decided on a halfway-house. I chopped half of it down with my Rogue Hoe (love that tool). I dug it in in a kind of ‘double digging’ fashion where I chopped the tops off and then dug up the roots and placed them on top of the leaves. Then I chopped some more leaves into the hole that was made. Easy!
Now, I’m left with a ‘hedge’ of cover crop along the edge of the planting area that will flower with some lovely long wine-coloured teasels.
If you have a wood fire then the benefits are many. Not only do they smell great, keep your toes warm and mean that you have more than the average number of visitors (in Winter at least). You can also use the ash on the vegetable plot.
At this time of year when I’m busy deciding what should go where for the coming season I normally scatter some wood ash on the proposed onion bed and around fruit trees and canes. They seem to love it.
The ash is washed away quite quickly so I’ll probably keep re-applying as the season gets underway. You can scatter it around onions, garlic, shallots etc and it will discourage root maggots. The slugs don’t like it either.
Be careful not to use it near any acid loving plants though (like Blueberries and Potatoes) as it tends to make your soil more alkaline.
You don’t have to use your ash up immediately either. You can store wood ash and use it later, so long as it stays dry. And you can also put it in the compost bin. It’s a very versatile fertiliser.
I don’t know about you but I get very confused by all the different nutrients that fruit and vegetables need. I’ve struggled for years to remember what nitrogen does for plants and why phosphorous is useful.
Urghh! My head feels like it might explode sometimes as I rush indoors to consult my gardening books to check that I’m ‘doing the right thing’ for the right plant.
Then suddenly, the other day, this image popped into my head and everything just dropped into place. The Strawberry-Carrot, an imaginary plant that helps me figure out what nutrients do what.
What I realised is that reading and re-reading paragraphs about NPK (never learned the Periodic Table first time round – unlikely to now) and trying to memorise the benefits of dried fertilizers vs liquid just didn’t work for me. I’m that person who needs something visual to work with.
The Strawberry-Carrot does everything I need it to. It tells me that if I add a nitrogen based fertiliser then I’ll get lovely green leaves (perfect for leafy veg like Spinach and Kale) and that if I want to boost flower and so fruit production then I should be adding potassium (perfect for Fruit and Tomatoes, etc). And finally, if it’s root growth I want then phosphorous is my man (perfect for root crops like Carrots, Parnsips etc).
Of course it’s not as easy as this. There are other nutrients that come into play, like calcium and sulphur and trace elements like manganese, iron and blah, blah. But let’s not confuse the issue. I’m just happy that I’ve finally pinned the main ones down.